PATIENTLY PREPARING THE PLACE
Acknowledge the Life of Elizabeth Kemp: (moment of silence)
Introduction: We are Pilgrim people and our Pilgrimage continues. Last month we celebrated an “Overflowing God of Love” and explored the obstacles that get in the way of our experiencing that abundance.
At our last meeting, Victoria and Alice presented an overview of the Advent Season when we prepare for the coming of God’s presence into our lives. The first two weeks of Advent involved “Waking up” and “Listening.” Today, we delve deeper into “Patiently Preparing the Place” and then look forward to the weeks leading up to Christmas when we are called to say, “Yes, Be Born in Me “
Opening Prayer: Blessed be the longing that brought us here and quickens our soul with wonder. May we have the courage to listen to the voice of desire that disturbs us when we have settled for something safe. May we have the wisdom to enter generously into our own unease. To discover the new direction our longing wants us to take. May the forms of our belonging in love, creativity, and friendship be equal to the grandeur and the call of our soul. May the one you long for long for you. May our dreams gradually reveal the destination of our desire. May a secret providence guide our thought and nurture our feeling. May our mind inhabit our life with the sureness with which our body inhabits the world. May our heart never be haunted by the ghost structures of old damage. May we come to accept our longing as Divine urgency. And may we know the urgency in which God longs for us.
A Blessing for Longing by John ODonohue
First Reading: Our first reading is a poem by Denise Levertov
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished, almost always a lectern, a book; always the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings, the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering, whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions courage. The engendering Spirit did not enter her without consent. God waited. She was free to accept or refuse, choice-integral to humanness. Aren’t there annunciations of one sort or another in most lives?
Gospel Reading: Our second reading comes from the Gospel of St. Matthew
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear,
the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
In our 1st reading, Denise Levertov suggests that a God of Overflowing Love does not force, but always gives us choice.
She sets the scene that we are all very familiar with; the large and majestic Archangel, towering over the young and frightened Mary with the daunting question, “Can God be born in you?”
It is the same question we are asked each Advent Season, can God be born in each one of us?
In her poem, she shatters old images and ideas that we were taught and sometimes cling onto about Annunciations, saying, “the Spirit did not enter Mary without consent, God waited.”
This suggests that God is a patient God, both with Mary and with us.
Also, Mary was free to accept or reject God’s request. The poet shatters the idea that Mary was “meek and obedient,” and just kind of blindly and unconsciously went along with plan. If we remember the themes from the first two weeks of advent, “Waking up” and “Listening,” I think we must presume that Mary was wide Awake and she was Listening. And we are called to do the same.
Secondly, she emphasizes the tremendous courage that it took for the very young Mary to say, “Yes.”
So the question for us today is: How do we prepare ourselves to say “Yes to the Spirit?” How do we muster up the courage to choose God in our lives?
Our Gospel reading gives us a clue by revealing that John the Baptist is singled out by Jesus Himself as a Prophet and the chosen Messenger to precede Jesus in preparing the way.
So, I think the question for us then becomes, who is John the Baptist for you? Who or what is John the Baptist in your life?
For me, John the Baptist represents several things:
1st: He was not a meek, pushover personality. Just his physical presence suggests that this was one rough and tough guy.
2nd: He was completely committed to his mission, his intention was clear, his mission was clear, he proclaimed Jesus as the one we are waiting for. He ultimately gave up his own life for his cause. He was a man of tremendous Courage.
3rd: John the Baptists recurring theme is Repentance. He gives us insight into how God wants us to prepare the way for Him/Her to enter our lives. By forgiving not only others, but by forgiving ourselves. This suggests a committed prayer life, one where we take time to sit in , and muster up the Courage to Forgive. This is usually much easier said than done.
Lastly, if you are a gardener, you know that soon, in the dead of winter, we will do pruning.
I like this image, and this time, when we cut back the roses to prepare for the new spring growth. This can be symbolic for this act of courageous forgiveness, when we prune away our dead wood, making room and space for new growth. It is the act of sweeping up the old dirt and dusting off the furniture. It is the we say “Yes, be born in Me.”
O God, we pray for humility and guidance as we patiently prepare a place for You to reside within us. We are excited about your coming, and at the same time we can become frightened at what saying “yes” may bring about in our lives. We ask for courage and strength and resilience as we prepare a space for your coming. Bless us with your Deep Love, so we can bring love to our world just as you do. Bless us with Your Warm Compassion, so we can bring compassion to others in our communities. And Bless us with your loving grace, so that we may be open to your Divine Presence and let it dwell in our hearts and provide healing within our souls.
OUR FATHER, OUR MOTHER:
O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos, you create all that moves in light.
O Thou! The Breathing Life of all, Creator of the Shimmering Sound that touches us.
Respirations of all worlds, we hear you breathing –in and out- in silence.
Source of Sound: in the roar and the whisper, in the breeze and the whirlwind, we hear your Name.
Radiant One: You shine within us, outside us – even darkness shines – when we remember.
Name of names, our small identity unravels in you, you give it back as a lesson.
Wordless Action, Silent Potency – where ears and eyes awaken, there heaven comes.
O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos!
We extend the invitation of Jesus to each and every one of us to take and eat, to take and drink. This is not the table of any one tradition; it is the table of Christ. Together, we have set a table of sharing with those who are poor in the world, with whom Jesus identified. We have set a table of communion with the earth, in which Christ became incarnate. As we share this meal together, we become Christ to one another. So, come to this table, whoever you are. Come! It is Christ who invites us to meet here.
CLOSING PRAYER: Now let us look forward to the 4th week of Advent when we are called to say as Mary chose with great courage, “Yes, Be Born in Me.”
If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the road pregnant with the holy and say, “I need shelter for the night, please take me inside your heart, my time is so close.” Then, under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime intimacy, the divine, the Christ taking birth forever. As she grasps your hand for help, for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us. Yes there, under the dome of your being does creation come into existence externally, through your womb, dear pilgrim-the sacred womb of your soul. As God grasps our arm for help; for each of us is His beloved servant, never far. If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the street pregnant with Light and sing.
by John of the Cross-translated by Daniel Ladinsky