15 December 2007

Week 3: Advent 2007

I have continued thinking about the human heart as a relational or dialogical reality. I have also been thinking about the clear contemplative sense that we are called to be taken up into the very life of the Trinity itself,that is, into the very heart of God, where deep (God within) calls to deep (God without), and our lives (as words of this one God) become ultimately and definitively contextualized, and so, ultimately significant, ultimately meaningful. With regard to the human heart, Advent speaks so clearly: we are to make ready this dwelling place of the Lord, for the One who will dwell in the relative barrenness of our lives, and make of them a flourishing garden, wills to live here in smallness and obscurity --- often unrecognized even by the one who's heart it is.

It is striking to me that Benedictine spirituality is so strong regarding hospitality. It is a nonnegotiable element of the Rule of St Benedict and of Benedictine spirituality --- even for hermits! And yet, it is all rooted in the centrality of the Incarnation to our faith, and to our very being as well. We recognize that our monasteries or hermitages are meant to be places of authentic hospitality, not merely of other people -- though of course this is true since others are Christ's presence and imago --- but of God himself, for our's is a God who wills to dwell amongst us. Of course we know that in our prayer we do indeed create (or allow the Spirit to create!) a climate or environment of hospitality where God may dwell, but before our monasteries or hermitages become places of authentic hospitality, our hearts must first be transformed into cells of attentive love where God is entirely at home.

In Advent, we look towards the beginning of the "definitive incarnation" of God among us. We focus on the fact that he comes to dwell with us and becomes embodied in human flesh, and we refer to the second coming, but do we look enough at our own lives, our own hearts as the PLACE where that second coming is realized? How often do we consider that our own hearts are the wombs where God will become(or will be prevented from becoming) newly incarnated in our world, and where in fact, we "make up for what is lacking" in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus? Afterall, these are the places, the events where God speaks himself and us/our names --- looking for the responses we will be as we allow him to be God-with-us. These are the mangers in which new nativities are birthed, the arenas in which new martyrdoms are born and acted out, new missions discerned and motivated, and the sovereignty of God transformed into the Kingdom of authentic freedom and peace which will eventually transform the whole world. It is our hearts that are the contexts for genuine Christmas, and in Advent we focus on their preparation, purification, healing and capacity for hospitality.