God loves to light little lights

Last night we lit the last of the Twelve Days candles.  Most folks I know are done with Christmas, but not in our house.  We will soon take down most of the decorations, but we leave our lights up until February 2–40 days after Christmas.  Every year I reblog the post below to remind you why I think it’s such a good idea.  Join us!

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When I found out that St. Peter’s keeps their Christmas tree and crèche up in the square until February 2, I decided we would keep our crèche in the chapel and all our Christmas lights up until then as well.   I always felt gypped that there were not 40 days to celebrate after Christmas as there are after Easter.  Then I discovered that February 2, the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas), is indeed 40 days after Christmas.  So, to me, it makes total sense to keep those Christmas lights lit.  If you drive past our house right now, you will still see our candle lights in the windows. I personally love clusters of little white lights. When we begin the Salve Regina at the end of night prayer, the guitarist dims all the lights in our chapel.  During this season, that leaves only the Christmas lights and the sole candle lit before the icon of the Mother of God. Yet the chapel still seems bright.

In the beginning of his Christmas message, Pope Benedict spoke of how God “loves to light little lights.”  I found that particularly encouraging as I thought of all of us who are desiring to be God’s witnesses to hope.  May it encourage you as well, and may you call it to mind whenever you see Christmas lights and candles:


THE LITURGY OF THE MASS AT DAWN REMINDED US THAT THE NIGHT IS NOW PAST, THE DAY HAS BEGUN; THE LIGHT RADIATING FROM THE CAVE OF BETHLEHEM SHINES UPON US. . . .
AT FIRST, BESIDE THE MANGER IN BETHLEHEM, THAT “US” WAS ALMOST IMPERCEPTIBLE TO HUMAN EYES.  AS THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE RECOUNTS, IT INCLUDED, IN ADDITION TO MARY AND JOSEPH, A FEW LOWLY SHEPHERDS WHO CAME TO THE CAVE AFTER HEARING THE MESSAGE OF THE ANGELS. THE LIGHT OF THAT FIRST CHRISTMAS WAS LIKE A FIRE KINDLED IN THE NIGHT.  ALL ABOUT THERE WAS DARKNESS, WHILE IN THE CAVE THERE SHONE THE TRUE LIGHT “THAT ENLIGHTENS EVERY MAN” (JN 1.9).  AND YET ALL THIS TOOK PLACE IN SIMPLICITY AND HIDDENNESS, IN THE WAY THAT GOD WORKS IN ALL OF SALVATION HISTORY.  GOD LOVES TO LIGHT LITTLE LIGHTS, SO AS THEN TO ILLUMINATE VAST SPACES.

May we allow God to light each of us,

The pulling of my soul

reblogged from The Mudroom

The God Who Waits

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Advent is a season of waiting:
for calendar chocolates, promised presents, Santa’s steps.
Advent is a season of longing:
for life, and light, and hope beyond this world.
In Advent, we think we are the ones who are waiting.
But I think of the annunciation,
in Leonardo Da Vinci’s Italian colours:
Mary is surprised, her left hand curled into a question mark,
but it is Gabriel’s head that is bowed low,
The Archangel holding his breath for her answer.
All heaven was waiting on a human word
before the Word would be made human.
Before God became incarnate,
God waited for human assent.
***
God was in the waiting,
the liminal moment when heaven held its breath.
I wonder about the waiting;
As my body groans and yearns for an eternal home,
the pulling of my soul towards heaven;
Could it be that God is waiting for my words—
Could it be that God’s soul is pulling too?

“Candles in an Advent of darkness”

The arrival of Advent this year is overshadowed by the world’s violence. Distant events press in. A week ago, a young Jewish boy from a town near mine, who was studying and volunteering in Israel, was killed by a Palestinian gunman in the West Bank after he had brought food to Israeli soldiers. I wrote a note to a friend in that community, assuming he may have known the family.

“They are our closest friends,” he responded. “It is heartbreaking.”

How little has changed in 2,000 years. Piety and good works don’t save us from violence. Quite the opposite it seems, these days.

As I climb into my attic and poke around for the purple and pink candles to make my Advent wreath, I can’t help but recall a more innocent time in my own home not so very long ago. Advent was the time for concocting ornaments and playing carols while we worked. It was the season of the “Jesus Box;” each day we’d put into it a piece of paper on which we’d written a small deed of kindness we’d done for another. We made peanut butter pine cones for the birds, drank cocoa late in the long afternoons, read books, and strung popcorn.

All of these gestures were designed to bring a slower, more mindful pace to our days, so that when Christmas came, we would greet it with a renewed understanding of the incarnational message, “Christ is born” – the kingdom of God come among us.

“Resetting” the ordinary and seeing the holy in this season isn’t as easy as it once was. Saturated by news clips and tweets of divisiveness, how are we to find the quiet in which we might discover our own navigational stars of hope? The shelter of mere tranquility has collapsed for many of us. If we are totally honest, we are wandering in a dark as deep as that of Mary, Joseph, and the Magi, harried by the same environment of conflict and uncertainty.

But maybe this is the point. Perhaps Advent is actually about accepting reality as it is, and surrendering our small certainties in order to hear a different message than the one we read in the news.

In 1944, the German Jesuit priest, the Rev. Alfred Delp, imprisoned by the Nazis and writing from prison in Berlin, wondered whether he would live to see the fourth Advent candle lit on his own wreath. All the same, he took the trouble to light the first one. Advent, he wrote, even in the darkest of times, is still our time to “review our lives and take a sober look at things because reality is still the place where true joy grows and where we build things that can support a load.”

Read the rest here.

Now burn, new born to the world

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Now burn, new born to the world,
Double-naturéd name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Miracle-in-Mary-of-flame,
Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder-throne!
Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark
as he came;
Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released shower, let flash to the shire, not
a lightning of fire hard-hurled.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Only the poor

No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God–for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone
That someone is God.
Emmanuel: God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.

Oscar Romero

The longest night

Longest Night © Jan L. Richardson

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

– Jan Richardson

Jan Richardson is an artist, writer, and ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. She serves as director of The Wellspring Studio, LLC, and travels widely as a retreat leader and conference speaker. Known for her distinctive intertwining of word and image, Jan’s work has attracted an international audience drawn to the welcoming and imaginative spaces that she creates in her books, online blogs, and public events. During Advent, Jan is leading Illuminated: An Online Journey into the Heart of Christmas.

Advent Sunday

Advent Sunday

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: go ye out
With lighted lamps and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.

It may be at the midnight, black as pitch,
Earth shall cast up her poor, cast up  her rich.

It may be at the crowing of the cock
Earth shall upheave her depth, uproot her rock.

For lo, the Bridegroom fetcheth home the Bride:
His Hands are Hands she knows, she knows His side.

Like pure Rebekah at the appointed place,
Veiled, she unveils her face to meet His Face.

Like great Queen Esther in her triumphing,
She triumphs in the Presence of her King.

His Eyes are as a Dove’s, and she’s Dove-eyed;
He knows His lovely mirror, sister, Bride.

He speaks with Dove-voice of exceeding love,
And she with love-voice of an answering Dove.

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: go we out
With lamps ablaze and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.

~Christina Rossetti

Listen for the footsteps

As always, Fr. Peter John Cameron gives us a gem:

Father Alfred Delp, the heroic German Jesuit who was executed in 1945 for his resistance to the Nazi regime, wrote this:

Oh, if people know nothing about the promises anymore, if they only experience the four walls and the prison windows of their gray days, and no longer perceive the quiet footsteps of the announcing angels, if the angel’s murmured word does not simultaneously shake us to the depths and lift up our souls–then it is over for us.  Then we are living wasted time, and we are dead, long before they do anything to us.

This Advent is the perfect occasion to take account of all the walls, and prison windows, and gray days that we let define our lives.  There are quiet footsteps and murmured words of announcing angles coming our way, too, to remind us of God’s awesome promises.