This past Sunday was the First Sunday of Advent. To mark the beginning of this special season I share this evening an excerpt from the introduction to Winter's Wisdom: Advent 2010, a wonderful little booklet of prayers and reflections produced by the Congregation of St. Joseph. This introduction is written by Helen Prejean, CSJ.
Light is good. We wait for the light. We're made for the light.
But darkness is not bad. We're made, not just for light, but for darkness, too. Incredible miracles happen in darkness. In our deep-down being we know darkness well. We began in darkness when we were knit together in our mother's womb. We welcome darkness at the end of day so we can fall into the darkness of sleep. Darkness is the inward place.
Beginnings are always dark. The most creative works we ever do are conceived in darkness. Mystery defies delineation. We can't codify mystery just like we can never name God. Certainly, Love – the deepest of all mysteries, with its amazing capacity to unite hearts and minds, defies ever being quantified. Mystics speak of holy encounters as dark light, the "cloud of unknowing."
Trees know what to do in winter darkness. They shed their leaves, those wondrous energy factories in which they catch and eat photons from the Sun and turn them into pulsating energy to push down their roots, sprout leaves and stretch their branches ever higher to catch their share of Sun.
In winter darkness trees know to pull inward, to move their life-juice down into their roots where they hover, they abide, they contemplate. Outwardly they look bare, bereft. If we didn't know spring was coming we'd swear they're dead. But trees know Winter's season is the time to nurture their "within-ness" (the word so treasured by Teilhard, Duns Scotus and Gerard Manley Hopkins). In winter, trees become mystics full of God.
Thank you, Brother, Sister Trees for teaching us about Advent.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Thoughts of Waiting . . . and a Resolution (2009)
Letting God Loose
Advent: Renewing Our Connection to the Sacred (2008)
The Centered Life as an Advent Life
Thomas Merton on "the Advent Mystery"
My Advent Prayer for the Church (2007)
Advent Thoughts (2007)
Recommended Off-site Link:
An Advent Meditation - Richard McBrien (The National Catholic Reporter, November 29, 2010).
Photography: Michael J. Bayly.
Cover art of Winter's Wisdom: Advent 2010: "Holy Waiting" by Mary Southard, CSJ.