Light shimmers through the Gospel reading for Christmas Day: the stunning Prologue to the Gospel of John. Tonight, revisiting my luminous Book of Common Prayer, I read John’s words—which the book renders in the King James Version, of course. In this passage that I love and have read approximately a zillion times, what struck me tonight, in this version, were these words:
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all . . . through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
— John 1:6-8
Most times when I read this passage, I’m focused on John the Evangelist’s elegant and moving description of how Christ came as the Word: the Word that was with God, the Word that was God, the Word that was in the beginning with God, the Word that came as life and light. As a woman with a passion for the Word, and words, and the connections between them, I never cease to be stunned by the power of this poetic passage and what—and how—it tells us of the One who entwined himself with us as life and flesh and light. Yet tonight, amidst the luminous words about the Word, my eye keeps going back to John—the one whom we call the Baptist, the one who prepared the way—and how, as the King James Version puts it, he came “to bear witness of that light.”
Even as Advent calls us to honor the gifts of the dark, this season bids us recognize our ancient longing for illumination, and to celebrate the One who came to us as light. Amidst the shadows—some necessary, some horrendous—God beckons us to look deeper, to look more closely, that we may find the presence of the Christ who shimmers there. And, finding that presence, to bear witness. Continue reading “Witness To The Light (Christmas Day Meditation) …”
On the scale of our human history, rituals like putting up Christmas trees, lighting menorahs, reading Hafiz, and baking rice dumplings are new. We, humans, have celebrated the earthly repercussions of our orbit longer than we’ve celebrated virtually anything. Before Christmas and Hanukkah, before monotheism or any other kind of theism, our ancestors were staring up at the stars, trying to gather clues about the changing of the seasons, the passing of time, and what the darkness might bring. The idea of marking the longest, coldest night with the knowledge that the warmth and light is not too far off, that is ancient. And no matter where we’re from, what religion we are, or to what ethnic group we belong, we can be sure that our ancestors, all of our ancestors, contemplated Earth’s place in the universe with awe. For them, it was sacred. And it still can be for us. Even more so because science has brought us a deeper understanding of the mystery and beauty of nature than our ancestors could have ever dreamed. Continue reading “Advent Day 21: Sanctuaries That Emerge From The Magnificent Stream (Winter Solstice) …”
I did not
have to ask my heart what it wanted,
because of all the desires I have ever known just one did I cling to
for it was the essence of
to hold beauty in
— St. John of the Cross from Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West
What’s Important in Life?
Once upon a time, there was an elder who was respected for his piety and virtue. Whenever anyone asked him how he had become so holy, he always answered, “I know what is in the Qur’an.”
So when the old man died, they raced one another to his hut to find out for themselves what was in his Qur’an. “Well, what is it?” they shouted.
The disciple holding the book looked up from it amazed and said with wonder in his voice, “What is in this Qur’an are notes on every page, two pressed flowers and a letter from a friend.”
There are some things in life, whatever its burdens, however it is spent, which if we cultivate them will never die, will be the source of our joy forever, will sustain us through everything.
Continue reading “The Wisdom Of Beauty …”
As long as we see what has come to pass as being unfair, we’ll be a prisoner of what might have been.
This is a very painful issue to discuss for most of us, because so much of how we see the world hinges on a sense of fairness and justice, those truly noble human concepts that govern how we treat each other.
But the laws of experience in the natural world, in which we have no choice but to live, do not work this way. Rather, the larger Universe, of which humankind is a small part, is a world of endless possibility and endless cycle, a world in which life forms come and go, a world itself that has erupted and reformed countless times. Continue reading “The Issue Of Fairness …”
When we are stuck in our convictions and personas, we enter into the disease of having good ideas and being right… We think we have a lock on truth, with our burnished surfaces and articulation, but the bigger we pump ourselves up, the easier we are to prick with a pin. And the bigger we get, the harder it is to see the earth under our feet.
We all know the horror of having been Right with a capital R, feeling the surge of a cause, whether in politics or custody disputes. This rightness is so hot and steamy and exciting, until the inevitable rug gets pulled out from under us. Then we get to see that we almost never really know what is true, except what everybody else knows: that sometimes we’re all really lonely, and hollow, and stripped down to our most naked human selves.
It is the worst thing on earth, this truth about how little truth we know. I hate and resent it. And yet it is where new life rises from. Continue reading “This Very Moment Is the Perfect Teacher …”
“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal — a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green. Continue reading “Make Of Yourself A Light …”
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
— James 4:6
He will rescue the poor when they cry to him;
he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.
He feels pity for the weak and the needy,
and he will rescue them.
He will redeem them from oppression and violence,
for their lives are precious to him.
— Psalm 72:12-14
This is God at work, as God has been at work across the millennia, as God is at work even now – unfolding new narratives with, through, and among particular people who are others, outsiders to the assumed faithful. The good news that God bears through Jesus is concurrently jarring news, infuriating news to the temple stalwarts who push him, rush him out of the city to throw him headlong down the hillside (Luke 4:21-30). The good news is not the narrative they were used to, not what they expected from the living God, who had come once again to break through their calcified ways. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: A New Narrative …”