The Manhattan area of New York is built on solid granite. Maybe that’s why there are so many huge sky-scrapers built there; all built on a solid foundation.
Today we honour the memory of Saint Ambrose, one of the great Latin Fathers of the Church who helped to lay a strong foundation for us today. Our Catholic tradition encompasses so many different nationalities, cultures and customs that even the highest sky-scraper pales in comparison. Saint Ambrose was the teacher and inspiration of Saint Augustine, who was converted to Christianity by his preaching and encouragement. Saint Ambrose guided the Church through difficult times and the Augustinian and later the Dominican tradition built on his foundation proved to be solid and monumental.
Relying on solid foundations can be a tricky manoeuvre. Some people fall into the trap of admiring past foundations but build their own house on the nearby shifting sands.
Even the Mass itself, the great foundation of our faith, can be built on nice music or on nice words, rather than on the Christ whose presence is revealed here. Saint Ambrose loved the liturgy and he wanted to be sure that words and intentions were always in harmony, so that faith could flourish and withstand the problems Christians faced when the Mass was over.
Advent is a time to check our foundations. Is our life of faith centred on God or is it merely words and ceremonies? Is our Christmas founded on Christ or will it be celebrated on the shifting sands of materialism that will blow away on Boxing Day? Only on the right foundations can we build great things.