An Advent Meditation
“Keenly, without blinking, through pallid, stray
clouds, upon the child in the manger, from far away—
from the depth of the universe, from its opposite end—the star
was looking into the cave. And that was the Father’s stare.”
In the Proper of the Seasons for the Third Week of Advent readings are taken from the Book of Isaiah. There, in Chapter 30 we read: “The light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be like the light of seven days.”
Advent is the time of expectancy, of waiting, of attention to the incarnation of the eternal Light. This Light was not merely given once in history through the birth of Jesus. His birth also opens in each of us the vocation to become vessels of the revealed Word as we too are beckoned into the radiance of the eternal presence whose kingdom is within us just as through Christ it is all around us.
St. Patrick in his beautiful prayer known as “the breastplate” speaks to this reality given in each moment, which is outside of time, and thus also not constrained to one moment, even momentous and world-changing, in time: “Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me….Christ above me.” Brighter than the light of seven days Christ abides, fills the world, fills in Spirit each relationship, gives light to both sun and moon, radiance to the heart.
This in an historical definitive way was given with the birth of the divine infant, incarnation of the Word present from the beginning, which we commemorate in the seasonal cycle when the planetary light is at its lowest. Soon, though, days will become longer, which is to say, more light-filled. This movement mirrors, season after season, the cycle of soul. Inner light may ebb and flow in our awareness but in its deepest recess of being glows continuously in the image of God.
In this season of expectant arrival we recollect in the birth of Jesus what later is further revealed in the glory of the Risen Christ, filling the deepest space of our hearts with His real presence, at once infant and cosmic. The in-dwelling Christ may reveal itself in different forms, under different signs and images: in certain seasons of soul as the infant and the new sprout, as the beggar and broken one in other seasons, while in others as the transfigured and healing one, yet each is part of the whole of the Christ-reality that holds us fully in gaze and embrace.
Through the infant Jesus we find in our hearts the innocence and vulnerability of what it means to be small and reliant, just as we can see in the gaze of a baby reflection of the infinite become flesh. The paradox of this truth is that often in our most vulnerably dependent and disenfranchised moments we are at one, most fully, with the Light of Christ. The interior intimacy that is continuously birthed in our being supersedes gaps and distance, difference and otherness.
The light to which Isaiah draws our attention through analogy resides in our being and shines forth as Love. This Light embodied as Love finds a double reflection in both what Jesus says of himself and what he also names as our true identify. In the Gospel of John (8:12) Jesus identifies himself in his essential union with God as “I am the light of the world.” In Matthew (5:4) Jesus in a stunning pronouncement says the same of us: “You are the light of the world.” This Light that we share with Jesus also is the Love that illuminates and radiates from our center, drawing us through grace ever more intimately in astonishing moments into union with the excessive joy of God.
In order to make more explicit this intrinsic union Jesus reminds us to go to some remote place in order to pray in intimacy with the Father. It is in remote places that the Light that surpasses all other lights is intimated with particular vividness.
One way to find such a remote place, at home, is to enter a dark room at night, one with all exterior lights extinguished. Sit there, in silence, in the darkness, for twenty minutes, if possible. Learn to build tolerance for sitting in this darkness for this is a place of exposure and intimacy. Learn over time to sit there outside of thought, in the cessation of thought, attend to the Presence within and in the surround. O Silent Night. Light a candle and focus on communion with Christ as Three-in-One and the One-in-Three as St. Patrick says of the Trinity and with Mary in the spirit of the Magnificat (“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…”) until this this one exterior light blends into the Light that abides within our deepest nature. Close your eyes. Dwell there. Absorb the Christ Presence. In this way, one arrives into the reality of Advent, given in this season with focus but present in all seasons. One only has to daily return to their remote place and embrace the Light that is brighter than seven days and rest in the Father’s stare.