Advent Week 2

10 December 2017 | Reflections From Abbess Mary

We are all meant to be mothers of God,
For God is always needing to be born

Meister Eckhart

Mary Southard Holy FamilyI

Image is titled 'At the Heart of the Universe' by Mary Southard CSJ

The God of surprises crept up on me this week – in more ways than one I must say! When you are a person who has just celebrated a significant birthday, it is a comforting thought that while the bones may ache, the heart is always young and can still be surprised, exhilarated and refreshed at any moment! 

My surprise was that for the first time, it dawned upon me this week that Advent is a very feminine season. This inspiration came to me during our singing of that beautiful Antiphon we had every day throughout the past week:

Be glad O daughter Zion.
Rejoice exceedingly O daughter of Jerusalem.

It spoke to me of the whole season being pregnant with expectation, longing and the advent of new life. 

  • Be glad Mary, so full of this child growing in your womb...
  • Be glad oh people everywhere for your God is coming...
  • Rejoice exceedingly all of us who are waiting and longing...
  • Rejoice O Mother Earth, bringing forth your flowers of joy...

Everything is pregnant with promise...

  • from the little children counting down the days until Christmas...
  • to the buds and seed pods in our beautiful bushland waiting for the warmth of the sun to bring them to life, 
  • to parents awaiting the birth of a child, 
  • to hearts waiting in stillness for a promised one, 
  • to those living in darkness waiting for a touch of light, 
  • to those living in poverty or addiction waiting for a touch of kindness, 
  • to refugees waiting in hope for a hand of welcome...

the list goes on. 

As I said last week, we are a people of dreams and promises and this season, so pregnant with possibility and newness, is our time to give birth to God in our lives, in our community and in our world. I am reminded of that beautiful quote from Meister Eckhart: 

We are all meant to be mothers of God,
for God is always needing to be born.

The Readings we heard this morning give us some clues as to how we are to become "mothers of God"... In the First Reading, Isaiah proclaimed,

Console my people, console them...
Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her
That her time of service is ended....

And later...
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
Gathering lambs in his arms
Holding them against his breast
And leading to their rest the mother ewes.

These are beautiful images of a mother
speaking to the heart,
gathering in her arms,
holding against her breast...
leading to their rest....

Being a Mother of God involves all these things so perhaps we could ask ourselves 

  • Am I a consoling person? 
  • How can I speak to others' hearts this week? 
  • How can I feed them, gather them in my arms and hold them (not necessarily in a physical sense although that may be the case sometimes) but spiritually, practically, lovingly?

In the Second Reading St Peter reminded us that 
God is always patient with us, not wanting any of us to be lost but rather that we will all be helped to change our ways so we can all live holy and saintly lives, lives that live in peace. 

Again, these reminders touch on what it means to bring God to birth in our lives.

And finally, in Mark's Gospel, we heard the cry of John the Baptist, the cry of Advent:

Prepare a way for the Lord, make straight his paths.

These days, the Church no longer holds to the old penitential aspect of Advent. In days gone by, as still evidenced by the deep purple colours we use in our vestments and symbols, Advent was not much different to Lent and we were called to a more strict fast and atonement for our sins in order to be ready for Christ's coming. Even though our modern approach to Advent is far more joyous and uplifting, still, in the calls to 
stay awake, 
be alert and 
watchful and 
to prepare, 

we are reminded that birthing is not something that ever comes easily. It involves preparation, surrender, difficulty, pain, effort and often some groaning! When we are told to prepare a straight path for the Lord, to fill in the valleys, level the mountains and make the rough places smooth, it's not just flowery language, but rather a practical guide to this birthing of God, to motherhood! 

In order to be a mother of God, we must level out our lives...

  • push down that mountain of ego, 
  • take some sandpaper to that anger or impatience until it is smooth, 
  • fill in those thoughts of negativity or jealousy which cause such a dip our lives,
  • straighten out that selfishness with some acts of kindness and generosity. 

Preparing a way for the Lord in our hearts is not easy, it involves that deep inner work of which we have been speaking over the past month. We, who dedicate our lives to be seekers of God, are also called to be "mothers of God". It is not enough to simply be seekers in our minds and hearts - that is only half the equation. We must also let our seeking overflow into our birthing so we can be consolers, holders, shepherds, feeders, heart speakers, lovers.

Wendy Wright in her book The Vigil shared a Mexican tradition in her chapter on Preparing. It is called Las Posadas. For nine days preceding Christmas Eve, Mexican villagers process through the streets at night holding candles and statues of Joseph and the pregnant Mary on a donkey. As they go, they sing a plaintive refrain recalling the holy couple's search for shelter. On each night, they stop at a designated house and when they knock on the door, the occupants call out and say, "No, no shelter, no posada". 

The procession continues each night until finally the doors of a dwelling are opened. "Welcome Joseph! Welcome Mary! Welcome the Christ Child into our hearts!" is the cry. The posada then ends with a celebration of the breaking of the piñata, the bright coloured earthenware jar filled with candies and toys, and everyone rejoices.
At the end of Hildy's Lectio notes, which she publishes faithfully each week for our Oblates and Facebook friends, she asks a simple question: 

"Where am I in all this?"

As we begin this second week of Advent, where am I in all this preparing and birthing? 

  • Have I found and given posada this Advent or is my inner door still closed? 
  • Am I immersing myself in the gladness, the hope and promise of this holy season, studying the Scriptures in my lectio each day, listening deeply to the symbols, the psalms, the hymns, the beauty of our mother earth.
  • Am I moving quietly through the days, opening doors to others and spreading warmth and welcome? 
  • Or am I still in a whirl of busy-ness, neglecting my preparations and the necessary heart-work which will unlock my heart, my living and my birthing?

Where am I in all this? When the Christ-child comes, will there be a closed door, "no shelter, no posada" or will I be ready for that great birth of God within me, my heart crying, "Welcome Joseph! Welcome Mary! Welcome the Christ Child into my heart"?

We are all meant 
to be 
mothers of God,
God is always 
needing to be born.

Meister Eckhart

~  Everything that lives and that breathes gives praise to the Lord  ~

Jamberoo Abbey

Jamberoo Abbey, Benedictine Nuns
695 Jamberoo Mountain Road,
Jamberoo NSW 2533 Australia

Phone/Fax: 02 42360628