Following Mystery

16th century English poet and priest, John Donne said that “to love God is to follow the mystery, to be led by its showing and withdrawing.”  So, what does that mean…to follow the mystery?  We live in a world where truth is defined as a collection of knowledge, as the accumulation of things known, of things proven.  We do not do well with mystery.  We attempt to conquer it, rather than follow it.  We pray that God will somehow swoop in and finally clear all of this chaos up for us once and for all.  We pray that God will give us understanding and easy roads.  We pray for enlightenment.  We pursue certainty.  We try to figure it all out.  And then Advent comes…

Behold!  Hear this!  Keep awake!  Be not afraid!  You see, things are about to change.  The world as you know it is about to be shaken to its core or, at least, to its senses.  All of those things that you have placed around you in at attempt to control your life will mean nothing.  All of those expectations that you have wrapped around yourself in an effort to prepare for the future are probably keeping your hands from doing what they are meant to do.  And as hard as it is for this “Type A” personality to admit, it is not our job to conquer the chaos of the world by organizing it into something that makes sense to us; rather, we are called to follow the Divine Mystery as it illuminates everything around us.  We are called to open our eyes to see what God is showing us.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love preparing for Christmas.  I love buying and wrapping gifts.  I love Christmas trees and lights.  I love baking and giving what I’ve baked away.  And all of those things are on my “to do” list.  But Advent is about mystery.  It is about being open to the revealing of the One whom we cannot define or control.  It is about being open to the possibility that God will enter this seemingly God-forsaken world not with loud, thrashing pronouncements so that we are certain that’s who it is, but more like a whisper in the quiet of the night in a small town and an unkempt grotto in the midst of the chaotic reality of this world.  Advent is about letting go of certainty and following the mystery.

In this season of Advent, give yourself the gift of not needing to be certain, of not needing to have everything planned.  Give yourself the gift of being open to the mystery that enters your life.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Becoming Mystery

The way that God comes into our being is not something for which we can plan or project. Think about it–what if rather than always falling on December 25th, Christmas Day came on different days each year and we weren’t told until after the day that it had happened? How would you prepare for it then? Because, really, that’s the way the first Christmas happened. What if, in the midst of your preparing and your becoming, the time was once again fulfilled, whether or not you were ready? The way that God comes is a mystery, a time fulfilled rather than a time scheduled.

And this day before the eve of Christ’s coming finds us on a threshold between darkness and light, between human and divine, between reality and mystery. As we approach Bethlehem, tired from our journey, there are great hoards around us preparing to be counted. It is dusty and crowded and unwelcoming and we are tired of fighting the journey. But there, there in the north, are the quiet stirrings of a door that is beginning to open, a door through which heaven will pour and through which our humanity will somehow mysteriously taste and experience the Divine. How is this happening? “Because,” as St. John Chrysostom said, “God is now on earth, and [humanity] in heaven; on every side all things commingle. [God] has come on earth, while being fully in heaven; and while complete in heaven, he is without diminution on earth…Though being the unchanging Word, he became flesh that he might dwell amongst us.” [i]

The time is approaching when it will be fulfilled. And the only way for us to enter it is to become mystery and count ourselves among those who reside on that threshold between our lives as they are and the mystery that God holds for us.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.
(G.K. Chesterton)


So go forth and become mystery!

Grace and Peace,
Shelli

[i] St. John Chrysostom, from “The Mystery”, in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (Plough Publishing)

ADVENT 4B: God-Bearer

Ramblings on this week’s Lectionary readings…

During Advent, the Lectionary invites us to read some familiar texts, texts that many of us could almost recite from memory. But if we think that it is just a repetition of the same things as last year, we are very mistaken. We are different; the world is different. And God calls us to walk a little bit farther in the journey, even if it’s only a tiny step closer than last year. God calls us to open our lives to receive. God calls us to open our lives to become God-bearers.

2 Samuel 7: 1-16
In the early nomadic times of the Hebrew people, the tent and the tabernacle was that place where, according to the Faith, the Lord resided. It was the appointed place of the Lord. This was the way that God reminded the people that they were not alone. Even though the Lord’s people, as they lived through exile and their nomadic beginnings, moved about, they knew that God was with them–residing in a place of honor, a place specifically appointed for the Presence of the Lord, a special place that bore God. This was the place that held the mystery that was God. And now the Lord is speaking of a new time to come. Finally, the people will be settled, planted by the Lord in a new place and, still, the Lord will reside with them, making a house, a place of permanence, a place of glory, a new place of God-bearing.

Romans 16: 25-27
So many Christmases ago, God burst forth into humanity just as God promised. The mystery of God so long shrouded in tabernacles and temples was finally made known in a way that the only response one can make, the only way one can understand is through faith. God is still mystery but where before the mystery was cloaked in secrecy, now the mystery is clothed in faith.

Luke 1: 26-38
“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” The announcement has been made and heard. The Lord is coming. The Lord who has always been with the people, whether borne in a traveling tabernacle or a house of glory, is now making Godself known in a new way. A humble and uncomplicated young girl will conceive. Her womb will become the tabernacle of God. Alfred Delp said “that God became a mother’s son; that there could be a woman walking the earth whose womb was consecrated to be the holy temple and tabernacle of God–that is actually earth’s perfection and the fulfillment of its expectations.”(i)

God came not to reside in a tabernacle or a temple but, finally, in humanity itself. We are all called to become that womb, that bearer of God. We are all called to be God’s sanctuary here on earth. There is still wonder and awe and mystery when it comes to God’s Presence. But the mystery is now ours to bear and through which to journey.

So go forth and receive the One that you will bear!

Grace and Peace,
Shelli

(i) Alfred Delp, “The Shaking Reality of Advent”, in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, (Plough Publishing)