“If we are afraid to know ourselves for what we are, it is because we have not the least idea of what trial is. It is because we have not the least idea of the miracle of life-giving love that we are. There is no pretense that can approach the wonder of the truth about us, no unreality that comes anywhere near the reality.”—Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic
“‘And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.’”—Luke 1:36-37
“When a woman is carrying a child she develops a certain instinct of self-defense,” writes Caryll Houselander. “It is not selfishness; it is not egoism. It is an absorption into the life within, a folding of self like a little tent around the child’s frailty, a God-like instinct to cherish and, some day, to bring forth life. A closing upon it like the petals of a flower closing upon the dew that shines in the heart.”
Once, on the southern coast of Peru, while waiting on a bus connection, I visited an 18th century Jesuit church. I don’t think any repairs had been done since its original construction. There were literally “bats in the belfry” and bat guano decorated the worn mosaic floor. The viejita sitting in the narthex told me that for a few soles her husband would show me the church. I paid and soon a man even older arrived wiping his hands from lunch.
After welcoming me, the first thing he said was, “Let me introduce you to the family.” With shuffling steps he led me to the flaking, barely recognizable statues of the saints. “This is Padre Jose,” he said, pointing to Saint Joseph. “His wife Maria is pregnant, as you can see. We are very happy.” A few more steps. “This is Maria’s cousin Isabel. She is also going to have a baby. We call him Juan. It is a great celebration.” In this manner, he folded me into the sacred domesticity of the Holy Family.
This is precisely the attitude we must have to Christ, the wellspring of Life within us,” concludes Houselander, “in the Advent of our contemplation.”
“O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.”
Breathe in. Breathe out. Ad…..vent.
With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print.