Chapter Talk – First Sunday of Advent – November 28, 2021, cycle-C
Both Bernard of Clairvaux (12th century) and Thomas Merton (20th century) describe Advent as the ‘sacrament of the presence of God in the world’. God is with us and still God will come again, God will once more be born within the human heart and in the midst of our daily lives. “If you wish to meet God, go as far as your own heart,” writes St. Bernard. These words of Bernard frame this Advent season of longing and desire. Longing pulsates within the interior life…The desire to ‘meet’ God, to encounter the One whom we seek is archetypal. The Cistercians, especially St. Bernard, wrote a lot about the fact that ‘we’ are the sought…God is seeking us out in every situation of our human lives. We seek the One who is already seeking us. What an amazing image to hold: two longings commingle, two longings encounter each other…a profound exchange…we are brought to our knees before such a mystery, such a gift.
In her book, The Coming of God, Sr. Maria Boulding develops this faith experience of longing further. She writes: “You are the answering readiness, the receptivity, without which even today God cannot give as he longs to give” (p.7). Here in this short pithy sentence, we have the Advent posture: ‘answering readiness’, ‘receptivity’. God gives as much as we are ready to receive. Openness to receive: the Advent posture. Still what blocks us from this simple gesture of ‘receptivity’? Are we that much in control of our lives that we are unable to surrender, to let go so that we are wide open to receive? To be receptive means a shift in the inner life: the heart is to open in faith and wait. The ‘ego’ then willingly steps aside and faithfully waits for God who will not disappoint.
Sr. Boulding adds: “All your love, your stretching out, your hope, your thirst, God is creating in you so that he may fill you. It is not your desire that makes it happen but his. He longs through your heart. Your insufficiency and your forgetting to long for him are no barrier. In your prayer God is seeking you and himself creating the prayer, he is on the inside of longing” (p.7-8). These words ask a shift in perspective: God longs through your heart and through my heart. And God is on the inside of your longing and my longing. Thus, in our prayer during Advent let us hold this in our awareness: that in my longing is God’s deeper cry and longing, that God is on the inside of longing.
To conclude, God is with us now and still we need more of God in our lives and in our world. The message of Advent is that God will be born again bringing ‘grace and truth’. And we need his grace and truth. Sr. Boulding writes: “He is born in us continually as our minds, our actions, our reactions, our relationships, our experience and our prayer are Christified. But this is a lifetime’s task…” (p.9). This birth will transform our lives to the degree that we are open to receive the gift of God’s very life. Imagine the Divine life becoming even more flesh of our flesh. This is the immeasurable gift that Advent calls us to prepare our hearts for. Amen.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess