Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
[B]ehold the incarnate God, the unfathomable mystery of God's love for the world. God loves human beings. God loves the world.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ecce Homo, in Meditations on the Cross
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Lord, how can I enter into this season of joy? In my head I celebrate your birth into this world, but in my everyday life, I am filled with a grief that runs so very deep. You blessed me with a loving relationship and now it is gone from my life. How can I be faithful to that love and the memory of that love and my sorrow in this season of "Rejoice!"??
Tears are so close to the surface all the time and helpful friends who want to "keep me busy" don't seem to really understand that I need to embrace my grief. I am afraid of letting go of the sadness and losing the deep love connection I had.
Instead of entering into the Rejoice of Christmas, I long for the sorrow of Lent. I beg you Lord, show me how the two are connected. I ponder the name Emmanuel and know that it means "God with us." With us. With me in this world, in this sorrow. If I look beyond my pain, I know that you, too, suffered so much in this world. I never understood so clearly before that Emmanuel is what your nativity is really about. You are in my world, in my pain.
Thank you, Lord, for the loved one you blessed my life with. Grant me now in my grief, a peace. Give me a comfort that might not make the tears go away, but that lets me feel your presence as you take up a place deep in my heart, with me.
(Another one from the Creighton Advent Website.)
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Our God's fidelity is not only not limited by great poverty, it is most apt in places of great poverty. The way the nativity happened then can tell us a great deal about the "style" of our God. And, it can open our eyes and our expectation to the places of great poverty in our lives now. Whenever I ask, "How can this be a place of promise?" or "How can I expect God to be present in this mess?" I am being invited to experience the mystery of the Incarnation in my life.
Eventually, I begin to look for and to really anticipate special intimacy with Jesus in the difficult, challenging, painful, empty, power-less situations of my life. If I desire to find intimacy with God in all things, I'll pay special attention to the povery places of my life.
(This is from the Creighton Advent Website. I hope I am providing credit as desired and appropriate, so that the Nebraskan Jesuits do not feel compelled to come down to Key West and bust me.)
Monday, December 22, 2008
Most of us, however, do well to say what we see, to collect those fragments of language and sound and vision that speak to us, to offer up the pieces that reflect an unsure and tortured encounter with the mystery of death.
If we write it down, or speak it out loud, that is something.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
This year, I've noticed other things. The messy bed. The worn surroundings.
The uncompromising light.
Is that what we pray for, when we are so bruised and fragile that the flames of the advent candles threaten to engulf us in sorrow?
A birth that can lead only to Good Friday, because it is only there that we can be sure that God knows us?
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
This carol, though ~ I can listen to it sparingly, and primarily for the second phrase in the second line. I cannot countenance the thought that Mary had an ounce of meekness in her, at least not as we know the word. But ~ if this event took place in any way remotely related to the narrative as it comes to us via Luke, then: yes, the angel Gabriel's eyes could have only been wild with fire. If this event and those that followed offer any hope at all to a people completely undone, a group in who I count myself this year, then the invitation could have been offered only by an angel whose eyes were ablaze with light.
And if you need them to listen along, the lyrics:
The angel Gabriel from Heaven came,
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!“
For know a blessèd mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!
Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said,
“My soul shall laud and magnify His holy Name.”
Most highly favored lady, Gloria!
Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say—
“Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
But prayer is not magic. Prayer is God with us, us with God. Prayer is listening and noticing. So we don't get to go back but maybe, in the light trying to break through in December, I can notice some things.
And here is what I have noticed this week. I have, as a consequence of my son's death, received what I think must be some of the most extraordinary missives ever written. Emails, cards, letters -- the form of transmission doesn't matter. The words do. Some are about my son, some about those of us left behind, some about God. There is apparently something about magnitude of loss that drives ordinary people to eloquence.
I literally carry some of this writing around with me. There are moments, many of them, when I think that I will not make it to the next one, and then I read what people have sent me. I read them as prayers, regardless of how they were intended. I look for what God might be saying, in a phrase or a paragraph, and sometimes I see them, small clues to the mystery that binds us together, whether the people who articulated them knew what they were doing or not.
If you have a friend who is longing for someone else this Advent, especially someone who died in the last year or two, sit down this week-end and write a note, or send an email. It might be the most important thing you do this month.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Most people are well into Christmas preparations. Two weeks from today, right?
Most years by now, I would have ordered turkeys, filled the kitchen with the nonperishables, purchased gifts and wrapping paper, started playing Christmas CDs, scouted out tree locations, organized my friends to bring food on Christmas night.
I can't think about it.
Today I received a beautiful note from someone who has tried many times over the past three months to bring some hope into my life.
Gratitude? Is that what I felt? It seems like a foreign country, but one which I might visit again.
So I went out and bought candles.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
If you have not balanced on the crumbling edge of a precipice, please don't tell me how to do it.
Monday, December 8, 2008
One of my friends tells me that it was six months for her.
Another has gone back every Sunday since the beginning, and sobs through every service.
I've been to my own church a couple of times. There is something both reassuring and excruciating in finding the same patterns and music as before, in hearing familiar texts, in listening haphazardly (the best I can do right now) to a powerful sermon.
This past week-end I decided to go to a Saturday afternoon Mass. Three days back at school earlier in the week had taken their toll, and I knew that morning services were going to be too much to manage. What I didn't take into account was that hundreds of Catholics choose to meet their weekly Mass obligation on Saturday afternoon. And I didn't know that the service had been preceded by a parish service day in which 950 people had fanned out across the city to offer themselves to various organizations. By the time they got to the Mass that preceded a community dinner, they were pretty charged up.
So it was all a little too energetic for me. But the sermon and the music both spoke to me, and it was very good to be in a place where people were praying.
I don't know how long it takes before the fit feels right. Time of day, energy level, lighting, liturgy, community. Like almost everything else that we take for granted, the combination of stimulii feels like an assault when we are fragile and off-balance.
How long? Ever?
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
We have decided to go away again this year, although not quite so far.
"As long as you know that we won't feel any better," said the Lovely Daughter.
Friday, December 5, 2008
I was thinking about it as I watched the news last night. Security (or lack thereof) in Mumbai. Cholera in Zimbabwe. Champagne at an art opening, confusingly related to an indictment against UBS. Death and life and chaos, always.
If you could only pray for one thing, I wondered, what would it be?
For the end of death. Love may be stronger than death, but the consequence is a deeper anguish. One does not, however, long for the end of love. One longs for the end of death, for the eradication of that terrible breach that separates us from one another.
The end of death. The promise of Advent.
When Easter comes, my friend's husband will have been dead for a year. Will she feel the tiny flame of that promise flickering to life? Will it burn; will it singe her insides?
Advent hope: Scorched earth.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
2. eggnog I used to love eggnog
3. Pier I sparkly wrapping paper ornaments dishes
4. packed church trumpet accompaniment O Come O Come Emmanuel
5. Key West guidebook shall we go to a galaxy far far away
6. Tanner Annunciation I see things in it I have never seen before
7. nativity set all those Italian pieces purchased to charm small children stored in the basement can I bear to unpack it
8. doctor's office magazines there are more heart attacks on December 25 than on any other day
9. rain slush sleet snow clouds gray
10. the people who walked in darkness
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Not a word, with one exception: He did come up in the context of a story told by his twin brother.
What was that, that reluctance to name the one person who was foremost in everyone's thoughts? I know that he wasn't forgotten, but the jovial insistence on behaving as if all were as usual only enhanced my feelings of sadness and isolation. In the absence of conversation about the person never absent from my thoughts, I found that I had hardly a word to say.
Such an odd disjunction. My in-laws are the steady family of churchgoers, those with a lifetime of committment to religious community behind them. But it's me, the one with the disjointed history of religious engagement and observance, the one with the family whose narrative defies that of any soap opera, who longs for ritual and articulation.
But it wasn't my home, and so I skipped even my usual toast to Digory Priest, my Mayflower ancestor, knowing that one toast might lead to another, or to an atmosphere of "should we say something?"
An advance phone call, I think, asking what might be done to honor the empty place at the table and maybe bring us some comfort. Along with an acceptance of the reality that comfort might be a hollow word. Even better, knowing how many such decisions have to be tackled by the heartbroken immediate family on a daily basis, a phone call offering a plan -- a plan to which we could have acquiesced, or which we could have rejected -- would have been most welcome. A simple acknowledgment of the difficulties of the holiday season, a suggestion for consciously incorporating the new reality into them, a spoken willingness to share the burden. Sometimes words do matter as much as actions do.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Emily: Do any human beings ever realize life whole they live it? -- every, every minute?
I wonder whether there is anything which we do not take for granted.
But it wasn't enough. We can never be aware of one another, appeciate one another, enough. I could have taken note of every single minute, every single second, and it would not be enough to compensate me now for the loss of my child.
We take this season and the birth of our God into human form for granted, too. Put aside the commercial excesses, extended this year to the horrors of violence in the marketplace. Put aside the trivia and sentimentality. Even when we pay attention, our own daily preoccupations prevent us from comprehending what we are about at this time of year.
Paul could not have sounded the claim that we are called into fellowship with the Son of God unless there is, in fact, a Son of God. A God who shrugged on human form, was carried in human arms, grew into human companionship, died at human hands. A God who as our human friend remains faithful and always with us, even until the end of time. Paul's assertion is astonishing, really, and yet there it is.
Even when we are so lost in sorrow that awareness and appreciation are far, far out of reach.