This reflection is from the Rev. Robert Camara.
It never fails – when I spend periods of time in the mall, I find myself drained of energy. I don’t know if it’s something in the mall air, or the hum of the constant chatter of people, or the bustling of shoppers and constant stimulation. Or maybe it’s just the feeling of money being drained out of my wallet, or the sales people “greeting” me with the hopes of making a sale – shopping wears me out!
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” – Mark 6: 31.
When I was in seminary, I would wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning to write some of my papers. Living downtown, I found that the stillness of the night and the quiet of the growing morning, as the sun rose, was a time when I could hear the clearest. In the deafening silence of the break of day, I was able to think the clearest. It’s a challenge to do that when you find yourself in the underground city in Montreal. Finding a public place where we can retreat to and experience quiet is rare – there are churches and there’s always the public library, but when you’re in the mall, those aren’t always places that are easy to find. The Advent Chapel is just that – an opportunity in the mall to retreat from the madness of the holiday shopping frenzy, the mall air and crowds, the canned holiday music and the need to buy, buy, buy!
The holidays can be depressing for many and can be a stressful time – there are so many pressures: the pressure to find the right gift for your loved ones, the pressure to stay within budget, the pressure of time. When we were bouncing around the idea of creating the Advent Chapel in the mall, I remembered just how shopping made me feel and thought that I must not be the only one that feels this way. What a gift to find a place that doesn’t want to sell me anything, that will give me a warm drink or water to refresh myself, that will let me be still and find the presence of holiness that I crave to encounter in this holiday season and allows me the space to regroup my thoughts and remember why I’m in the mall anyway.
Advent is a time of waiting, a time to be still, to encounter the quietness of life and to listen to the voice in the wilderness that cries out, “prepare the way for the Lord!” Work, family life, cooking, cleaning, decorating, shopping – they can sometimes obstruct that time of waiting, that time of being still, that encounter with the quietness of life that allows us to hear the voice in the wilderness. The Advent Chapel is an opportunity for all of God’s children to find a quiet place and get some rest, so that we might be able to feed our bodies for the spiritual journey that lies before all of us and to listen for that voice that cries out within us, filled with hope.
The Rev’d Robert Camara, a deacon in the Diocese of Montreal, is curate at the Church of St. James the Apostle in Montreal. Having grown up in the heart of the inner city of two of Canada’s largest cities, he values the discovery of an oasis and is looking forward to sharing it with others.