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Today is the third Sunday of Advent and we continue alongside Mary, waiting and tending in the beautiful sacred darkness as we carry the Christ within the womb of our heart. . . making way for the Christic to be birthed through each of us and drawing from the wellspring deep within the virtues of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. The first week of Advent focused on Hope and last week Peace. This week we bring our attention to the substance of Joy. Just as the Hope and Peace we have been cultivating connection to are not tied to our ordinary ideas of them, neither is Joy. This is, as Barbara Holmes calls it, an unspeakable Joy. A Joy that comes from communion with the Divine, with yourself, with the natural world of which we are a part of, and with all beings. . . beyond the connection that comes from words. This type of Joy is well articulated by Bishop Romero who encouraged others to: “Always nourish in your hearts the fulness of joy . . . . I have tried it many times and in the darkest moments . . . .when slander and persecution were strongest, tried to unite myself intimately with Christ, my friend, to feel more comfort than all the joys of the Earth can give—the joy of feeling close to God even when humans do not understand you. It is the deepest joy the heart can have. The joy of feeling close to God. . . . . That such joy can be present and amid slander, persecution and darkness that it can help human beings learn to resist and overcome the forces arrayed against life and peace, . . . . this is why Christians give themselves body and soul to the beautiful struggle that is prayer.” If you wish, join me in a breath prayer to nourish Joy in the cathedral of your heart this week. Breath prayers are a practice in many traditions and are a way to pray ‘without ceasing.’ We are always breathing and therefore we can take this prayer with us into each moment of the day - on the way to work in traffic, while Christmas shopping, cooking dinner, etc. Breath naturally and silently in your head as you inhale, breath in “in my heart” and as you exhale, breath out “I nourish the fullness of Joy.” Let us nourish and spread Joy this week. Hope, Peace, and Joy within and upon us all, Heather


Here are a couple of the Readings from this week's pauses:

“You hollow us out, God, so that we may carry you, and you endlessly fill us only to be emptied again. Make smooth our inward spaces and sturdy, that we may hold you with less resistance and bear you with deeper grace.” “There are other senses, you tell us, and when the darkness obscures our choices, we must turn to the other ways of knowing you have given us. In the daylight we can get by on sight, but for the nighttime is our hearing, is our tasting, is our smelling, is our questioning, longing touching. A thousand messages waiting for our sensing you have given us, O God.” — Jan Richardson, Night Visions “. . .had there been no Blessed Virgin there would have been no Incarnation and no Advent, no nothing. She’s an indisputable essential part of the story. Not only the what of it and the how of it, but in a deep way the why of it. And it's been not without reason that Mary has been called the mother of contemplatives, because in her bearing, both literally and spiritually, during this whole richly feminine and in gentle time of annunciation, gestation, and child birthing she models to us in essence what it means to be an active co-creator and participant in a world in which the treasure from the heart of God, Jesus was not sent as a kind of remediation for sin, but as the sort of crowning revelation of what it means to stand here with one foot in the finite world, one foot in the infinite, bridging the gap in our heart and creating out of that the wholeness, which is divine love.” “Suppose this world isn’t a mistake, a myth, a fall, suppose it is precisely these conditions of fragility, finitude, density which allow the divine heart when its focused and brought to radiance in the heart of a human being who is actively courageously intelligently receptive then we have the real co-creation of the Christ, the infinite love in finite form. And that is the why of what this festival was about and it takes the whole power, profundity, human depth, physical depth of the God-barer, our earth our planet to bring forth in human form what the always uncreated brilliant light of love is like. So during this time of advent as we ourselves converge toward the Christmas, the birth of the Christic, may it not be just in a stable without but in the stable of your heart, in your own human flesh and form that the rays of this uncreated light may shine forth in you and radiate your entire ordinary life with a glow of the eternal from which it is always emerging and into which we are always returning.” “. . .surrender, the kind of surrender that co-creates the world of redeemed love, the world of redemption, is not an act of passive knuckling under, but an active participational intelligence.” An Advent Meditation by Cynthia Unedited Transcript 2017 Center for Action and Contemplation Gabriel’s Annunciation For a moment I hesitated on the threshold. For the space of a breath I paused, unwilling to disturb her last ordinary moment, knowing that the next step would cleave her life: that this day would slice her story in two, dividing all the days before from all the ones to come. The artists would later depict the scene: Mary dazzled by the archangel, her head bowed in humble assent, awed by the messenger who condescended to leave paradise to bestow such an honor upon a woman, and mortal. Yet I tell you it was I who was dazzled, I who found myself agape when I came upon her— reading, at the loom, in the kitchen, I cannot now recall; only that the woman before me— blessed and full of grace long before I called her so— shimmered with how completely she inhabited herself, inhabited the space around her, inhabited the moment that hung between us. I wanted to save her from what I had been sent to say. Yet when the time came, when I had stammered the invitation (history would not record the sweat on my brow, the pounding of my heart; would not note that I said Do not be afraid to myself as much as to her) it was she who saved me— her first deliverance— her Let it be not just declaration to the Divine but a word of solace, of soothing, of benediction for the angel in the doorway who would hesitate one last time— just for the space of a breath torn from his chest— before wrenching himself away from her radiant consent, her beautiful and awful yes.

—Jan Richardson


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