“A novice master once responded when asked about a life lived in Christian authenticity, said that to be a Christian was not to know the answers but to begin to live in the part of the self where the question is born. He was speaking of an attitude of listening, of awareness of presence, of an openness to mystery.”
~ Wendy M. Wright, “Wreathed in Flesh and Warm”. A Book of Christmas, Nashville: Upper Rooms, 1988, p. 35
Spiritual experience, whether it be of faith, hope (an expectancy) or love, is something we cannot manufacture, but which we can only receive. If we direct our lives to seeking it for ourselves we shall lose it, but if we lose our lives by living out the daily way of Christ we shall find it. Being open to this mystery can lead to a spiritual experience. And if it is of God, it will lead to a life of activity. But in this activity there must be surrender and obedience. For example, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he told her, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you.” And she answered, “Behold I am the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.” It was in this submission, Mary’s surrender and obedience, that Christ was conceived.
Surrender does not mean that we cease all of our seeking. We should always strive to seek the will of God in every situation. We seek this in order to obey. And in obeying the small things that we see, the greater things often are revealed to us. True surrender never separates itself from carrying out God’s will. This is why we do not come to know God by musing or contemplating our highest aspirations in spiritual isolation, or by disputing/arguing religious points or even striving for a state of spiritual perfection. No, God comes to us when we offer a cup of water to the thirsty, and food to the hungry. He comes whether we offer this in a plastic water bottle or the water of life found in His Word.
A life lived in Christian authenticity then is one that is lived containing those three parts I often write about: Contemplation, Communion and Mission. All are connected; one leads to the other. To be open to these things and contemplate them in prayer will lead you to being in Communion with Christ and his Church. Once an individual has participated in the first two, Mission naturally follows. But it doesn’t end there. One must be refreshed when carrying out his or her mission or they will grow dry and too easily forget what it is they are doing and why. So they must cycle continuously back to Contemplation and stay in Communion. This to me is my Circle of Life. These are the three words I keep written on my cubicle wall in the office where I work and in my devotional. I’ve never forgotten its lessons nor doubted its validity. It is only when I’ve neglected one or more of these three that things have fallen apart, so to speak. It is then that I simply start over by going back to the well for a drink, and doing things such as those pointed out by the novice master in Ms. Wright’s story above.
As it usually does, the Divine Office this morning gave me some food for thought on this theme. Christ was not just a historical figure who lived for 33 years. He lives today in and through us, as the Blessed Isaac of Stella so astutely and succinctly points out below:
“Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell for ever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul.” (Divine Office – Office of Readings for Dec. 10th)
Today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent. It is the week we light the rose colored candle in our Advent wreath. It is known as Gaudete Sunday. The Introit for Gaudete Sunday is taken from Philippians 4:4,5: “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Dominus enim prope est.” (Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.).
Indeed, the Lord is near. We are halfway through Advent and the great feast of Christmas is drawing closer. Like Lent, Advent is a penitential season, so the priests normally wears purple vestments. But on Gaudete Sunday, having passed the midpoint of Advent, the Church lightens the mood a little, and the priest may wear rose vestments. (My own pastor loves to joke about his vestments being rose-colored…not pink.) The change in color provides us with encouragement to continue our spiritual preparation—especially prayer and fasting—for Christmas.
let your glory dawn to take away our darkness,
May we be revealed as the children of light
at the coming of your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.