In this time of expectant waiting, whether your heart is burdened or joyful or some of both, we hope that  Christmas soon will find you where you are.    

Advent is a pregnant time, a time of expectant waiting.  This Advent has been transformed for us because we are indeed…

Spring break is a good time for doing all sorts of things: cleaning up, writing articles, having a vacation. For many it is also just work as usual.  But being called to mourning is an existential task. No religion can do it for us. It cannot be mere theater that we watch.  But religion can help us to be reminded and can provide for us an occasion. There is no resurrection, no new beginning without the deep mourning of the old, without letting go what we loved so dearly, without mourning our losses. 

The alphabet of the Spirit: A conversation with Evagrius Ponticus

Three hundred years after the death of Jesus on the outskirts of Jerusalem and 1,000 kilometers away, the habitable margins of the deserts of Egypt were filling up with strange people devoted to becoming more like him.  The eldest and most revered of these are called the Desert Elders.  Most were native Egyptian villagers and peasants who left their villages and farms to enter the desert and follow more seriously the way of Christ.  They were mostly poor, not well educated, and of lower social class.   Their language was Coptic, with its roots in the ancient agriculture of the Nile. 

Walking with the Desert Elders through Lent: An invitation

The deep origins of Christianity are in the desert. It was an urban and pastoral culture on the edge of the desert into which Jesus was born. When he was baptized, Jesus was driven to walk into the desert for 40 days of fasting and reflection.  The origins of monasticism came from Christians walking into the desert, away from the distractions and comfort of urban society.  This Lent, we will be reflecting on the spiritual journeys and wisdom of those desert Elders.  What knowledge can these gentle and severe extremists bring us for our own life journeys?

Courage for Solitude: With Some Help from Rainer Maria Rilke

Currently on our own writing retreat tucked away on a little island in mainland Florida surrounded only by water and wildlife we came to ponder on the art of solitude in new ways. It is not always easy to be with each other in solitude.  Suddenly you are met by problems which long wanted to be discussed, by duties which long needed to be done, by questions which have long waited for answers, even by a blog post which is not written yet. 

In 1962, I was seven years old.  My sister and I were watching cartoons on Saturday morning when the picture tube of the television died.  Ploop.  Darkness.  The argument about whether we would watch Tarzan or Captain Kangaroo was now moot.  Mother's solution to this argument was to never repair the television.   So I never watched the moon landings.  Or pictures of the Vietnam War.  Or President Kennedy's speeches. I was pressed into duty handing out campaign literature for Barry Goldwater.  But I never watched the Rev. Dr. King give a speech, or march; I never saw the news reels of black protesters' bodies rolling down the street assaulted by water from firehoses. I saw neither the terror nor the triumph of the civil rights movement.  

 

Epiphany: Offering your Gifts

Some women point out rightly that if it had been three wise women, they would have brought different gifts to the holy child, perhaps a blanket and some food, and they might have watched the baby so Mary could sleep.  These would have been wise gifts for a cold infant in winter and an exhausted mother.  But when we translate the story into our own inward journey, bringing our most precious gifts might not be so inappropriate, after all.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas. Finding the key inside.

With Epiphany approaching here is an invitation to ponder the mystery of Divine birth once again with a little help from two of my favorite depth psychologists: Søren Kierkegaard and C.G. Jung.

Kierkegaard tells a tale of a man rowing out on a lake in the quiet of dusk. The shallow lake lay silent beyond the circles where the oars broke the surface of the water, trickling little droplets of murky water back into the boat. It was then that an oar hit a dark object on the shallow floor of the lake. When the man lifted it out of the water he found himself looking at a little treasure chest...

 

The Eleventh Day of Christmas. Following the Star

Yesterday we practiced looking at the Divine birth through the eyes of a child. Today I would like to offer some guidance about the story of wise men from the medieval Abbess and spiritual guide Hildegard of Bingen. In her Christmas homilies, she invites us to translate the Christmas story into the heart's journey.  But what does Epiphany, the feast of the three kings, have to do with our heart's journey?

The Tenth Day of Christmas. Through the Eyes of a Child

Or CAN'T YOU SEE, THE JESUS BABY IS FREEZING! What if we could see Christmas through the eyes of a child again?  What if we were able to put our adult perspective away for a while and just listen in child-like innocence to the unfolding of this story?
Have you driven by all the outside nativity scenes in front of houses or churches? Well, that might be cosy in warmer climates, but what about little Jesus freezing outside at 20 below? Wouldn't a child cry out: "Look, little Jesus is freezing!" How have we gotten used to the Christmas story as mere decoration item? Who had the idea to put nativity scenes outside in the snow anyway?

Yesterday, in arctic temperatures, we went on our New Years' walk over the lake towards Stella Maris Chapel. Our footprints in the snow, and the icy stairs reminded us of a poem by the German poet Hermann Hesse. Hesse knows we often prefer to live with our comfortable selves, and not step out into the challenging new.  Here he calls us to health and wholeness, to taking courage, to walking through our farewells, to stepping forward by leaving behind, one step at a time.  We share this, our own translation of the poem, with you as a blessing for this day.