Tue 30 Nov, 2010
As we begin this Christmas season, Clyde Prioress Sister Sean shares an Advent reflection with our Sisters each week.
Here is this week’s offering….
Advent Vigil – wk 1, Nov. 27, 2010
“In days to come, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.”
“I rejoiced because they said to me, ‘We will go up to the house of the LORD.’”
“For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man . . . So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
We have a mountain to climb. And we’re not talking about hills. It’s a mountain. And we have begun.
Hiking up a mountain is not easy. It’s a good way to describe the spiritual journey, which is not just some sort of mental abstract.
It’s real. It’s hard. It requires constant vigilance. Preparations and vigilance are critical for survival. The mountain climber will often encounter rain, sunshine, intense heat, freezing cold, possibly disorientation at times, ice on parts of the path which are always in the shade, severe storms, tremendous lightning and wind, and above 8,000 feet – the beginning of an awful thing known as “altitude sickness.”
And from about 10,000 feet on up, in order to keep going, it’s important to pause after each step and just breathe. And above 11,000 feet there are no more trees for shade or shelter (but also there are fewer bears to encounter).
Water is often scarce and must be carried from one source to the next. And with so many turns in the path, as well as sudden weather changes and a multitude of unforeseen events and circumstances, the actual time of arriving at the summit is unknown.
And the holy mountain of the Lord is so much higher. It’s that mountain we have begun to climb – together. It’s real. It’s hard. This journey requires constant vigilance – spirit and body, soul and heart.
Each Advent, we have a chance to pause, reflect on the mystery of it all, and continue the journey up the mountain, refreshed – rejoicing in the knowledge that whatever is not possible to us by nature the Lord will supply by his grace.
And we all know how often that grace is needed – primarily for human interactions. As we have often heard, the twelve Apostles are good examples of the broad range of dynamics among very different personalities, and along with the joys and blessings, also the difficulties and challenges inherent in living and working so closely together.
Some people may think of the spiritual journey as something disconnected from life as we know it, something which is “not of this physical world,” something totally “up there somewhere, in the spirit.”
However, one of the gifts we have is the constant awareness that the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us.
In the Prologue of the Rule, 22: St. Benedict tells us – If we wish to dwell in the tent of God’s kingdom, we will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds. But let us ask the Lord with the Prophet: Who will dwell in your tent, Lord; who will find rest upon your holy mountain? – the answer is basically those who do what is good, rejecting all that is evil.
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”
The climbing is choosing and accepting those instructions and walking in those paths – they are the Way that leads to the summit of God’s holy mountain. And the most profound of those instructions, which clarifies all the others, and which we have been shown by example, the most sacred path leading up this mountain, is love.
And it’s the oil, which must be in our lamps as we keep vigil all along the way as we climb this holy mountain. The path, the instructions for following it, have been set out for us. And each step is our choice, our decision, the effort we continually put forth to say “yes.” And all along the way, we must be prepared for the unexpected. Only then we can truly celebrate the journey.
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. . .”
Each Advent, we celebrate this -
Long ago, the messenger was sent; he has cleared the way.
This journey up the mountain is not a solitary climb by individual persons alone; it’s all of us together. At times, each of us will need to be carried by someone else, and we also will each have opportunities to carry another.
And as God so often has ways of surprising us, perhaps unexpectedly we might find ourselves being carried by one whom we’ve had the most difficulty getting along with.
And just as unexpectedly, we might find ourselves doing the same. What is not possible to us by nature, God’s grace will provide.
We need to remember – It’s not our mountain. It’s God’s mountain.
“So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Let us all rejoice – we are going up to the house of the LORD – together.
“And the Lord whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.”