All in 12 Days of Christmas
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...
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?
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.
With this image of the moon rising over the Sacred Heart Chapel at Saint Benedict's monastery, MN on New Year's Eve we greet you at this turn of the year. By gracious powers wonderfully sheltered is a much-loved hymn by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that is widely sung in German speaking lands at this threshold. May it comfort you walking into the new....
Are you tired of bucket lists and New Year's resolutions? We would like to invite you for a time of recollection instead. You can do this by walking in silence, by looking back on the reflections of this journey so far, or by taking some time to look with kindness on your life using the practice we provide below. For this the writer Søren Kierkegaard offers us two guides from beyond.
We have been doing some difficult work on this journey, with what seems like nigh-impossible goals: to cultivate a virgin heart, to sit in perfect silence, to reach that inner room where God meets us. Even under the best of conditions, it would be easy to lose heart. Even in a quiet room, with a candle for focus, and time for concentration, the thoughts keep intruding, insistent: undone tasks, unchecked lists, repressed sorrows, old embarrassments, new fears. We are imperfect pilgrims.
On the fourth Day of Christmas snow drifted ever so quietly down to earth, tenderly covering the landscape with a white veil. Every year I am afraid of winter. Every year I am, again, taken by surprise to watch the beauty of the first snow falling, to listen to my silent steps in the thin blanket of snow. The whole world is washed clean and hushed into a peaceful rest.
It is often just so in the spiritual world. We get afraid when, in our lives, the last colors of Fall vanish and our life is put on hold under an icy layer of cold. Yet still, we know, somewhere below those cold layers there is life waiting to burst into bloom again in spring.
A brother came to Scetis in the Egyptian desert to visit Abba Moses and asked him
"Father, give me a word." The old man said to him
"Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything."