The first Light of Advent It is the Light of stones:
The Light that shines in seashells In crystals and our bones.
The second Light of Advent It is the Light of plants:
Plants that reach up to the sun And in the breezes dance.
The third Light of Advent, It is the light of beasts:
The Light of faith that we may see In greatest and in least.
The fourth Light of Advent It is the Light of humankind:
The Light of hope, of thoughts and deeds,
The Light of hand, heart and mind.
During Advent, in the early darkness of late Sunday afternoons, I am drawn to worship at the Catholic church a few blocks from my home. I admit that calling me lapsed would be generous. But the tradition of meditative reflection in the cavernous, candle-lit space beckons me. And somehow — whether it is magic or fate, or merely coincidence — Fr. Whitney seems to know I am there, and he speaks directly to me. Last week he began with the admission that “We are all imperfect,” and my thoughts moved to my to-do list for the coming week. He brought me back, however, as he spoke about the rocks and boulders we all pick up along the path of our lives and carry with us — a burdensome load that includes anger, envy, pride, and resentment. We hoard these boulders because despite their weight, it is better than standing unguarded and vulnerable in the world. They become a fortress in which we try to protect ourselves from the raw experiences that are part of our humanness, such as grief and disappointment. Sadly, they also shield us from the joyful gifts of love and compassion.
Returning home, I thought more about these rocks we carry, sometimes carefully hidden and at other times broadly and publicly displayed. How might this season of advent — of reflection, waiting, and preparation — help us let go of the rocks we have collected along the way? How can we ready ourselves, or at least allow for the possibility, that our highest and truest selves might emerge and permit us to let go of that which burdens us?
In her recent blog, story-coach Sally Fox reminds us that the darkest time of the year is when we can most clearly see the light. She urges us to use this season of dark to find the depth within ourselves that will carry us throughout the year. In her words, “Celebrating your inner advent is about building a capacity within.” A capacity to find courage in times of despair, to seek forgiveness in moments of anger, and to see light when surrounded by darkness. Perhaps this will be a time to leave behind some of our boulders, and allow the light of hope and humankind to shine brightly from within.
With warmest wishes during this time of both darkness and light,
P.S. Here’s more on celebrating the sacred birth of our inner light during the winter solstice.
Published in the Chalkboard from 12.13.17