Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

     Today is Christmas, and I am waiting in joyful hope for my boys to come home.  Isis is gnawing on a bully-stick, which is her favorite indoor thing to do.  Greg is working in the kitchen, getting the leg of lamb ready for supper.  I have lit candles, reminding me of all the people I am trying to remember clearly to pray for.  The delight of the morning was a call from Michael Oswanski on facebook.  I didn't know you could have a real-time aural chat--- I thought it was still the "typing messages" thing.  But somehow, because I don't know the technology, I couldn't see him.  So he always is pushing my technological skills a notch higher.  We talked about organ music, how hard it is to describe the beauty of those sounds! ... choral music, and the message of Christmas;  and the way time circles into the eternal NOW.  All the Christmases past, present and future--- and the moment when God breaks into history.
     I always come back to the fact that God chooses to come as a baby-- a just-born infant with eyes opening onto the big wide world--- and it fills me with such intense awe--- that God comes without words or dogma, in human skin-- baby skin, which smells heavenly-- and in those tiny hands and feet, those big eyes, full of wonder.  And such vulnerability--- no armies of angels in full battle gear!   God is willing to come to us, to let us be abusive parents, in all our self-absorbed egotism; God lets us fail to see the miracles.  He waits for us to get it.  He lets time spin out like yards of ribbons, or like the blown dandelion seeds in the dry summer--- waiting for us to come closer to the moment when we hold the baby in our own arms, let it fall asleep on our shoulder, or nestle it against our breast.
     No other religion really focuses on the human baby.  No other religion really brings our attention to the quality of our parenting a baby-- the thought of Joseph taking Mary into his home, because an angel told him to.  How Mary and Joseph together raise this child, in the hidden years--- and hide him from Herod and the slaughter of the innocents.  Most  religions start with a person in adulthood, exhorting us to connect our spirits to the Great Spirit.  But Jesus is also that baby.  He is coming in the most vulnerable, innocent, helpless way He can, to let us possess God, in the child.
     Last night we had singing carols before Mass.  A guy with a great voice sang "Mary, did you know that your baby boy..."  with several verses.  It makes me cry.  I think that we do not know.  We certainly do not know that our children are going to be piercing our hearts with sorrow and fear.  We think they will bring us joy, and we hope they will bring us honor.  We do not want to consider the way of the cross.  We certainly cannot contain, in our becoming parents, the suffering likely to come, as our children move forward toward God in their own journeys, falling and failing as we have fallen and failed.  And yet, Jesus has given us the path, shown us, in a few brush-strokes of the story, what we must endure.  "Did you not know that I must be about my father's business?"  Even if the child does not know it is about his father's business, even if he thinks he can do it with his own WILL, God will be the alpha and omega of his path.  We are in our orbits, like atoms, on our pilgrimage toward the God who made us.  I have walked the labyrinth with this so clearly in mind-- that I am being called back to the center.  The still-point in time,  the mystical rose, the existential moment, the Eternal NOW.  And my child is also called, though he does not know it clearly, is not watching for signs, is not following the stars, is not sure of his way.  And maybe that is also the point.  We see the stars, we begin to watch for wise men, we begin to hear the message in a deeper way, a new way. We begin to think it is amazing and miraculous that shepherds were the ones to see the glory first.  We begin to understand that you have to be cold and lonely and outside at night, to SEE the stars.  And that when you are watching the stars, you begin to hear choirs of angels!  And that you have to listen to your dreams, like Joseph did.  It is amazing that the messages that come in the dreams are the most important guides to your life.  And that the baby will be born without a safe place in the world, because God is always being born in new and amazing ways, outside the ordered world, outside the circle of power and influence;  NOT born to the Rabbi;  NOT born in the Temple precincts or the palace.  The whole thing is amazing.  The whole thing calls us to be filled with wonder and awe.  I circle around it again, and am glad I was able to sing along, in the cold night, in our everyday community, filled with people struggling to be good;  with those dear carols I have loved all my life--- especially the one which says "gloria in excelsis Deo!"

Saturday, December 8, 2012


This morning I got up early and did my morning meditation, then came to the computer to read another article and answer questions to maintain my board certification.  I am nervous, because the deadline is in 1 week, and I have to read a lot of articles and answer very nit-picky questions about them, to keep being a fellow of the American College of Ob-Gyn.   My mind does not seem as able to retain the details as it used to.   I am feeling old;  and I remember my mother, who probably was beyond 80 when we had this conversation.  I told her that sometimes I think of St. Paul, saying "When you are young you can put on your belt and sandals and go where you want, but when you are old, someone will put on your belt and lead you where you do not wish to go."  My mom was amazed, she had forgotten that saying, and said she didn't know that St. Paul was that smart.  I have been feeling that they have put on my belt and are leading me where I do not wish to go, and my current task is to try to go along as gracefully as possible with this agenda.  I had a joy-filled weekend at the Jesuit Retreat house, with Fr. Tom Weston SJ, on the Thanksgiving weekend.  He is a great teacher, and the more I listen to the Serenity prayer, the more I like it--- I want to have COURAGE to change the things I can, and the Serenity to accept the things I can't change;  and I really want to have the WISDOM to know the difference.  I have always believed that the world is more mysterious and flexible than we think--- and that there is a lot of yeast in the dough.  So almost always, the most important thing is the gift of DISCERNMENT.  I think this is very interesting, and brings back to me the importance of St. Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises, which have to do with Discernment.  One of the things St. Ignatius said is that we have to put faith into action, and not worry about either consolation or desolation--- they are not to be grasped at, or avoided-- we are just moving through them.  So there is no big confirmation when we are consoled, that it is truly God's will.  In fact, it may just be a false sense of security, that our ego has put there to trip us up.  Lately I have been really conscious of this problem.  Doing the best one can, on a daily basis, is enough work-- and we have to leave the judgement of it up to God.
I need to take Isis for a run down the hill and back, and my joints are feeling arthritic.  Originally I was going to try to walk her on the beach today;  but yesterday,  she got into a big argument with another dog over who is the most in charge, and I tried to pull her away, and she lunged;  and I fell over and bumped my head.  She stood by me then, as I was ignominiously replacing my glasses, and trying to get back onto my feet.  And so I am calculating whether I have the energy to deal with her ego today;  and also, it is cold out, and my joints are stiff.  So I am going to wait til it is warmer to try to walk.  Ever since I came home from the Camino, I have yearned to walk, and it has been wonderful to walk on the beach when I am energetic enough.  I really think that a 3 and a half hour walk is just about right for me.  Sometimes 2 hours is good, but 3 and a half is tiring, but not to the point of exhaustion, and I feel I am maybe able to reclaim some of the fitness and stamina I had when we were in Spain.  I also think that I will have to get a muzzle for Isis, as she is too strong for me to hold back, and I don't want her getting into battles on the beach.  She can run fast, and get in the water, which a lot of the other dogs don't do-- and the water cools her off.
I am going to be thinking about discernment a lot now.  Advent is always a time for me to feel deeply  integrated into the joyful hope of waiting for a baby-- so my whole life and job make sense.   Waiting for God in the way that God usually comes-- in tiny seeds, full of yeast and creative wonder!