Friday, December 02, 2005

Thoughts on Advent and other things

Two readings from Mechtild of Magdeburg (13th century Beguine)

There comes a time when both body and soul
enter into such a vast darkness
that one loses light and consciousness
and knows nothing more of God’s intimacy.
At such a time, when the light in the lantern burns out
the beauty of the lantern can no longer be seen.
With longing and distress we are reminded of our nothingness.

Love the nothing, flee the self.
Stand alone. Seek help from no one.
Let your being be quiet.
Be free from the bondage of all things.
Free those who are bound,
give exhortation to the free.
Care for the sick, but dwell alone.
When you drink the waters of sorrow
you shall kindle the fire of love
with the match of perseverance – this is the way
to dwell in the desert.

A reading from St. John of the Cross (speaking of the moonless night when he escaped from prison)

There in the lucky dark,
none to observe me, darkness far and wide;
no sign for me to mark,
no other light, no guide
except for my heart – the fire, the fire inside!
That led me on
True as the very noon is – truer too! –
to where there waited one
I knew – how well I know! –
in a place where no one was in view.

Two from Prof. Todd Johnson:

Throughout the centuries, in spite of our best efforts to do the work of God, the Spirit has always broken through.

The biblical metaphors for encountering God are organic. Transactional understanding - I say magic words and Jesus is either in the bread or in my heart - is not biblical.

We live as though the world were what it should be, to show it what it can be.
Angel, "Deep Down," *Angel* Season 4

"People ask, 'How can it be bad for things to come into the U.S. cheaply? How can it be bad to have a bargain at Wal-Mart?' Sure, it's held inflation down, and it's great to have bargains," says Dobbins. "But you can't buy anything if you're not employed. We are shopping ourselves out of jobs."

Steve Dobbins has been bearing the brunt of that switch. He's president and CEO of Carolina Mills, a 75-year-old North Carolina company that supplies thread, yarn, and textile finishing to apparel makers--half of which supply Wal-Mart. Dobbins's customers have begun to face imported clothing sold so cheaply to Wal-Mart that they could not compete even if they paid their workers nothing.

Meditation on Isaiah 63:16-17, 19-64:7

These lines from Isaiah are altogether too much. Any four of them would do. Take the first four. What a question to put to God! We do the wandering, we do the evil - and God gets the blame! And then God gets invited to solve it all as the reading goes on to its "Rend the heavens" lines. Probably everyone has an occasional "Rend the heavens!" day. Some people [ed: LIKE ME] have "Rend the heavens!" lives. What would that be?

Hunger? Fear? Weakness? Depression? Addiction? Discrimination? How many lives shout out to God to tear up the skies and put an end to this unhappiness on the tiny planet Earth! Read Psalm 88 for an extreme example. What reason could anyone have to speak this way to God?

Look at a few December leaves, the old ones blowing around the ground. Isaiah did. What did he see?

"Yet," he says. Yet? Yet what?

A character in one of J.D. Salinger's short stories says that the most important word in the Bible is "watch." That person would love Advent and especially the gospel: "Be on the watch! Stay awake! Watch with a sharp eye! Look around you! Be on guard!" Why would "watch" be anyone's favorite notion? How do we watch? What are we watching for? Take the question to Isaiah, take it to a saint you have known and one you wish you had known.

What would help us stay awake and watch?

Gabe Huck

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