Today is the anniversary of Madeleine L’Engle’s birth. In honor of the day, the Crosswicks folks have announced an updated website.
It’s from Madeleine that I really learned about Advent. I wonder if Advent was particularly meaningful to her, as it seems to have been, because her birthday would have fallen just as Advent did. I think it must be. She notes it, anyway, in The Irrational Season (book three of the Crosswicks Journals and my introduction to the liturgical year), “The beginning of my personal new year comes as the Christian Church’s new year, Advent, begins” (2). (And I wonder if L’Engle’s experience would be helpful in any way to a young woman–double PK–whose birthday is caught up in the beginning of Advent every year. Maybe not. Maybe not yet.)
It was from The Irrational Season that I learned that Advent celebrated the first coming and anticipated the second, “In the Christian Church these weeks leading up to Christmas, this dark beginning of our new year, is also traditionally the time of thinking of the last things, of the ‘eschaton,’ the end” (2).
L’Engle was part of the “Greatest Generation” and World War II and the Cold War are formative for her writing. She writes often of the idea of Nuclear Annihilation, most specifically in A Swiftly Tilting Planet, but it’s an ongoing motif. In The Irrational Season she talks about the end of the world coming in a nuclear annihilation brought on by “man’s pride and folly” and then contrasts that to the eschatological end of the world:
The end of the world in the eschatological sense has nothing to do with pride or anger and it is not just the end of this one planet, but of all planets, all solar systems, all galaxies.
And what then? Is that it? Annihilation?
No. Annihilation might follow an intergalactic nuclear battle, but annihilation is the opposite of what the eschaton is about. It is not nearly so much a going as a coming, an ending as a beginning. It is the redemption, not the destruction, of creation…
…the simple fact is that we are not capable of knowing what it’s about. The Coming of the Kingdom is creation coming to be what it was meant to be, the joy and glory of all creation working together with the Creator. 3
So, happy birthday Madeleine. I still grieve that there will never be another book, but what a treasure trove of gifts–of new ways of seeing, of learning that I didn’t have to understand everything for it to be true and good–she gave to this kid who started with A Wrinkle in Time and never slowed down. (I have the rather unfortunate habit of collecting multiple editions of books I love. Don’t know how I’m going to resist purchasing the aforelinked 50th Anniversary Edition of Wrinkle.)