FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Our Advent theme continues as Prasanta Verma and I bring you poems, essays, and resources for this season of anticipation. May you be filled with hope as we await the coming of the savior.

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Can I Find Time to Pray While I Travel? via Ed Cyzewski (do your spiritual practices fall into chaos when you travel? Read this…)

When We Adorn the Dark via Abby King (when Christmas doesn’t look like it’s “supposed” to)

Love Hates via Amy Julia Becker (what does Mary’s song, the Magnificat, tell us about Advent?)

Observing Advent Makes Me Feel Less Alone via Charlotte Donlon (on reminding ourselves that even in suffering, our story is part of a larger one)

Seven Advent Practices to Find Quiet in the Bustle via Diana Gruver (some practical steps to cultivate an Advent spirit)

Good News via Michael Card (an Advent reflection)

Incarnational via Jennie Cesario (what the movie The Man Who Invented Christmas can teach us about both the Incarnation and the human creative process)

WEEKLY PRAYER: Frederick Buechner

For this third week in Advent, we pray with Frederick Buechner:

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Lord Jesus Christ, thou Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, be born again into our world. Wherever there is war in this world, wherever there is pain, wherever there is loneliness, wherever there is no hope, come, though long-expected one, with healing in thy wings.

 

Holy Child, whom the shepherds and the kings and the dumb beasts adored, be born again. Wherever there is boredom, wherever there is fear of failure, wherever there is temptation too strong to resist, wherever there is bitterness of heart, come, though Blessed One, with healing in thy wings.

 

Savior, be born in each of us as we raise our faces to thy face, not knowing fully who we are or who thou art, knowing only that thy love is beyond our knowing and that no other has the power to make us whole. Come, Lord Jesus, to each who longs for thee even though we have forgotten thy name. Come quickly. Amen.

 

(Source)

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! Our Advent theme continues as Prasanta Verma and I bring you poems, essays, and resources for this season of anticipation. Read and be blessed.

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The Image Advent Calendar via Image Journal (a daily reflection, piece of visual art, music, or other resource to accompany you through the season)

Perseverance * An Advent Epistle via Alicia Akins (a letter to encourage us as we wait and run)

Advent: Waiting in Hope: What Are YOU Waiting For? via Bob Toohey (why do we get so impatient in everyday situations like traffic lights? Advent may hold an answer)

Joseph via Mary-Patrice Woehling (an Advent poem)

We Are No Longer Alone: Do Not Forget You Are Loved via Emily Polis Gibson (a visual and poetic reflection)

Happy Birthday, Encountering Silence (the Encountering Silence podcast looks back over its first two years)

 

 

Advent Is For Pilgrims

Have you noticed that journeys abound everywhere you look in the Christmas story? Mary and Joseph journey to Bethlehem. Then they take the infant Jesus to Jerusalem forty days after his birth. The wise men journey from afar. And the Holy Family flees to Egypt.

And what about us? Well, the Incarnation sets us on a journey, too.

CatherineofSiena
Fresco of St. Catherine from the Basilica of San Domenico, Siena, ca. 1400

In ca. 1378, the Italian mystic Catherine of Siena wrote:

You see this gentle loving Word born in a stable while Mary was on a journey, to show you pilgrims how you should be constantly born anew in the stable of self-knowledge, where by grace you will find me born in your soul.

This passage is from St. Catherine’s Dialogue. In the passage, God is instructing the soul. Notice, first, that God calls us “pilgrims.” You pilgrims. Hey, you pilgrims! Mary is not the only one on a journey this year. We are, too. We’re on our way to the stable, and we’re going there, in Catherine’s words, to be born anew.

To be precise, we will be “born anew in the stable of self-knowledge.” This phrase sounds remarkably modern. But by self-knowledge, I don’t think Catherine means “finding ourselves.” She means knowing ourselves as we can only truly be known . . . and that is through our rebirth in Christ. Even on a daily basis, we can be renewed in our spirit and regenerated in our heart by traveling to the source. To the stable. Born into Christ, into his great love, we know who we are and we know whose we are. This is surely one of the great yearnings we experience during the season of Advent – to see Christ come into time, into a hurting world, and make us new and tell us who we are.

In The Magnificent Defeat, Frederick Buechner speaks of this journey of renewal. Riffing on The Wizard of Oz, he writes, “For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning…” What he describes here is like a rebirth – an acquiring or knitting together of all the parts we need to make us whole.

Both Catherine of Siena and Frederick Buechner really speak to me this year. I’ve been feeling so fragmented, so pulled apart by circumstances and people and the warring desires of my heart. For me, rebirth means to be knit together as a whole creation. When this happens, I will not become something or someone entirely new. I will be most fully myself. This is Catherine’s “stable of self-knowledge.”

I like the way Catherine rephrases her thoughts on birth at the end of the passage quoted above. God says, “you will find me born in your soul.” To be reborn in Christ is to have him be born in our soul. It is a double birth.

If Christ is born in us, we can then bring him forth into the world. We can bring the love of Jesus to our neighbors, our friends, our family, and to our hurting communities. In his commentary on Luke, St. Ambrose said, “Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith.” Our own rebirth helps birth Christ for a world in need.

So this year, I am making a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. I hope you’ll come with me. We will travel to the stable like Mary so that we can find God born in our soul. And we’ll travel as our own broken selves so that we can be born into new life. Jesus and us, born on Christmas day.

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Sunday, December 1 marked the first day of the Advent season. For the next three weeks, Prasanta Verma and I want to provide some lovely links to nourish you during this season of anticipation, of waiting, of darkness pierced with the glimmering of light.

With this in mind, below you will find links to prayers, poetry, resources, reflections, and writing tips for the Advent season.

Be blessed as you await the coming of the light.

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A Litany for the First Week of Advent via Christine Sine (welcome Advent with this prayer of supplication)

Surprised by Advent via Jen Pollock Michel (the first in a series of Advent audio reflections)

No Country for Two Kings via Leslie Leyland Fields (this is Leslie’s first Christmas poem in 20 years—she’s tried, but nothing…until now)

Advent–Waiting via Jody Lee Collins (a poem for Advent)

Advent Companions: The Books And Music I Love In The Season Of Waiting via Sarah Clarkson (we love this list of Advent resources)

Do You Have a Holiday Writing Plan? via Rachelle Gardner (some tips for surviving and thriving as a writer during this season)

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With love to you,
Lisa and Prasanta

 

A Medium Aevum Advent

I’m heartened to see more and more Christians keeping Advent—not rushing to the feast, but spending time in holy expectation. The historian in me approves. When we observe Advent, we deepen our preparation for Christ’s coming by embracing the liturgical rhythms of the ancient Church. Some historical Advent practices, such as fasting, many of us do not keep today. Others, like the annual Christmas pageant, are still going strong (in the medieval Church the pageant was performed by choirboys).

This year, as I watch my daughters perform one of their own practices, I’ve been drawn to some wonderful medieval teachings on Advent. Perhaps I should say Advents. In one of his sermons for the season, written in the mid twelfth century, Bernard of Clairvaux speaks of not one but three comings of Christ. A century later, Thomas Aquinas adds yet another. That’s three more comings than most of us prepare for. It has taken my two children to help me absorb what these four advents might mean for me.

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Christ’s first coming–no surprise here–is his historical advent. My daughters have developed an elaborate practice to prepare for this event: the manger scene. My girls set up their manger with the precision of an HGTV reality show. Everything must be just so. The picture on the box is consulted: Mary must stand here, Joseph there. The manger must be centered. Then and only then is the baby tenderly placed therein. But not for long; Jesus requires much more attention than that. He is taken out and taken care of, cradled and coddled until it is deemed the right time to lay him down again. I sometimes think God sent his son as a baby for the benefit of maternally inclined five-year-olds.

My girls’ mothering reminds me of a beautiful fourteenth-century devotional text, Meditations on the Life of Christ. In this text, readers are asked to imagine their way into the manger scene: “Kiss the beautiful little feet of the infant Jesus who lies in the manger and beg his mother to let you hold him a while.” Later, we are advised to step in and help Mary: “Be ready to give your services as if you could, meditate on them, delight and rejoice in them . . . and often gaze upon that face which angels desire to look upon.” Caring, with all our imaginative and spiritual faculties, for the baby Jesus: what a wonderful meditational exercise for the Advent season. I wonder if the infant Jesus slept through the night?

This exercise leads to another, perhaps deeper, form of preparation. In his sermon, Saint Bernard notes that Jesus not only came in the flesh. He also comes to our heart. He is hidden there: “Only his chosen see him in themselves, and they shall heal their souls.” I like to think of Jesus’ indwelling in us as a continuation of Mary’s work. Mary gave birth to Jesus and cared for him physically. Now it is our job to spiritually receive Christ and raise him up. He must grow to maturity in our heart.

My daughters pick baby Jesus up and put him down. They take him to town. They sing to him. Watching them play reminds me how much care Jesus needs to grow in me. It makes my heart tender but also afraid. I feel keenly my own lack. Sometimes I fail to care for my children the way I should. How can I possibly provide for Jesus? I need not only the baby but also the full-grown savior. My yearning for Christ’s grace is as great as my desire to cradle him in my heart.

Of course we know that Jesus’ cradle leads to the cross and the grace we so desperately need. These two yearnings are depicted in one of my favorite paintings, the Adoration of the Magi by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden.

St. Columba Altarpiece

As one of the kings leans forward to kiss the infant Jesus, almost exactly as recommended by the Meditations on the Life of Christ, we see a small crucifix nailed to a post above his head.

Columba detailThis is a good painting for Advent because it keeps us from sentimentalizing the birth of Christ. If you want to grow up the baby Jesus, remind yourself that he’s headed to the cross. That will do it every time.

But Advent looks even farther ahead in the life of Christ. In his sermon, Bernard of Clairvaux reminds the Church that within Christ’s coming in the flesh is embedded the promise of his coming again. Jesus will return to earth, and the world will be made new. We are assured that whatever darkness surrounds us, God will bring his story to the glorious conclusion he foretold.

As we reflect on the teaching of the Mellifluous Doctor, we realize that Advent is truly ancient-future. It harks back to the birth of Jesus (and before that to the prophecies about him). It takes place in the present as he is born in our heart. And it looks forward to the end of earthly time. Advent is a season to meditate on the entire history of salvation through Jesus Christ, a season to both celebrate and yearn for the world’s redemption.

Admittedly, my girls seem far more earthly than eschatological when they play with their manger scene:

“He doesn’t want his blanket.”

“Yes, he does! All babies need their blanket!”

But, as Saint Bernard shows, the birth of Jesus is wrapped up in his other advents, even the ones that are invisible or that take place in a distant future. Christ’s comings cannot be separated one from another; one form of yearning leads to the next. It is strange to watch my daughters play and feel so much ache mixed in with my delight. When my girls are older I will tell them about the complex theology behind their childlike faith.

I could end my Advent meditation here. Bernard of Clairvaux does. His sermon, as I mentioned, teaches three comings of Christ—in the flesh, in our hearts, and at the end of time. But in an Advent sermon preached in 1271, Thomas Aquinas adds a fourth coming of Jesus. Christ comes, writes the Angelic Doctor, at the hour of our death. This coming is necessary to bring his “just ones” not only grace, but also glory.

I confess that with this teaching, my yearning grinds to a halt. It seems easier to long for the end of time than for my personal end. Yet Saint Thomas is not the only one to advise me on this subject. Centuries earlier, the desert father Pachomius said, “Have, therefore, the hour of your death ever before your eyes.” Even in Advent? Even when my children are so full of life and the whole world is telling me to be joyful? Upon reflection, I conclude that there is no better time. During this season, we prepare for a savior who came to defeat death—yes, even our own. When he comes for us, it will be to take us to glory.

And so, as I watch over my children, I learn to watch my heart. I coax and guide it to think on its final hour. If I can’t yet yearn for this coming of Christ, I can at least be alert. I ask my heart, are you ready? Christ will return for you one day, and this advent is every bit as real as his birth in the flesh and his coming again.

Thanks to two daughters and two doctors of the church, my Advent preparations are a strangely medieval mix of delight, yearning, and rather intense soul-searching. As a mother, I look for the coming of a baby, one as fleshy and sweet as my girls. I also remember that the baby Jesus grew up to save the world and that he will come again, both at the end of time and, likely before that, for me. May my heart be prepared to mother him now and to meet him when my time comes.

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This essay was originally published on my website, lisadeam.com.

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome, friends, to Friday Favorites! Each week, Prasanta Verma and I round up our favorite links related to prayer, spirituality, and writing. We hope it will enrich your life and help you to find the best the web has to offer.

Read, enjoy, and be blessed.

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Gratitude in a Time of Drought via Norann Voll (gratitude turns the little we have in this moment into enough for today)

How to Have a Slow Christmas in a Hurry Up World via Shelly Miller (join the Slow Christmas community this year)

Welcome to the Playroom via Ray Hollenbach (“you don’t need to be perfect to live here”)

First Sunday via Sally Thomas (prepare for the season with this Advent poem)

“Chasin’ Wild Horses” via Bruce Springsteen (from Springsteen’s 2019 album, Western Stars)

Sparrows, Breath, Memory: On Writing and Identity via Catherine DiMercurio (“I think of every word I have ever written . . . as an attempt to understand identity and allow it to sing”)

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! I hope you enjoy this week’s round-up of Advent posts and resources. This will be our last post of the holiday season. After today, we’ll be taking a short break and will see you again in a few weeks.

May you have a blessed Advent weekend and a joyful Christmastide!

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Holiday Prayer Guide 2017 via The Ezer Group (a beautiful prayer resource to center your soul, including a painting for visual meditation and a prayer from Catherine of Siena; you can hear me reading the prayer in this resource)

The Both-And of Our Faith via Mary van Balen (God is already here . . . and God is coming soon)

Into Safe Hands: A Meditation On Dying for Advent and Christmas via Ronald Rolheiser (a hopeful reflection if you or someone you know is experiencing grief and loss this season)

Who Would Have Thought the King of Heaven Would Be So Earthy?|Alexander’s Story via Tanya Marlow (a delightful historical fiction account of the kings’ search for the Christ child)

A Medium Aevum Advent via Lisa Deam (a link to my recent post — a personal reflection on the four advents of Christ as taught by medieval theologians)

All About Elizabeth (Luke 1) via Marg Mowczko (exploring Elizabeth’s advent story)

Our Favorite Christmas Books! via The Englewood Review of Books (check out this great holiday reading guide)

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CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: AN ADVENT POEM FROM MADELEINE L’ENGLE

Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007) was a beloved American writer. If you’re like me, her novel A Wrinkle in Time was formative for your young adult years. L’Engle also wrote poetry; today, I invite you to reflect on her beautiful poem about silence, brokenness, and the coming of Jesus.

Ready for Silence

Then hear now the silence
He comes in the silence
in silence he enters
the womb of the bearer
in silence he goes to
the realm of the shadows
redeeming and shriving
in silence he moves from
the grave clothes, the dark tomb
in silence he rises
ascends to the glory
leaving his promise
leaving his comfort
leaving his silence

So come now Lord Jesus
Come in your silence
breaking our noising
laughter of panic
breaking this earth’s time
breaking us breaking us
quickly Lord Jesus
make no long tarrying

When will you come
and how will you come
and will we be ready
for silence
your silence

Source

ADVENT PRAYER

A prayer for Advent from Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153):

Let Your goodness, Lord,
appear to us, that we, made in Your image,
conform ourselves to it.
In our own strength we cannot imitate Your majesty, power, and wonder;
nor is it fitting for us to try.
But Your mercy reaches from the Heavens,
through the clouds, to the earth below.
You have come to us as a small child,
but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts,
the gift of eternal love.
Caress us with Your tiny hands, embrace us with Your tiny arms,
and pierce our hearts with Your soft, sweet cries.

Source