Thursday, November 30, 2017

becoming hollow for advent...

Two poems have popped up for me in the last 24 hours.  Both evoke a
part of the Christian liturgical season of Advent that begins on Sunday, December 3rd. The first, by Welsh poet and Anglican priest R.S. Thomas, invites us to learn to wait. Not waiting simply to acquire patience, however, but rather so that we become fully alive in each moment. To life consciously with love is what the waiting of Advent is all about.

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

"Christ was a poet and the New Testament is all poetry, too" Thomas has said. That resonates with me as I prepare for Advent. The second poem, by Carolyn Locke, speaks of becoming hollow so that we might be filled with light. I think of Eugene Peterson's restatement of the Sermon on the Mount:  "You are blessed when you're at the end of your rope: with less of you, there's more room for God and God's grace."

The way the trees empty themselves of leaves,
let drop their ponderous fruit,
the way the turtle abandons the sun-warmed log,
the way even the late-blooming aster
succumbs to the power of frost—

this is not a new story.
Still, on this morning, the hollowness
of the season startles, filling
the rooms of your house, filling the world
with impossible light, improbable hope.

And so, what else can you do
but let yourself be broken
and emptied? What else is there
but waiting in the autumn sun?

Once the hills behind our home were full and vibrant; now they are barren and still.  They remain glorious, however, whether green or red or basking in the browns and grays of today. Peterson's retelling of a sermon by Jesus comes to mind:

“Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more. Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?

What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself." 
(Luke 12)

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, "Today I take in these truths and ponder them in my heart." 

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