Monday, November 28, 2011

Beginning the ascent into Advent

As the Advent season gets underway, I am being drawn down and back into silence. Into prayer. Into pondering the wonder, the miracle, the messiness, the improbability of a teenager in Palestine being pregnant with God. I understand her question to the Angel of the Annunciation because I would have asked the same one: "How can this be?" Indeed.

I know what it is to be pregnant. I had an simple explanation of how I ended up that way. When I think of Mary's ridiculously incomprehensible explanation of her pregnancy, when I think of the birth of the Christ Child, his life, death, burial and resurrection - my faith must expand exponentially to hold it all within this mind and soul of mine.

Faith, among other things, is the suspension of disbelief, of cynicism, of doubt. This time of year, these weeks leading to the celebration of the birth of Christ, is the time of year when my faith both wavers and stabilizes... Who do I think I'm kidding? That's how my faith feels every single day. 

But when doubt rises, when questions come, when my skepticism bursts into full and fragrant bloom, as happens every few weeks, days, hours - I am most grateful that the faith I profess doesn't apply only when life is easy, explicable and enlightening. It is a faith in God that has sustained me during times of suffering, waiting, emptiness, and hopelessness. It is during the darkest times, during the darkest and shortest days at the end of the year, during the longest and most uncomfortable days just before the birth of a baby, that I am most grateful to enter this season of waiting for the arrival of The Light, of waiting here for Love again to be born. 

I am grateful for the predictable three trimesters of pregnancy, the four seasons of the calendar year, and  also for the liturgical calendar that turns and turns and turns - and returns me to this quiet season of anticipation, of preparation, and of reconnection with the things - and The One True Thing - and the people - and The One - that matter most to me.

Joan Chittister expressed it beautifully in the introduction to her book, The Liturgical Year:

"It is the nature of liturgical spirituality - 
the attempt to live the life of Jesus 
over and over again all the years of our lives - 
that is the essence of this book. 
It is about the spirituality of joy and suffering,
of waiting and faith,
of asceticism and celebration,
of loss and hope
that marks all our lives 
and that needs to be 
strengthened, deepened, revisited, 
and rediscovered in the life of Jesus 
and the life of the church
every year of our lives." (page xvi)

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