Today, the husband of my secretary continues his roller coaster ride as the doctors try to understand how to restore a measure of health to his troubled heart. Today my car is still "broken" and my friendly mechanic is "out of the shop" for who knows how long? Today my fragile and oh so neurotic puppy, Lucie, has been by my side most of the day as we try to reinforce a measure of tranquility amidst all her worries and skittishness. Today one of my sisters wrestles with coming into the reality of Christmas with her hubby being laid off. Today my father is increasingly frail as he stubbornly insists he can still live all by himself. Today my head cold is almost better while my chest sometimes aches and splits with the residual cough. And today Di is making vegetable soup after winterizing our bedroom in a bright Tucson-like Berkshire cave because the outward temperatures are hovering around 1F.
In other words, today is all mixed up: it is blessing and curse, joy as well as sorrow right next to one another. So often I just want one side of the equation - I want things FIXED - I want the joy and god damn but I want it NOW. To which the quiet voice of the coming Christ Child says: you can want whatever you wish but it doesn't change how I come to you in the paradox. Fr. Richard Rohr put it like this in this morning's reading:
What we’re doing in contemplation is learning, quite simply, how to be present. That is the only way to encounter any other presence, including God in prayer, Jesus in the Eucharist, and Jesus in others. The change is all and always on our side. God is present everywhere all the time. There really is not much point in arguing about IF and HOW Jesus is present in the bread and wine; simply be present yourself and you will know all that you need to know. It is an exercise in surrender and presence from your side alone. We know that God is always given from God’s side, but we have to learn how to receive such total givenness, which is a very vulnerable position for humans. So Jesus said “Eat it” and did not say “think about it,” which is our defensive control tower. The Christian strategy seems to be this: struggle with divine presence in one focused, determined, and assured place (bread and wine, which is just about as universal a symbol as you can get)—and from that moment of space and time move to all space and all time. That is the final and full goal.
Today, it would seem, has been a day of holding the givenness of my life tenderly. Contemplation is, after all, taking a long, loving look at what is real. And what is real right now is clarity and confusion, great blessing and deep anxiety, healing and hurt as well as light, dark and all the rest. When I returned home from errands and church, from being out in the public and active, I sat at the table for a late lunch and ate a sacramental Ploughman's Platter of hearty bread, cheese, pickles and beer. It was my closing act of contemplation for this day and one way of affirming the hope that grows from small things.