DECEMBER 14-20, 2014
Lighting of the Advent Wreath: Week III–EARTH
Miren C. Tiraba
Our first Advent candle honors flame.
Our second Advent candle honors water.
Our third Advent candle honors earth.
From the dirt on which the donkey trod to the straw in the stable,
from the baby in the manger,
to the seventh generation beyond our lives,
we see you imprint on the world.
We light this candle to represent your incarnation through the element of earth.
Prayer of Dedication:
You plant your blessings in our lives, Ground of Being,
that we might become blessing to others.
Receive our gratitude for allowing us to participate in the care of your whole creation. Amen.
The Examen-“Rearview Mirror Meditation”
Set aside a half hour or more, have paper and pen, or writing device nearby.
Breathe deeply for five or more minutes. Feel into your physical self. In your body, where are you tense? Spacious? Flexible? Are there spots of bliss or resistance? Simply notice any sensations without judgment or analysis.
Allow your attention to travel your life timeline. Recall age five, or the youngest age you remember. What energies, sensations, or memories surface? For what are you thankful, grateful, and least grateful? Acknowledge without judgment, and move on.
Recall age 10. ..
Recall age fifteen. . .
Recall age twenty. . .
Pause for a minute, and fast track into present time, on this present date. Acknowledge the road you’ve traveled, together with any consistencies and incongruities.
Now recall age twenty five. . .
Recall age thirty. . .
Recall age forty. . .
Continue to your present age—or stop at your present age.
Tune Into Your Birthday Age, This Year
Pause to idle in the present time: what reveals itself to you about here and now, the life you live, the silence you do-or don’t—cultivate, the kindness you embrace and share, and life blessings for which you give thanks?
Reflect on the Year Ahead
Choose one aspect of your life to tend with care and compassion. Be willing to give permission to fine tune the necessary actions and changes to involve all the best parts of yourself to engage and shift into gear. Who and which activities fuel your creativity, compassion, kindness? Can you create a roadmap?
In your own words, on paper or in silence of your mind and heart, give thanks for life in all of its beauty, complexity, and simplicity. Then, park all your thoughts, and simply attend to the present moment.
The next time you meet with your spiritual guide or companion, give permission for this reflection to become part of your exploration and inquiry together.
Contemplation on the Incarnation Part Two: Mary’s Human Response
By Daniel Ruff, SJ
A recurring pattern in the Spiritual Exercises has St. Ignatius starting the retreatant off praying at the “cosmic” level, and then leading him or her gradually to the more intimate and personal plane. This pattern is certainly operational in the Ignatian contemplation on the Incarnation.
Thus, as I discussed in the previous article, Ignatius invites the retreatant to enter imaginatively into the God’s-eye view of the unredeemed human condition in the first “panel” of the diptych. (I always think of those spectacular photos of the earth taken from the space shuttle.) Responding with a “leap of divine joy”1 born of love, the triune God decides to “work the redemption of the whole human race.”
Note, then, the dramatic shift as one moves to the second “panel” of the diptych. The subject matter of the second half of the meditation is found in Luke 1:26–38, the account of the Annunciation. As Fr. Fleming puts it, “I try to stay with the eyes of God, and look upon the young girl Mary as she is greeted by God’s messenger, Gabriel.”
Give this a try during Advent. Be present to the scene, “hearing the nuances of the questions, seeing the expression in the face and eyes [of Mary], watching the gestures and movements which tell us so much about a person.” In other words, get to know Mary intimately―this young, simple girl from a small town whose yes to God makes possible “the redemption of the whole human race.”
Keep the cosmic sweep, the eternal significance of what the Triune God is doing, as a backdrop. But then, zoom in for the close-up on the surprising ordinariness of the scene: an obscure provincial town, a humble single-room dwelling. A young girl, not long past puberty, of ordinary lineage and meager means. As your imagination presents her, is she doing housework? Perhaps embroidering a towel? Maybe praying or daydreaming?
Into this mundane domestic setting comes the angel, Gabriel. And what is that like? Does the angel have wings, as in so many paintings? In one famous and beautiful rendering by Henry Ossawa Tanner, housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the angel is depicted as a glowing column of light at the foot of the bed where an adolescent Mary is seated. How does Mary react to this divine intrusion? How would you react? Luke reports that she is “troubled” at the angel’s words and ponders, “what sort of greeting this might be.” (“Oh, Lord! What does one say to an angel? Why me? And what on earth could God possibly want?”)
Encouraging her not to be afraid, Gabriel announces that she has, “found favor with God,” and will conceive and bear a son to be named Jesus. “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” If you were 14 or 15, what would you make of all that? Would you perhaps wonder if you were ill and hallucinating? Would you wonder, What will my parents say? And Joseph?!?
As it happens, Mary asks a practical question. How can all this come to pass? Maybe she is partly reasoning with herself. She is, after all, a virgin. The response comes, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” Wow! Is that helpful? Is it welcome news? Or is it just scarier and more confusing? Yet somehow, Mary finds the inner courage and strength and faith to respond, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
As you immerse yourself in the mystery of the Incarnation in your mind’s eye, “[you] may want just to stay with Mary or with the eternal Word, who has now become human―for [you]…. [You] may want to speak out [your] joy, [your] thanks, [your] wonder, or [your] praise to the three Divine Persons.” The human race waited for centuries of struggle and hope until God made this astonishing and utterly unpredictable move. Allow yourself to wait on God’s grace this Advent, hoping and trusting that you will be granted deeper understanding of what all the Christmas fuss is really about.
1 All textual quotes from David L. Fleming, SJ, Draw Me Into Your Friendship: A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996.
.Feel Free to Call Fr. River any time: 415-305-2124 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org