Yesterday was lovely, if in some ways unexpected. I’ve learned to “go with the flow” over the years and it’s so much easier to do that when the people you’re “flowing” with are relaxed and kind. I look forward to the same sort of reception today with the “Senior Sisters” at our Provincial House. Speaking about Advent is easy for me as I think about themes for discussion. My favorites are stillness and expectation and reflection on how those qualities can permeate our days and calm our nights. Give it a try…
I’ll be on the road today before the sun is up, long before I reach my destination. I’m reminded of an old description of how some people used to describe a visit to their doctor as “Hurry up and wait!” Not at all the same meaning however…
I hope to be in my car and on the road to the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Schenectady, N.Y. where “While We Wait” is the title of the Advent retreat day I’ll be leading. We’ll be talking about expectation and how it feels if we truly get into the spirit of Advent and make our waiting for the in-breaking of the Christmas miracle truly worth our effort during this brief, 24-day season. We do it every year but how does it change us? How does the coming of Jesus make us closer to a Christ-like example of what Jesus came to teach? What should we be living of his message as we celebrate his incarnation? Here are a few reminders that he left us.
The reign of God is in your midst…The kingdom of God is within you…Love one another as I have loved you…Love your neighbor as yourself…
That should be enough for now.
Here comes the sun in all its blinding radiance, fairly shouting “Awake! Awake!” with the promise that it is indeed spring. I hear the energy in the birds and wish I could join in the song but I made the mistake of reading today’s headlines before the sun appeared. It seems that every day there is something new to add to the list of issues and/or events to mourn. Then I think that it is still Lent after all and that life goes on as it will.
Then my eye falls on the cover of Robert Moynihan’s book about Pope Francis that in bold letters entreats the world: “PRAY FOR ME!” (the first words of his papacy.) In that humble moment the Pope reinforced the fact that life is a jumble of strength and weakness, easy and difficult, happy and sad. In so doing he also let us know that we are all in this together and we can – if we truly make the effort – overcome the darkness that exists all around us.
So I face the sun and make an inventory of the day ahead, slowly feeling the rising of expectation within me. It will be a good day, I trust, because of the Pope, the people I will encounter, the conversations we will have, the prayer we will share, and the sun which will continue to rise in my heart.
I have started this post three times in the past two minutes and am grateful for the technology that includes a “delete” button. It’s not that I have one thought stream; rather, there are too many words rumbling around in my head with no clear way to express anything. This happens sometimes when too much is going on and especially as I prepare to travel. It’s as if I need to be sure I have everything taken care of before I leave, especially remembering (of course) what needs to go with me.
Today is a moment when memories and expectations abound and I will need to remain fully conscious of the present. At noon we will close what has been a six-year series of “wisdom schools” and this evening I will leave for a meeting in St. Paul, Minnesota that is preliminary to decision-making about our (Sisters of St. Joseph) future. It is as if I am in a room with two doors leading in different directions, knowing that it isn’t time yet to open either one. Behind the first door is an immense quantity of gratitude for the work we (my colleagues Bill and Deborah and myself) have been privileged to do, tinged with a bit of sadness for the ending, although the timing is surely correct. Behind the other door is the unknown future of our dynamic, yet aging, community of women who sit in a moment of “not yet” and try to envision a worthy future for us and those who will be called to join us.
It isn’t always easy to let go of outcome and just live in the moment we are experiencing. Today that will be my most important task and it begins right now. I trust that these years of training and practice in the “wisdom way” will serve to allow both doors to open in their own time and that life will go on as it should. Amen. (So be it.)
Today ends the season of waiting for the advent of Christ. We have been singing, “O come, O come, Emmanuel!” for nearly a month now and the seven titles from the O Antiphons culminate in this calling forth of the One whom they/we recognize as “God with us.” All of the readings today strain forward to his coming. Malachi (3:1-4) foretells that suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. The psalm refrain tells us to lift up your heads and see! as the psalmist pleads: Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me! Finally we hear the gospel story of the birth of John the Baptist who runs before Jesus, preparing the way for him.
I say it’s over when today is only the 23rd. We celebrate Christmas on the 25th. One could characterize this waiting period as having two parts: remote and proximate preparation. All through Advent we have been calling on God to open our hearts to the reality of Christ’s presence in our midst (remote preparation). Tomorrow we spend the day, as Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “on tiptoe” (proximate preparation) – in conscious attention for the fulfillment of the covenant promise. I have always loved the verse from the Book of Wisdom that says, “When all things were silent and night was in the midst of her course, your all-powerful Word, O God, leapt from heaven…” There is a silence at midnight that is unparalleled and conducive of great wonders, usually experienced by our inner selves. That is why our religious tradition gathers us at midnight, or thereabouts, to welcome Emmanuel in a ritual that speaks of light in the darkness and peace for all on earth.
So my goal is to begin to feel, by dawn tomorrow, the shift from conscious waiting to ardent expectation, and to spend tomorrow – no matter what activities claim me – readying myself for that moment when Christ leaps into my heart in a new and fuller way, perhaps in the night. Hyperbole? Maybe…but who of us knows what gifts have been prepared for us and when they will be given? I think it’s worth the wager to be there when it happens.