The Challenge of Light

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

Photo: sultanknish.com

Photo: sultanknish.com

 

The Challenge of Light

i.

advent is not about the coming

of a sweet baby.

it is not about sentimental,

trumped-up emotion.

advent challenges us

to an adult acceptance

of the kingdom of god,

to social imperatives,

to self-forgetfulness,

to letting go,

to a deliberate emptiness.

ii.

we like to make the Christ

into a perpetual baby.

we can cuddle a baby,

a baby asks nothing of us.

the Christ is so much more demanding.

iii.

advent doesn’t just happen

the four weeks leading up to Christmas.

our lives our one huge advent.

our lives are about bringing light

into this dark world.

iv.

in advent and winter we wait for light.

do we forget it’s up to us

to be light in the darkness

of a world that is

confused

stumbling

blinded

afraid?

v.

it’s easy to get hung up

in religion,

in practice,

in institutional think.

it’s easy to feel complacent

because we go to church,

because we give money.

the litmus test

is giving of ourselves,

is embracing mystery.

advent is not just a passive waiting.

it allows that we are responsible

to be light-bearers.

Most of these thoughts come from a small meditation book: Preparing for Christmas by Richard Rohr. I find them unsettling, preachy, even disturbing–I suppose because Rohr has hit that sore spot that challenges those of us who are Christian to really look at what Jesus asks of us in the Gospels. I hope there will be a message for all to hear…no matter what your own personal beliefs.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and many good things in 2014.

Photo: V. Slotto

Photo: V. Slotto

 

Dark December Days–Monday Meanderings

Today is dreary. My meditation time was drearier. I look out the window and the branches are bare. The few leaves that remain hang listlessly. There is no breeze to stir up some action. Not a bird shows up to feed on the fruit that remains on the ornamental pear tree. Everything is still, empty.

Photo Credit: David Slotto

Photo Credit: David Slotto

I’m in concert with nature until I remember that it’s the first Sunday of Advent. Celebrated in Christian communities, Advent marks the four Sundays leading up to Christmas—the arbitrary date chosen to commemorate the birth of Jesus.

The word Advent is derived from the Latin word for “coming.” It denotes an attitude of anticipation, expectation, hope, waiting—much like that of the early Jewish people who lived in expectation of a political Messiah who would deliver them from the tyranny of the Roman occupation of Israel.

Understood from the Christian perspective, which views Jesus as the Messiah, this deliverance is spiritual rather than political. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” In this sense, I find that the spirit of Advent offers a message for people of all spiritual traditions.

We are attuned to the seasons of the year. We mirror them in our own lives. When nature sleeps, we may experience our own emptiness and know innately that there must be more than decorations and shopping and whatever else we turn to in order to dispel the darkness within.

Advent is the season for the child inside of each of us. It a time to be excited about what is yet to come, to believe in a spiritual Santa Claus who will appear in his own time to fill those empty spaces in our heart and spirit. When we are surrounded by barren landscape, those gifts will fall gently into our lives like pure snow. We await beauty. We hope for peace.

Photo Credit: scrapsoflight.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: scrapsoflight.blogspot.com

This image is that of an Advent Wreath. In Christian churches and homes, a candle is lit on Saturday Eve each week to open the vigil of Sunday’s observance. Usually the candles are purple to make that sense of emptiness however, on the Third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, a pink candle promises joy. Gaudete means joy in Latin–the first word of the reading from Isaiah–Rejoice, Israel. Your salvation is drawing near (my paraphrase).

Written on Sunday for Monday Meanderings. The sun decided to show up and the birds are having a great time in our pear trees.

For more indepth reflections on Advent, shared by writers and poets of many spiritual traditions, I invite you to check out Into the Bardo, an interdenominational site that will post an Advent-related essay or poem every day until Christmas. One of the things I appreciate most about this site is that it highlighst similarities, rather than differences between many diverse spiritual points of view, showcasing, somehow, they most often converge into a whole. Differences are respected and teach us new ways of understanding mystery. It is sites such as Into the Bardo that will, we hope, bring us closer to one another. Into the Bardo is hosted by poet/author Jamie Dedes with the help of contributing authors. I am honored to be one of them.

On Waiting

It used to be, spiritually, that Advent was my favorite time of the year. Something about “incompleteness,” about waiting for what’s to come. When I was young, I wanted to be older. Then I couldn’t wait to graduate, fulfill career dreams, accomplish all kinds of life goals. My life’s journey followed directions that were different from most of my peers: going in the convent at a very young age, not marrying till I was in my late 40’s, no children. Now, I’m in the “3rd third” of my life, as my neighbor refers to it. And still waiting for what is to come, but so much more focused on what IS. In writing–enjoying the process, as well as the prospect of publishing. Spiritually–savoring the moment, wondering what is to come, STILL waiting.