Archive for December 11th, 2009

In these lines by Christina G. Rossetti, 1830-1894, later put to the now very familiar music of Gustav T. Holst, and one of my favorite hymns of the Season, the paradoxical character of the Incarnation is evocatively captured:

In the bleak Midwinter, frosty winds made moan.
Earth stood cold as iron, water like a stone.
Snow had fallen snow on snow, snow on snow.
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

I have traveled this week in Wisconsin on business. Yesterday and today, the wind picked up in Milwaukee dramatically after the region saw its first major 14 + inch snowstorm. The temperature also plunged into the single digits.

The two-block walk from my hotel to the office was like a trek across the arctic tundra. It was even hard to breath, and the walk seemed like it took forever. This all started me thinking about this much-loved traditional Christmas carol.

Building on my last post ( Practice #116), I find myself reflecting on the polarities of:

  • the deep cold- warm Light:  of the Christos, and the burning hearth,
  • the gray-toned days- full color spectrum: adorning homes, buildings, and Christmas trees.

The festival of lights also comes to mind along with the lighting of the menorah. The cold and the dark make the light and the colors all the more bold, prominent, welcome, and gratifying.


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Statue of Asclepius - archetype of healing

We again enter the season of Advent: a word that derives from the latin translation of the Greek word for the Second Coming, or parousia. It connotes a period of vigilance and expectation of the coming Messiah.

The Christian calendar marks the season as preparatory. It is a time for penitence and clearing. It is a season of centering on the primary mystery of divine presence and our thirst for profound renewal and healing.

With tradition reenacting an extraordinary event in history, its celebration in winter is provocative. We await the birth of the Light of the World: the Incarnation of Divine Love. Mystically, it is re-enlivened, renewed, and deepened with each sincere heart that embraces this time as more than a historical commemoration. It is a real-time happening in the soul of all those who enter it mystically.

In archetypal terms, the coincidence with the winter solstice and the time of nature’s incubation ties our spiritual renewal to the physical renewal of the biosphere. The bulbs that lie dormant await the more direct light and heat of the Spring as the trigger for germination.

While historians have concluded that the historical events celebrated in this season were most likely Springtime events, the coincidence in tradition of Winter with Advent is auspicious and symbolically very powerful.

In keeping vigil and following in the footsteps of the Magi, who read the portents in the stars, it is a good and deeply healing practice to awaken just before dawn and, with eyes lightly closed ( with great care to avoid direct gazing at it) to await the rising Sun.

To feel its warmth and to register the moment of the first light as a signal for the germination within us of the Christos. The Therapeutae were an ancient sect of the Essenes in the middle east that, some argue, could very conceivably have been the community in which Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled his early preparations in those missing years for which we have no documentation.

They engaged in the daily practice of awakening before dawn, wearing a very simple blue tunic, to walk to the shores of Lake Mariotas to greet the rising sun. I am reminded of the beautiful yoga practice, the Surya Namaskara, or the Salutation to the Sun. They are reputed to have been great healers and miracle workers (hence their name).

Beyond our words and thoughts, the Sun’s rays are the physical analogue of the Son’s presence feeding everything with the energy that sustains all being. We are, in opening ourselves to the Divine, awakened once again to the truth of our origin, destination and unity with the All. for a moment, we are more fully “bound back,” the meaning of the word, religio, or religion, to the Source.

The world speaks to us of things that lie beneath. The Beloved is in His Holy Temple, let all the earth keep silence.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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