Retreat December 2018
Advent is a truly great time to stop and feast on the promises, images, and hope contained within it. If true, then the last week of Advent where things build up to a peak in expectation for a renewed awareness of ‘God among us’, is an even
better time. In the first two Advent weeks the readings for reflection are all from the prophet Isaiah are about the hope that the Old Testament people had in ‘something better’ on the near horizon. A new salvation is coming, a future world so good that we have to put our imagination into overdrive to keep pace
with it. Infant plays over the cobra’ hole, the wolf lying down with the lamb and these images just keep flowing but hard to beat, ‘ Death is destroyed forever.’ Of course our world needs a new order more than at any time in history, if just
because of the sheer size of today’s population as millions’ very livelihoods are threatened for a host of social, cultural, economic reasons and of course a looming large and black cloud over all those things is climate change and the predictions of the imminent 6th great extinction since our earth suckled life from the creator.
Awake is another word that is constantly being used to bring people into a greater consciousness of events, behavior and of course God. This new
consciousness demands alertness, awareness and imagination from all people.Awake to the reality that our God is among us and it is in whom we live, move and have our being, but this gift can easily be down played or even trashed. The Lame leaping like a deer, water gushing in the desert and everlasting joy on all faces, certainly invites the majority of people today who are devalued by the establishment, to work hard at imagining something new and different. The outcome is a people calling out for all they are worth, “ Come, Savior of the World
come.” Come Good shepherd and gather the lambs in your arms and lead us to safety. Come Frank ! you yourself and incarnate the shepherd for the distressed lambs of Mukuru slums. Reflecting and taking all this in certainly engenders within our hearts hope and Advent is characterized by hope. Hope personified with Old Testament Miriam, and Elizabeth of the New Testament, both in their old age being blessed with sons and of course centuries old prophecies being fulfilled at last, such as the ‘just shoot’ will spring from the house of David to save the people.
My first liturgy here on retreat just happened to be 3 rd Sunday of Advent or the beginning of the run home to Christmas and it is called Joy Sunday. Pink (officially rose) of all colours adorns the altar and the priest. Yes the third Sunday of Advent, the penitential purple of the season changes to rose and we celebrate “Gaudete” or “Rejoice!” Sunday. “Shout for joy, daughter of Sion” says Zephaniah. “Draw water joyfully from the font of salvation,” says Isaiah. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” says St. Paul. Even the ever threatening John the Baptist softens his voice (my imagination) and whispers, ‘There is one coming after me so great I am not worthy to undo the straps on his sandals, Rejoice!” So rejoicing takes centre stage from here on, ‘ the Messiah is near.” And who doesn’t rejoice in a baby and of course each day in the week of my retreat, there was a baby story to give flesh to the hope now generated and the imagination stirred. I spent hours just contemplating the joy of these women, imagination at work capturing the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Of course Ruben Centre birthing unit has been my preparation for reflection on birth, which of course is the central image, and fact that brings Advent to a dramatic culmination.
Two Minutes in……… Umbilical cord cut and now I am all alone. The last nine months has prepared me well for this moment. But now that it has begun………… I lie here. Pre clothes time. …. Finally I am together-. Soul and now body. Eternity briefly made flesh for our world. Breathing and just gathering consciousness. Absorbing how precious this beginning time and moment is. Never to be revisited time. I am whole and a true Angel of my Maker, however I know for sometime now this sense of total divine oneness will be lost, however my still pure, whole and undefiled state helps me believe all will be well.
The human condition is yet to make its mark on me. I am not hungry, worried, fearful, scarred, nervous, needy, smelly, shameful, alienated, rejected or lonely. What a joy to breathe; to live. I Am! … And Christmas invites me to also know God is! Yes Advent is about knowing who we are, and knowing who and what I need in my life to be whole and live a life of joy. Joy is something not to be confused with the emotion of happiness, rather it is deep resonance within the spiritual self given as a gift of the Holy Spirit and associated with times when we achieve otherness rather than self-absorption. I set off eight days ago on this retreat and a further exploration of the season of Advent. It has been a blessed experience as I have reconnected with the ancient stories and the first season of the Church’s year, and hopefully absorbed enough of their essence to now desire to adopt this Advent Was into my life. Imagine what joy and peace ? Well it is Christmas .