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It is winter time here and in many parts of the world. The barren trees, brown patches on the ground, animals hibernating, plants lying dormant, and colder weather usher in a time of slow cultivating, restful anticipating, growing, and readying. Winter time also ushers in the season of Advent, in the Christian tradition, of which today is the first Sunday. During Advent we can allow the seeds of the virtues of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love to grow inside in order that they may bear fruit within and amongst us. We can recognize that like Mary, we too are pregnant with the Christ in us, and we can prepare our hearts to courageously birth the Christic in our lives. This first week of Advent is often focused on the virtue Hope. As we know, the type of hope we are accessing is far beyond the typical understanding of hope that desires a particular set of circumstances to come. The Hope we are drawing on is what can be termed ‘Mystical Hope,’ as Cynthia Bourgeault refers to it, and it is something we must draw from within. If you wish, join me in a breath prayer to draw from the wellspring of Hope 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 “my deepest me” and as you exhale, breath out “is Hope.” These words are a variation of St. Catherine of Genoa’s words “my deepest me is God.” Let’s draw deeply and spread widely the virtue of Hope this week. Hope within and upon us all, Heather


Here most of the Readings from this week's pauses: “Always we hope someone else has the answer, some other place will be better, some other time it will all turn out. This is it; no one else has the answer, no other place will be better, and it has already turned out. At the center of your being, you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want. There is no need to run outside for better seeing. Nor to peer from a window. Rather abide at the center of your being; for the more you leave it, the less you learn. Search your heart and see the way to do is to be." — Lao-Tzu 'First Lesson' Lie back daughter, let your head be tipped back in the cup of my hand. Gently, and I will hold you. Spread your arms wide, lie out on the stream and look high at the gulls. A dead- man's float is face down. You will dive and swim soon enough where this tidewater ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe me, when you tire on the long thrash to your island, lie up, and survive. As you float now, where I held you and let go, remember when fear cramps your heart what I told you: lie gently and wide to the light-year stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you. — Phillip Booth 'Our True Heritage' The cosmos is filled with precious gems. I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning. Each moment you are alive is a gem, shining through and containing earth and sky, water and clouds. It needs you to breathe gently for the miracles to be displayed. Suddenly you hear the birds singing, the pines chanting, see the flowers blooming, the blue sky, the white clouds, the smile and the marvelous look of your beloved. You, the richest person on Earth, who have been going around begging for a living, stop being the destitute child. Come back and claim your heritage. We should enjoy our happiness and offer it to everyone. Cherish this very moment. Let go of the stream of distress and embrace life fully in your arms. — Thich Nhat Hanh “As the Western thread insists, contemplation does indeed imply spiritual union. But this is not an affective union; rather, it is a perceptual erasing of the operating system that created the differentiation in the first place. "You" drop out and "God" drops out; there is only Oneness. And this Oneness is experienced as intimate and personal, because it is indeed being perceived through the heart (purified and activated as an "organ of spiritual perception"), and intimacy is the heart's native language. In other words, "contemplation" in the West is the functional equivalent of stabilized nondual consciousness in the East. It is not a state of undifferentiated emptiness, but rather a state of profound, luminous awareness in which the individual components are suffused and drawn together by a single radiant Oneness, like light pouring through a stained-glass window.” “All too often, our attempts at self-emptying feel isolated and pointless-"random acts of kindness," as a recent popular bumper sticker puts it. Except that no act of kenosis is ever isolated, no matter how meaningless it looks, no matter how disconnected, no matter how unproductive in terms of reward and gain on this linear axis. Because through the Trinity all kenosis is a tiny hologram of perichoresis [the divine dance]. It belongs to that great relational field of "the divine exchange" and connects us instantly with the whole of God, allowing divine love to become manifest in some new and profound dimension. As Raimon Pannikar beautifully expresses it, "I am one with the source insofar as I act as a source by making everything I have received flow again--just like Jesus." — Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening “Hope's home is at the innermost point in us, and in all things. It is a quality of aliveness. It does not come at the end, as the feeling that results from a happy outcome. Rather, it lies at the beginning, as a pulse of truth that sends us forth. When our innermost being is attuned to this pulse it will send us forth in hope, regardless of the physical circumstances of our lives. Hope fills us with the strength to stay present, to abide in the flow of the Mercy no matter what outer storms assail us. It is entered always and only through surrender; that is, through the willingness to let go of everything we are presently clinging to. And yet when we enter it, it enters us and fills us with its own life-- a quiet strength beyond anything we have ever known.” — Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope


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