For those who are grieving or suffering loss during Advent

Witnesses to Hope

Today’s post is a reflection on today’s first reading from the book of Judges.  It is the story of Manoah and his wife who was barren.  By the message of an angel and the grace of God, they became the parents of Samson.  This story is obviously a foreshadowing of the Gospel story that follows of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Listen to what Kathleen Norris has to say:

Today our readings ask us to reflect on a mystery:when our lives are most barren, when possibilities are cruelly limited, and despair takes hold, when we feel most keenly the emptiness of life–it is then that God comes close to us.  This is a day for those who are grieving or suffering loss during Advent, lamenting that just as we are suffering, and need to weep, the world force-feeds us merriment and cheer.  But we are not without hope, for it is…

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“Mary-darkness, faith’s walled place”

Witnesses to Hope

This Sunday’s poem is one by Jessica Powers, written in 1948:

Advent

I live my Advent in the womb of Mary.
And on one night when a great star swings free
from its high mooring and walks down the sky
to be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her by blessed grace.
I wait in Mary-darkness, faith’s walled place,
with hope’s expectance of nativity.

I knew for long she carried me and fed me,
guarded and loved me, though I could not see.
But only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth’s most amazing knowledge:
someone is hidden in this dark with me.

               ~Jessica Powers, The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, p. 81.

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Advent and seeds

Witnesses to Hope

A reflection from Caryll Houselander:

A seed contains all the life and loveliness of the flower, but it contains it in a little hard black pip of  a thing which even the glorious sun will  not enliven unless it is buried under the earth.  There must be a period of gestation before anything can flower.

If only those who suffer would be patient with their earthly humiliations and realize that Advent is not only the time of growth but also of darkness and hiding and waiting, they would trust, and trust rightly, that Christ is growing in their sorrow, and in due season all the fret and strain and tension of it will give place to a splendor of peace.   (Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God, p. 36)

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Advent’s Sacred Silences

In the quiet of a room they sigh.
In candle’s glow they live under
An icon’s shadow and an unheard cry
And the Truth-bearing words that thunder–
Those Sacred Silences who
tenderly await the soul.

They speak of His coming, not delayed, but near
for etched in unknown depths, they say,
the same Image of the One whose patient tear
slays the heart and gives all away–
In those Sacred Silences who
tenderly await the soul.

Let saving truth’s grammar unbound
Those lips thirsting for syllables of love
To drink deep the wisdom in whose font resound
Those words below of the Word above:
As enveloped in great silences
The soul awaits His coming.

— Anthony Lilles

The Advent Door

Witnesses to Hope

Stumbled upon this beautiful Advent poem:

Blessing the Door

First let us say

“Crossing the Threshold” Copyright Jan Richardson “Crossing the Threshold”
Copyright Jan Richardson

a blessing
upon all who have
entered here before
us.

You can see the sign
of their passage
by the worn place
on the doorframe
as they walked through,
the smooth sill
of the threshold
where they crossed.

Press your ear
to the door
for a moment before
you enter

and you will hear
their voices murmuring
words you cannot
quite make out
but know
are full of welcome.

On the other side
these ones who wait –
for you,
if you do not
know by now –
understand what
a blessing can do

how it appears like
nothing you expected

how it arrives as
visitor,
outrageous invitation,
child;

how it takes the form
of angel
or dream;

how it comes
in words like
How can this be?
and
lifted up…

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Advent Sunday

Christian Rossetti

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.

After Suicide

Many of you know that I lost a brother to suicide in 2006.  Last night I attended a talk by Fr. Chris Alar and Jason Lewis based on a recent book they co-authored, After Suicide, There’s Hope for Them and for You. The talk was very good, and I would recommend their book to anyone dealing with any difficult losses.

Also, if you’ve never listened to my own story about losing Tim, here it is: “What Sorrow is Like My Sorrow?”