Christmas Eve – 2017

 What does the Incarnation bring us?
St Joseph with the Child Jesus
Love, God’s love: At the center of Christmas is the mystery of God’s Love.  Are we aware of the immensity of this gift?   Are we aware of the implications this Love brings to and for our lives, and for our world?  This Love brings intimacy in our relation with God and with one another.  It is a love that transforms the power of darkness into life and has the power to continue to do so.  This Love that is at the center of Christmas will not only gift us in profound ways, but it will also ask something of us.  It is a Love that stretches us in the shape of a cross because it asks that we first (daily) carry our own cross into life and healing.  It is a Love that calls us and enables us to shoulder the burdens of one another….And it asks of us, which I know often feels impossible, that we love our enemy….that we stretch to love the one who is different….even more to love the one who has hurt us…How we concretely do this or how we move in this direction is not for now.  What is for now is that we are given the gift, the loving power to do this in small and larger ways.  This Love given ‘to and for us’ is truly a miracle for what it can work in human lives!

Now, hodie, we are given the possibility because of Christ…because of God’s gift to us in Christ…we are given the power of an unrequited Love….it is holding us right now…it is sustaining us right now….and it is to become even more flesh of our flesh.  Fr. Alfred Delp writes: “What this celebration is about is the founding of a final order for the world, a new center of meaning for all existence.  We are not celebrating some children’s holiday, but rather the fact that God has spoken His ultimate Word to the world.  Christ is the ultimate Word of God to the world.  One must let this idea really sink in these days when people are seeking new values” (Give Us This Day, p.277).  This Divine birth is about a ‘new center of meaning’ out of which we are to live our lives.  It births forth the ‘new values’ that help us live more like Christ in our views and perspectives, and in our relations with one another.   It enables us to embrace paradox so that the ‘new values’ or new wine of the gospel take root and become embodied in our lives and in this community.

The Incarnation happened two thousand years ago…and it is still happening today.  Fr. Delp emphasizes that we need to let the reality of the Incarnation sink in, sink into our heart, sink into our consciousness.  I think he is right on…we, most of the time, are not even aware that it is at the center of our lives especially when we get pulled into ‘I-It’ stuff forgetting why we are even in a monastery or why God has placed each of us on this precious earth.  Letting the reality of the Incarnation sink into our lives: this gift of God’s very life given freely to us: this gift, ever-new, ever hopeful, ever bringing wisdom, ever bringing the new of God that can heal all division and conflicts within our selves, with one another and in the larger world dynamics that affect all of us daily.  The Incarnation of Christ is radical in the breadth and depth of its power to transform and to save…in its capacity for freedom and joy, for bringing meaning and hope, for showing a way forward when one can not find their way.  A light is shining in our darkness and the darkness cannot quench it…and this light is to be even more manifest because like Mary we are ready to receive it, receive it with our ‘yes’, receive it by giving our flesh and blood to incarnate God’s gift and not quench it, bury it, or put it under a bushel basket!

We just received Jim Loney’s Christmas card.  He writes so simply, so profoundly the following:
Good news joy
                                    born in
                        deep night waiting
                                    here, this
                        manger will do.

Dear sisters: the manger of our lives will do….because we are each here….here like Mary with our ‘yes’….there is nothing more we need to do…just to be here, here with a living faith and the right intention.  Yes, with these we will receive the gift that awaits each one of us this Christmas.  Amen.


Third Sunday of Advent – December 17, 2017

This is Gaudete Sunday, which means in one word: Rejoice!  I think as we delve a little into the readings we will see how apropos this title is for describing the Third Sunday of Advent!  The first reading from Isaiah opens with this announcement: ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me’.  It follows with a kind of delineation of what this anointing of the Spirit means.  And all of this is pointing to the Coming One: Christ.  The second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians gives an orientation for our lives in the context of the One who is coming:  first, ‘rejoice always…pray without ceasing…in all things give thanks’:  doing this the reading tells us is the will of God in Christ.  Then comes the warning:  ‘Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophetic utterances.  Test everything: retain what is good.  Refrain from every kind of evil’.  Now if we are to heed the voice of John the Baptist who is crying out in the wilderness, again on this third Sunday of Advent, we have in concrete terms what we are to both heed and do!

‘Do not quench the Spirit’:  as I have already said in an earlier chapter talk the Spirit is hovering over our lives, ready to birth forth the NEW of God in our lives.  Do we even notice the Spirit hovering?  ‘Rejoice’, ‘pray’, ‘give thanks’:  what if these three realities were our default?  What if even one of them each day was our default?  It feels to me that if we anchor our lives around praying, giving thanks, rejoicing we have found the medicine that keeps us open to receive this Divine birth and to live from this newness that the Coming One longs to grace us with.

Another way of helping us receive God’s gift is to ponder:  How do I quench the Spirit?  I encourage each one of us to give time this week to note down some ways I do this, for just doing this little task (this inner work) will open us more and keep us more attentive to the new gesture of God hovering in and around our hearts.  The next phrase is even stronger: ‘Do not despise prophetic utterances’.  There is one prophetic utterance, which tells us what Advent is all about:  God is coming…in spite of our selves…in spite of our fears, our doubts, our hopelessness, our negativity.  Are we ready and willing to pray the grace to believe…to live into this reality that our God is coming?

A final comment on the Thessalonians reading:  ‘Test everything: retain what is good.  Refrain from what is evil’.  The heart is complex…it is the receptacle for this new birth…still it has the potential to not serve the good.  ‘Test everything…’:  this is not about being over scrupulous; it simply means to reflect upon our intentions as they come up, to sort through those different voices that pull us one way or another: am I doing this act out of jealousy, out of hurt, out of rebellion because no one cares?  We could all add on different scenarios that come up in our human relationships.  And still the Spirit hovers over our lives.  God will not disappoint.  We rejoice because this is the season of God’s immense gift to us and to our world; we pray, even more, so as to be open to receive and to be bearers of this gift; we give thanks because we are humbled, as we already ‘know’, we already feel these stirrings of life, of the Coming One, who will take root even more in the ‘hodie’ of our lives.  Amen.

Second Sunday of Advent

"Prepare the way of the Lord’:  this is the proclamation for the Second Sunday of Advent.  Jean Danielou wrote over 40 years ago these words that so aptly describe our present day reality:  “The Baptist’s message is addressed to a world held captive by sin and death, powerless to free itself, a world destined for death and incapable of justice, a world without hope.  And his happy vocation is to proclaim that all the bonds will be broken and that love will overcome.  This is already the message of grace” (Prayer, p.37).  Christ is always coming—‘he comes, comes ever-comes’, writes the poet Tagore—Advent emphasizes the God ‘who will be’ and so John the Baptist continues his proclamation so needed right now for salvation: for the saving grace that will free us from hopelessness, from self-centered ways, from narrowness in perceptions, from rigidity that compromises our ability to receive the Spirit hoverin
g over our lives.  John the Baptist cries out in the wilderness of our hearts and in the wilderness of our lost world: ‘prepare the way’….prepare your hearts, prepare your lives….this message hidden only if we are living at a distance from our ‘center’, from what is most true, authentic, compassionate…from what is most God-oriented.  Turn for a moment into the silent depths: there his voice will be heard once again….‘prepare the way’…in John’s message there is already grace…for it contains light to guide us forward to receive God’s gift….it is a message of comfort, it opens up for us and our world a way of salvation:  a way of peace, of healing, of forgiveness.

An essential ingredient of John the Baptist’s message is repentance.  This is not Lent but it is a time to turn inward for there is the gift….there will be born more of Christ’s life for each one of us in a personal way.  Contemplative space, silence, inwardness: this helps prepare the way: step out of our busyness, take space from the noise of the political landscape right now…the One who is coming, the One to be born will bring peace…it is important first that this gift begins with us….it will ripple outward….each one of us together forming a living body of faith where the God of unconditional love will be manifest.

Danielou says that Advent is a “pedagogy of faith”, but not a faith that God exists, more strikingly that “God intervenes in history” (p.38).  God intervenes in our personal history and in the larger history of humanity.  This is a miracle, is it not?   Our ‘living faith’ pivots around this miracle.  This is how close the Divine life is to us…in and through this personal relationship with the Christ of God we are given the Love that no one can extinguish.

Our God is coming bringing the new of hope, the new of compassion, of peace, of a way of meeting the ‘other’ who is different from us.  This newmanifestation of God’s life is what we all need right now.  Amen. 


First Sunday of Advent 2017 - Awakening the Spark Within Us

‘Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not’?  This is how Advent opens with the first reading from Isaiah (63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7).  Left to our selves we wander from the ways of God, our hearts become hardened almost unnoticed because we are living without much awareness of what is happening inside, within the heart.  Once we become aware and notice more, we may feel moved to cry out, ‘Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down’…or simply, ‘Oh that you would come to change my heart’.

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh
The reading continues with this plea:  ‘Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!’  And then this finale which has all the elements of a song of longing – ‘You O Lord are our father’: meaning, you are our Source, you are our Creator: we are the clay, which is a humble posture of acknowledgement and awareness of who can shape us anew – we are the clay and you, our Creator, the potter.  Finally the Isaiah reading concludes with this existential reminder: ‘We are all the work of your hands’.

So here dear sisters we have our entrance into Advent…does more even need to be said?  Jean Daniélou wrote: “To talk about Advent implies that someone or something is coming or will come.  The liturgical time of Advent is a waiting for divine action, a waiting for God’s gesture toward us” (Prayer, p.32).  And how are we to wait?  The gospel tells us to be awake, watchful.   I wonder if the beginning of Advent awakens a little spark within us.   Have you noticed a small, quiet stirring, a movement of anticipation that we each need to stay close to?  Already just the word ‘Advent’ stirs our hope, our longing.  This stirring already knows before we even do (!) that more of God is coming into our lives…God will not disappoint!  But let us remember it begins small: in ways that we can easily miss, so we are to attend with the ‘ear of the heart’, listen for those silent movements of the Spirit…we are being over-shadowed by the One who seeks us, who seeks to grace us with new life, with His life.

Pope Francis, in his 2014 homily for the First Sunday of Advent, offers insight into how we are to wait and be watchful.  He says that this eschatological gospel is not trying to frighten us but is “‘to open our horizons’ to further dimensions, giving meaning even to everyday occurrences.  This perspective is also an invitation to ‘sobriety, to not be dominated by the things of this world’ but rather to keep them in their proper place”.  Is this not why the beginning of Advent calls us to turn inward, to be vigilant and watchful?  This new moment of God’s manifestation is for each one of us.  It is so important for us to receive this gift of new life, for how are we to incarnate Christ’s life if we do not first become receptive vessels, like Mary, of this newness wanting to birth forth? 

We all need change; any true change in our lives must have its root within otherwise it lacks the solid rock on which our house is to be built.  This is what this Divine birth can and will bring to each one of us.  Pope Francis says in the same homily: “‘We are called to enlarge the horizons of our hearts, to be surprised by the life that is presented each day with its newness.  In order to do this we need to learn to not depend on our own securities, our own established plans.’”  To be bearers of the Divine gift means we can only receive this grace if our posture is open and attentive, open that is to changing our ways, even a small movement of change makes us ready bearers of this new life that is to be ‘given to us and for us’.  During this short Advent season, let us ponder:  in what way or ways do the boundaries of my heart need to be enlarged?  What small change do I need to be ready to receive God’s new gesture of grace?  Just the honest intention of praying for change brings the Coming One close, very close indeed.

A prayer:  Oh you the Potter, you who shape and form us into a vessel worthy and humble enough to bear your life, come enlarge my heart, soften its hard edges, prepare it for your new ‘gesture’ of love.  Grant me a living faith that knows you will not disappoint me in my desire.  Amen.

Sr Kathy DeVico, Abbess

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