"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." -Luke 21:25-36
On This Week’s Prompts for Meditation
“My end is my beginning.” So often it is tragedy, loss, grief, the end of something of great value or meaning that shocks a man or woman off the trajectory of normal life into another, more sacred orbit. The church year begins with the shock and disorientation of apocalypse; acknowledging the necessisty of a humbling toppling down into living a transcendent life. “It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush” toward “the eternity that awaits you.” (See the R. S. Thomas poem below). Then, parallel to and integrated with the struggles of daily life, the soul begins the great adventure of growing in holiness, Christ-consciousness, universal compassion.
Enter into the end-time. The chaos reveals a portal into this journey of consciousness (Meditation One). Knock and the way will be opened to you (MeditationTwo). Then, as passion and compassion widen the soul's landscapes, you will know what to do (Meditation Three).
Beginning my ending, again, And, gratefully yours, Suzanne
Meditation One (Introit) At the Threshold
Threshold: The esoteric significance of the threshold relates to its position in the passage from the external (profane) to the internal (sacred) state.… To stand at the threshold is to indicate one’s readiness to obey the rules by which the place is governed. …To stand at the threshold is also to place oneself under the protection of the master of the house, be he God, grandee or peasant. Crossing the threshold requires a degree of bodily purgation and purity of mind and soul, symbolized, for example, by the removal of one’s shoes before entering a mosque or a Japanese house. The threshold is the borderline of the holy and participation in the transcendence of the centre.
-Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, trans. John Buchanan-Brown, 1969
"Flammarion" wood engraving, unknown artist, date debated
As in landlessness alone rests highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God – so better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety!
-Herman Melville, 1819-1891 Moby Dick
We must be still and still moving
into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my
-T.S.Eliot 1888-1965 from “East Coker” Four Quartets
The Bright Field
I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it. But that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had treasure in it. I realize now that I must give all that I have to possess it. Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
The Last Judgment, Main Portal, Cathedral of Saint-Lazare, Autun, Gislebertus, 1130-45
Meditation Two (Insight) Knock and it shall be opened Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
I am the First and the Last, Beginning and End.Blessed are they who wash their mantles in the blood of the lamb, that they may have the right to the tree of life and enter through the gates into the city. -Medieval French Apocalypse, amalgam of Revelation 7:14, 22:14
Door Knocker, Unknown Master, 12th century Italian
The awakened subject is not merely to perceive transcendent life, but to participate therein; and for this, a drastic and costly life-changing is required.”
-Evelyn Underhill, 1875-1941 Mysticism p.195
Here, then, stands the newly awakened self: aware, for the first time, of reality, responding to that reality by deep movements of love and of awe. She sees herself, however, not merely to be thrust into a new world, but set at the beginning of a new road. Activity is now to be her watchword, pilgrimage the business of her life. -Evelyn Underhill, 1875-1941 Mysticism p.198
Meditation Three (Integration) Reviving the Desire We persist in saying that we keep vigil in expectation of the Master.But in reality we should have to admit, if we were sincere, that we no longer expect anything.The flame must be revived at all costs.At all costs we must renew in ourselves the desire and the hope for the great coming.But where are we to look for the source of this rejuvenation?From the perception of a more intimate connection between the victory of Christ and the outcome of the work which our human effort here below is seeking to construct. -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 1881-1955 To know God means to know what has to be done. -Emmanuel Levinas, 1902-1995 I can, therefore I am. -Simone Weil, 1909-1943
The Last Word
Year passes after year, silently; Christís coming is ever nearer than it was.O that, as he comes nearer earth, we may approach nearer heaven!
-John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
My Deepest Fears
Why does the new year begin with dread, darkness, portents in the sky: the sun darkened, the moon obscured, stars falling, the heavens shaken? Why does the new year begin with the ultimate ending : the end of life, the end of the world, the end of time itself?
A beginner in faith might come to church on the first Sunday in Advent expecting to catch an early glimpse of the baby Jesus. Instead, the sky roils with doom, earthquakes shaking us until our bones rattle. Why begin the liturgical year with the end of everything?
Keep awake! says the Church on the First Sunday of Advent. The very warning cuts to the heart of my deepest, unnamed fear. This fear lurking at the edges of my being arises from my implicit worry about existence itself. If I exist, I can be annihilated. Dread is the twin sister of consciousness. As soon as I realize I am awake, I know that I can die.
Surely I can choose to wake just a little, and stay oblivious to larger questions of the puzzle of existence. Surely I can fill my life with distractions and glittery things and a thousand lesser worries, to keep that one great worry in the shadows behind the lesser ones. And surely I can be a good Christian with eyes half-closed to the suffering of humankind as a whole, my neighbor in particular, and nature all around me. But the church asks me right from the first day to enter my dread, my fear of death, my existential anxiety, and face my lack of compassion.
On the first Sunday of Advent the church says, Look! Keep awake! Face your profoundest fear, and then, my Love, I have something wonderful to show you!
I was not particularly thrilled when I realized that I was on a Christian path over fifty years ago. But at least I knew from the beginning that not only did the Church acknowledge my deepest fears, but invited me to experience my fear as a portal to a larger life. Gently, gently, uncovering, unfolding, revealing.