All tagged 12 Days of Christmas 2018
What if Christmas is not about building walls but creating space, sacred space where the Divine can dwell? We all are called to be Mary, to conceive the Divine, to walk pregnant with it and to birth it into our night.
Work is sanctified in the light of Christmas, and is judged to be of worth, on a shockingly different scale than how economists value it. The work that we often value least, service work, women’s work, is valuable because it is done for others. If we see our work this way, we can bring Christmas into our lives all year.
Tending to our weaknesses isn’t what we learned at school. Still it is part and parcel of our spiritual journey. From the monastic infirmary we learn that weakness needs its room, that we must come to terms with, and even welcome, our vulnerabilities, our brokenness and our need for healing.
This is the lesson one draws from the Abbey guesthouse: that we should welcome guests in our lives as we would welcome Christ. But today, after our walk, and the evening prayer, I have become aware of so many more levels to this hospitality.
It is an historical accident of sorts that in the very season when we remember the birth of the holy one among us, we also celebrate the birth of the new year. On this day of new beginning, then, we will investigate another monastic room as we have done before: this time, the Novitiate, the process by which a person becomes a monastic.
Today, at the day of the turn of the year, when the old is not yet gone and the new is not yet visible, we approach another important night marking the middle of the 12 Days of Christmas. Just as the holy night reminds us of the sacred moment, when light breaks into the dark, the turn of the year invites us into another in-between space of waiting and new beginnings.
In our journey so far, we have almost rushed from one room to the next in a most un-benedictine manner. But now we have a significant threshold before us: the door into the new year. With half the pilgrimage ahead of us, and on a Sunday, let us take a meditative Sabbath pause.
For one quarter of the day, every Benedictine is supposed to do reading from the monastery library. But here is the crucial insight. The point is not to have the reader go through the book. It is instead for the book to go through the reader. How different would we read the Christmas story, if we do not just go through the story but let the story go through us?
These 12 Days of Christmas we are walking through the rooms of a monastery to help us explore and deepen the rooms of our heart. On the first day we walked together through the gate, the entrance to the monastic space, which can be interpreted also as the walk inside ourselves. From there on the second day we invited you into the monastic cell, which also stands for the chamber of our heart. Yesterday we pondered the monastic church as a sacred place of shared spirituality we try to create in our own lives. Today we arrive at another central place of the monastery, just behind the chapel: the kitchen!
When we pray regularly, we create an architecture in time that allows the transcendent to break through, slowly, imperceptibly – in the way flowing water shapes stone.
It’s seems an open secret that being alone is an important art, but that most of us find it difficult to do. In fact, being alone can be dangerous: One can fall into loneliness and despair. But solitude is different from loneliness, it neither means nor endorses leaving people behind, but calls us to retreat into the presence of the moment in which we are alone with God.
Who is this King of Glory? Oddly, when we open the doors, our royal guest is an infant. And the child comes in the most astonishing and appropriate way, borne by a mother in pain and hope, born in poverty, bound to a life of wandering and homelessness.