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Fourth Sunday of Advent

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Fourth Week of Advent 2020
These reflections are drawn from the readings for the four Sundays of Advent, which is a season in itself and the run-up to Christmas. The best benefit comes from reading the scripture passages themselves — so the references are given and are available on the wccm.org website. The reflections themselves might also be usefully read during the rest of the week, not only on Sunday.
The early disciples of Christ did not yet have baptismal certificates. But they asked a profound theological question of childlike honesty. ‘What good does it do me if he is born in Bethlehem once if he is not born again in my heart in faith? We celebrate the historical birth because it replays the eternal birth of the word in the abyss of the father’s being. The closest we can come to imagine this is to think of the cosmic distances and horizons of space-time.
 
A question we can focus on without going dizzy is ‘how do we prepare ourselves for the birth in our soul’. Eckhart gives a clue – such a soul needs to be pure, live well and be unified. The word is then spoken in the deepest silence. In a space where no word or thought enters.
What propels us for this work of preparation? Not desire or ambition but a love of poverty and emptiness by which we are convinced that this, and no other, is the way. Allowing that strange love to move us, we become aware of ‘something in me that shines in my consciousness. I can clearly perceive that it is something but what it is I cannot say.’
 
The whole story of the Nativity confirms this wisdom of failure and rejection of the pursuit of success. The story beautifully symbolises the whole of the life and teaching of the child’s next thirty-three years.
 
This applies especially to the preparatory work we do need to do to prepare for the interior birth. How much of our work for silence feels successful? During the past weeks I have often tried to meditate in difficult conditions. I’d like to say I succeeded even when the conditions became too much. Some hope! If it was caused by pain, I have sensed how our individual pain reflects the universal suffering of humanity borne by the risen Jesus. Much as we might wish, it doesn’t take the pain away). I am left with a sense of poverty and emptiness.
 
What happens in my attempt to meditate? A new meditator online delighted me last week with his own conclusion: ‘when I fail to control my thoughts, I know I was still doing a good work. I was meditating - or maybe the Spirit was doing it for me’ Something was happening.
 
Our gift to the world is to believe wholeheartedly in the unstoppable birth process. From that wholeness we say happy Christmas and reverence life.
Laurence Freeman, OSB
Bonnevaux, December 24, 2023
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