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“What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God fourteen hundred years ago and I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and in my culture? We are all meant to be Mary.”
Meister Eckhart (15th century German mystic)
Merry Christmas! This, the culmination of Advent, is one of my favorite times of year. As previously stated, the word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means “coming.” Indeed, it is a time of year when we tune our hearts and minds to remembering the coming of the greatest Hope: Jesus.
This is indeed a time of true hopefulness – a kairos moment pregnant with God. Kairos is a Greek word for time unlike the human concept of time, chronos, meaning “chronological time.” Kairos has to do with a divine visitation, a rending of the human cloak when God comes to dwell among his people in an extra-ordinary way.
That sums up Advent: God going to great lengths to love us, coming to us in a manner in which we could truly relate; it is God coming to us through the fragile vulnerability of a helpless, newborn child who is Messiah. Christmas is the great act of God’s faithful love among us, of God saying “I have solidarity with you and I will spare no expense to show you My Love and My Presence.”
I fear we have, somewhere along the way, fallen prey to the same distortion that the people did who lived during the birth of Jesus, namely the misled belief that Messiah would come as a powerful military King to liberate the Jewish people with force from the brutal and ongoing occupation of the Roman Empire. We, too, look for God in the powerful…
God, it seems, had different plans.
God chose instead to come to us as a naked helpless baby born to a poor, unwed teenage mother in a land under the oppressive occupation of the Roman Empire. That fact alone defies all logic and reason. Jesus did not come as some warrior God with a large army, a boon of gold, and a taste for control. No, Jesus came to us as one of us choosing to make himself known to us in vulnerability, fragility and poverty – a far cry from how most people thought Messiah would come.
Advent reminds us that hope, coming in the Man of Sorrows named Jesus, is indeed a scandalous moment – one where God made his grace known and available to each of us in a way that is both comforting and disturbing.
This time of year is a time to remember that the hopeful coming of the Messiah occurred in relative obscurity, with little pomp or circumstance, with no “Black Friday” sales, or shiny decorations, and without the hottest new toy that we somehow deem necessary for our survival.
Every year at Advent we are asked to pause…and remember that God comes to us the same way as 2,000 years ago: in the gentleness of vulnerability, in the tenderness of new life given during a dark time, in the promise of hope when all seems lost.
And let us remember too that Advent is not only a coming, it is also an opportunity: an opportunity for us to remember during the darker days that God is asking us again to allow our very lives to become like Mary a sacred womb, a place where Jesus can be born anew within us and indeed within the world.
“Advent is a season of the secret of Divine Love growing in Silence…” Anonymous
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means “a coming.” In the busy days of the Christmas season, it seems Advent has become more of ‘a coming and going and rushing about’ than the celebration of the coming of Christ.
One of the things that bothers me the most about this time of year, more than the blatant and rampant consumerism, is the edgy “busy’ness” of it all. Like hamsters on a treadmill going nowhere fast, we run from store to store, party to party, event to event, harried and harassed, never taking the time to pause and reflect upon the momentous occasion of the true “Coming” that this season is based upon.
Advent is a time of pausing, a time of seeking the Great Silence away from the rush and temptation of every little thing that tugs at our attention, and taking time to stop and reflect. For me, Advent is a time of deepening spirituality. Rather than some highfalutin concept, spirituality is the Velveteen rabbit-like experience of sensing God’s movement and Love in my life in ever deepening ways.
Advent is, as well, a specific liturgical time of sensing God’s movement in my life and in the world around me. It is an intentional time of pausing to look for the Holy Child in all the ways he comes to us. For in this Advent time, we are all called to let our lives become “living mangers” – places where Christ can be born anew and afresh in us and in a world crying out for divine love.
This time of year is a time when God comes to all of us once again…in tenderness and smallness, in ways and places that we may not normally look: like a manger (a feeding trough to be exact); or the distressing disguise of the homeless; or the numerous people waiting in line at the soup kitchen or the forgotten and lonely; or the men and women who surround us in the stores and on the streets.
Advent is a time when God comes to each and every one of us in deliberate ways, ways known only to us, special ways that afford us the opportunity to renew our faith, discovering the depths and richness of God’s love and compassion for us and the world.
So as we continue to journey on into these days of Advent, let us all pause…
and take time…
to recognize the Holy Presence that surrounds us.
“There is an urge among us to birth a different world.” – Paul Hawken
Birthing a baby is more than enough challenge, but a new world! Yikes! Advent is upon us and I am keenly aware of the craving for a different world. The Prayer Hut in Primavera Center is waiting for a symbol worthy of the inner work needed this season. Yet inner movements remain subtle. Clues often are all that will be given.
The longing for a womb, a cave for that which grows in the dark leads to the discovery of an old stump covered in winter. It is placed in the Prayer Hut, twisted and turned. We lay the stump over and with the help of a piece of cloth, a grotto comes forth. Something inside me leaps! I sit before it and wonder at what inner clue to a “new world” wants to reveal itself.
In a circle of folk dialoguing around the work of Paul Hawken, author, ecological architect and leading proponent of reform for a different world, one statement by the group leader causes my heart to leap. She says, “We need stories of people who are grounded and joyous in the midst of the despair of our age.”
Mary’s story, and her cousin Elizabeth’s, is in another time when corrupt leaders, exploitation of the poor, controversial policies and dangers prevail. A deeply grounded, though young, Mary willingly says yes to birthing the Divine Son of God. Troubled, she travels some distance to her cousin Elizabeth’s to share her difficult secret. With no instant communication, no smart phones, Facebook, email or even a land line available, the encounter comes as a surprise. Yet, in that moment of greeting, the baby in this older woman’s womb leaps for joy.
The scriptures paint a picture of both women entering into joy. Mary sings from the cave of her heart, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for you have looked with favor on your lowly servant” (Luke 1:39). Be not naïve, for the words that follow are not so sweet. They point to a world about to be upended, where values will be shaken up and the mainstream way of life overturned by the birth of the child within her womb.
The stories of these two women, grounded and joyous in the face of the mysteries they carry, show the way. Are these the kinds of stories we need to hear from one another for this time? Then let’s tell them! Stories of our grounding practices and celebrations of joy that flow through our everyday lives. I don’t know about you, but I need the conversation to change in order to free me from the preoccupation blockages that keep me from building a different world.
We are the different world God longs to bring forth. This Advent is the time to ground ourselves in reality, difficult or not, and empty out space enough to receive Love. For God is with us in this time and space and wants, again and again, to be birthed into this world. As the mystics say, “Look around. The world is full of God.”
Susan Morley, and husband Don Russell, members for many years of The Church of the Saviour, were called in 1999 to establish in the C of S tradition, PRIMAVERA: A SACRED AND SUSTAINABLE EARTH CENTER, in Kalkaska County, northwest Michigan.
Why should we exhaust ourselves in an effort to succeed and acquire knowledge? Would not a relaxation of effort still give us enough to do for the moment and enable us to be happy?
The mystic, however, can see the profound and hallowed reason for insatiable activity, for the unswerving impulse towards the elusive Something that shines ahead of him. Throughout time, a task greater than individual lives is being achieved. An interest higher than individual successes is at stake.
Reasonable: Sensible, rational, practical, logical, evenhanded
When you get right down to it, God can be a bit unreasonable.
God is not always rational, practical, sensible or within the bounds of reason. How reasonable and rational is a God Who chooses to use the wounded, the broken, the fallen, the fallible and even the wicked to do the divine bidding? I mean becoming flesh, walking among us, telling us we are God’s children and that God cares for us better than the best parents? Then he tells us anyone can draw near to God, be a friend of God, if only we surrender and accept the grace of it all?
Jesus was not so reasonable or practical; his resume would not have gone too far in the corporate or religious world today, if we judged by reason, rationale and appearances. God’s ‘business plan’ was (and still is) completely maniacal: hang out with the poor, the rejected, the unclean, the blue collar types. It gets even better, Jesus decided to spit fire towards the pious, the righteous, the religious leaders and consistently show disdain for the emperor time and again through stories, healings, and parables proclaiming to both that there is a new way, a new Leader, and a new Kingdom where all are welcome if they but ask.
That is not my idea of sane or reasonable and Grace is the key to doors of this upside-down Kingdom.
Jesus is just plain unreasonable and screws up all my preconceived notions, messes with plans, confuses me and makes me uncomfortable. And those who say they follow him try and tame, deputize, and moralize him, making him into an Uncle Sam savior or a Pinocchio wrapped in Levi’s, a goatee, hipster glasses and mod rock music.
Try and tame a tiger and risk losing your hand. Try taming God and risk losing everything…
God is unreasonable. And if God were not, we’d all be doomed. For grace is the outflow of God’s unreasonableness. So therefore grace is not reasonable either.
Grace can be absurd. God’s love is absurd as well. Why would Jesus of Nazareth live a life that he did: loving the unlovable, defying social convention and norms, threatening the state simply by the love he showered upon people when he healed them, only to be executed for sedition. Why?
It is absurd that one must die for the many to live.
I will say it, plain and simple, grace is absurd. And way too many of us spend too much time trying to ‘figure’ it out rather than experiencing it; far too many try and control it foolishly, like gripping sand tightly hoping to prevent it slipping from their hands.
A Frigid Night
Autumn is slouching and slumbering
its way into winter,
the grace and Advent within us.
and the World stands Still
(again) and Silent
like it did once on a Holy Night
thousands of years ago.
Winter Solstice Luna
Brilliant ivory Lover of mine,
rising with quiet passion over the
you, all fecund…
me, all lost, empty and searching…
You light my way, oh gracious Luna,
Lighting the splendid darkness of my
night with Divine light.
The late afternoon sky reminded
me of old, worn out bones,
ashen gray but filled with a holy spirit,
mine and God’s.
and I wondered if my life would be as
much of a gift to those who have
been such a Gift to me…
The wind whips the snow around
like a whirling dervish,
a pure white ghost dancing wildly
over the snow as it coaxes and teases
the dying sun, glimmering pure blindness off the
icy whiteness of the world as it
settles into the familiar sweet blackness
of a Winter’s night.
This was sent to me by a friend, Jeannie Kirkhope. Jeannie runs the Appalachian Catholic Worker in West Virginia and she has been giving me spiritual and emotional support for starting my ‘God Dream’ retreat center. We also had (have) a mutual friend from DC who spent his life serving God and the poor.
You can click on the live link to check out the Appalachian Catholic Worker! Pray for them, go visit them, maybe send an online financial donation in honor of the Advent Season…
The Inner Hermit
“I want to be with God in prayer.”
“What you want is an absurdity.”
“Because, whenever you are,
God is not;
Whenever God is,
you are not;
so how could you be with God?”
Later the Master said,
When you are with someone else,
you are not alone;
When you are ‘with God,’
you are not alone.
The only way to be really with God
is to be utterly alone.
Then, hopefully, God will be
and you will not.”
If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for. Between these two answers you can determine the identity of any person.