Sunday, November 29, 2009
Come, Lord Jesus; Do Not Delay
Sunday, First Day of Advent
Keeping the Night Watch
A few years ago, I had no idea what Advent was, but something inside of me longed for it. I remember the joy I felt making my first Advent wreath. But I felt guilty. I was Eastern Orthodox at the time, and many of our beloved brothers and sisters in the Eastern Church do not watch for Christ in the same ways, using the same language as the Western beloved of God. I never used that wreath. Besides, I was deadly combination of ignorant and legalistic. That year my Advent was doomed by my personality.
A few years later I was a little brassier, and purchased an Advent wreath from off the net. It was inexpensive--I didn't have much money--and oh my! It was an itty-bitty thing. Much smaller than I thought it would be from the picture. I think I laughed when I saw it. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for. Thank goodness I have an itty-bitty house now. If only I knew where it was--the Advent wreath, that is. Most days I'm clear on the location of the house.
Anyhoo, in a way I'm glad I can't find my itty-bitty Advent wreath. The lack of it urges me toward greater creativity and simplicity. Y'all know I am known for my excesses, especially when I'm beginning a journey. I lose steam rather quickly, then, if I'm really showing out, wheeze my way to the finish line. That is, if I run the full course at all. I tend to drop out in the middle of the race--same old, same old. But I'm learning, y'all, and very slowly, I'm changing. Most of all, I'm praying most urgently that God will give me regularity.
I know that sounds like I may need more fiber in my diet, but that's not the kind of regularity I'm thinking of. I mean the strength and fortitude to carry out the devotionals most meaningful to me, regularly. With the 'd' word: discipline. As I prepare to begin working on the new monastic rule of life for the Beloved Community, I've been reading a bit of the rule of St. Benedict. I so admire him. He stressed moderation and said his rule was for beginners. I love that it's okay with St. Benedict to be a beginner, even if you think you're an old veteran. But I am truly a beginner, lovies. How few steps I've really taken on this journey to Christ's eternal embrace.
One book I read was by Joan Chittister, and it was in those pages that I began to absorb so much about being consistent in my spiritual practices. I'm generally a sprinter, not a marathon runner. But marathon runners, by necessity, have to pace themselves. This makes them a little more prepared for the hard things, like "hitting a wall." I seem to have a lot of walls in my spiritual life. And I do hit them. Hard. So, I'm learning to go easy, and do what I can do, without making all kinds of excuses for my failures that are just plain lazy.
So, I'm having a very stripped down Advent this year. No making ornaments. I just don't have it in me. No Jesse Tree. I'm not even pressed about the missing Advent wreath, but a few things are vital--non-negotiable, in fact.
First of all, I'm not going to ignore the holy longing I feel to be with Christ. Oh sure, it may be that winter is dawning, but I'm going to accept whatever is causing this deep need in me to spend quality time with my Beloved, be it Holy Spirit, or brain chemistry driven, as a gift. Yesterday, the temperatures were in the fifties and sunny. I stood outside in the backyard amid the naked trees in my bare feet. I've never done that in November in Michigan. That sure took the sting off any fear of winter I may have. What a gift that experience was. It was if Christ were saying, I will be your warmth and sun, even in this sparse, brown season.
Second, I'm really looking deep within. Too much of my behavior is my perception about what I think other people expect of me, which is more than a little arrogant. I mean, seriously, who's sitting around thinking about what they want me to do, other than me? I don't even think my family does cares what I do. So, I'm putting all of my desire to please people aside, and asking myself what devotions am I truly drawn to. What makes my soul sing? What gives me peace? What is so compelling I can no longer ignore it?
What am I pregnant in my soul with?
A few answers come to mind immediately.
I don't care how Christ urges me to seek Him, I can't seem to get away from my desire to pray the Liturgy of Hours. Oh, but my sweet winsome Christ is telling me to be gentle with my soul. Nothing harsh, as St. Benedict affirms. So, I'm going back to my private praying of the hours, but in simple ways. Seven sacred pauses during my day. With an itty bitty baby step start. No beating myself up, or fumbling all over complicated prayer books. It's simply a matter of being intentional--something I desperately need in several areas of my life. But what if this awareness, this ability to pause and listen for the holy, were to begin here, this Advent? Wouldn't that be grand? St. Teresa of Avila says, "prayer is a matter of love." I'm going to let that one rest in my soul womb awhile, too. Can you imagine what prayer as a matter of love looks like?
Finally, the only other Advent devotion I'm going to practice, is watching and waiting in wonder. Anyone can do this. You need no candles, or particular prayers, or special devotions. You can do it anyway you wish. This year, I'm doing this devotion here on Blogger and on Facebook and Twitter, and I'm inviting you to join me. Once a day--more if I'd like--I'm going to quiet myself, go within and find my most naked intention and honest prayers, and post them the blog entry for that day, or on my status line on Facebook and Twitter, as I await the hope of Christ to come and grant me my request. For example:
Step 1: Take a few deep, cleansing breaths: in and out; in and out; in and out.
Step 2: Look within. Ask yourself: what am I longing for Christ to do right now?
Sit with that need for a bit.
Step three: Offer it to God by praying as follows:
"I am waiting for the peace of body and mind that brings sound sleep. Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay."
I think that's is a great intention for an insomniac like me.
On Christmas Day, I will post:
"I am thankful that Jesus Christ Has come; He is the hope of my peace of body and mind, that brings sound sleep." This will go along with any other intentions I've put out there during the four week period. Don't worry, you can totally cut and paste.
Okay, it's almost 5:30 a.m. Usually, if I'm not asleep by five, I stay home from Mass, because I'm way too tired to get up a few hours later. I don't think I'll do that this morning though. I need to be with my soul family, as we sit together, waiting for the Lord.
My beloved friends, may this Advent fill you with holy longing, that only Jesus satisfies, and may God grant you peace.
Watching and waiting in wonder,
photo by Larry LaBonte, "Waiting."