You prepared for apocalypse.You watched the skies and braced yourself for horror and sudden death.You faced loneliness and danger in the wilderness until you found the threshold guardian.You responded to the call for conversion and repentance.You turned toward the unseen Holy and embraced the ascetical life of purgation, of continually leaving behind all that is not God.This is the work of Advent. The church, through liturgy and scripture and practice, teaches you how to live in this Season of the Soul.
The fourth Sunday in Advent introduces the image of Mary of Galilee to initiate an unending season of holy darkness: the nights of the soul.The life of passive purgation, of waiting, of receptivity, of loving emptiness, underlies the whole of the rest of the soul’s journey into the unitive life. Mary’s “yes” to the angel of annunciation offers a profound and accessable point of reference throughout the mystical adventure. The company of heaven invites you, with Mary, to say “yes” to the unknown darkness of Love. Angelic Greeting
Each day a Presence on the Threshold announces “Ave,” and, “You, (yes, you!) are blessed.” Each day the angels hold their breath waiting to hear you say, "Let it be done according to your Word.”
Looking at the Virgin of the Sign
She looks upon you, she looks beyond you
She looks through your soul, and into the eternity behind your soul.
But suddenly, she is a mirror
For you are looking at yourself
Eternity dwelling in your own fragile flesh
Platytera Ton Ouranon, More Spacious than the Heavens, Russian 13th Century
Salvation to all that will is nigh ; That All, which always is all everywhere, Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear, Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die, Lo ! faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie In prison, in thy womb ; and though He there Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He'll wear, Taken from thence, flesh, which death's force may try. Ere by the spheres time was created thou Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother ; Whom thou conceivest, conceived ; yea, thou art now Thy Maker's maker, and thy Father's mother, Thou hast light in dark, and shutt'st in little room Immensity, cloister'd in thy dear womb.
John Donne 1572-1631
Annunciation, Fra Angelico
This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed salvation for all the children of Adam, the whole of your race.Answer quickly, O Virgin.Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord.Answer with a word, receive the word of God.Speak your own word, conceive the divine word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal word. St. Bernard of Clairvaux 1090-1153
Until a soul is placed by God in the passive purgation of that dark night … it cannot purify itself completely from these imperfections nor from the others. But a person should insofar as possible strive to do his part in purifying and perfecting himself and thereby merit God's divine cure; in this cure God will heal him of what through his own efforts he was unable to remedy. No matter how much an individual does through his own efforts, he cannot actively purify himself enough to be disposed in the least degree for the divine union of the perfection of love. God must take over and purge him in that fire that is dark for him …John of the Cross 1542-1591
“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.” Meister Eckhart 1260-1328
Love waits behind the silence of prayer for my yes to a deepening capacity to love.Every love informs a greater love.Every lesser love is a forerunner of the great Love, sensed but never seen, to whom Mary once said yes.p.17 Grace’s Window
Let every heart prepare him room. Hymn “Joy to the world” Isaac Watts 1674-1748
Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.