This post comes to you after the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ into the world. The day, for the Christian wisdom tradition, in honor of the one who grew to become a teacher of wisdom offering many radical ways of seeing. . . the one who (although not the only one) understood that he was in God, God was in him, that they were one and that this Reality was the same for everyone. . . the one who taught a path to walk out a different way of being and operating in this world as a result of simultaneously living in and from worlds beyond—namely the imaginal realm or Kingdom of Heaven. This wisdom teacher was human like any other, in need of being carried in a womb for nine months, entering the world through the laboring and birthing process, and receiving the love and care of human parents. This is the one whom Mary, Mother of God, was entrusted with and the one in which each one of us carries within the womb of our hearts, has been invited to birth once again, and is called to mother. During the season of Advent and Christmas we attune to this reality and regardless of gender join Mary in her courage to say yes to tending to, bringing forth, and mothering the manifest Christ in the specific conditions of our lives. Now we are in the season of Christmastide, those 12 days that lead up to Epiphany when it is celebrated that Christ is revealed to the world through his first encounter with the Magi. Perhaps we can wonder together what it means for each of us to mother Christ in our lives in these first 12 days and look to Mary and Joseph for wisdom as we explore their experience. Let us consider what it may have been like for them when we put ourselves in their shoes. Perhaps they were present to fear of any complications from Mary giving birth for the first time in an unfamiliar and unclean place, of Jesus’s life being in danger, and wondering whether they would be up for the cosmic task of caring for this special child. Perhaps they were present to tiredness and weariness from having traveled away from their home without the companionship of those closest to them, from Mary laboring through child birth, from Joseph trying to support and care for Mary in the midst of less than ideal conditions, and from Mary offering her whole self to the survival demands of a newborn. Perhaps they were present to joy and delight of holding their baby in their arms for the first time, of gazing at him through eyes of love and receiving his gaze in return, of one another’s accompaniment and love for each other in the midst of all that was required of them. Perhaps those 12 days proceeding were quite special as Mary and Joseph began to bond with their new baby, discovering his unique manifestation, and having him all to themselves before visitors arrived. The days were likely full of the whole gamut of human experience with equal measures of discomfort, challenge, and struggle co-present with courage, great pleasure, and fullness of heart. Let us take these twelve days of Christmas to lean into our own experience of the afterbirth. Acknowledging that within us may be afraid, tired, weary, courageous, delighted, and full of joy. Let us take pleasure in these first 12 days of quietly tending to that which we have birthed in this season before it is revealed to anyone else, keeping it close, discovering and getting to know it, traversing the whole gamut of our human experience infused with the cosmic task at hand. Christmastide blessings, Heather
Readings from this week's pauses: Monday: “As I have grown, I have gained an appreciation for how many ways there are to tell a story. Take the story of Christmas. We can tell it as the story of an unwed mother who dared to enter into partnership with God to bring forth new life; as a political story about the birth of a revolutionary; as a tale about a love that long so much for us that it took flesh, formed in the dark womb of a woman who shared her body and blood to bring it forth. We can tell it as a story about darkness giving birth to light, about seemingly endless waiting, and about that which lies at the end of all our waiting. Any story can be told innumerable ways, not simply according to who does the telling but to where that person is on the journey. As my life unfolds and my perspective changes, I realize that each telling of a story reveals part of the whole, but it does not contain the story in itself. . . With each telling, more of the story comes to light, even as the lighting of the advent candles progressively leads us closer to the full blaze of Christmas. . . I believe that Christ came not to dispel the darkness but to teach us to dwell with integrity, compassion, and love in the midst of ambiguity. The one who grew in the fertile darkness of Mary’s womb knew that darkness is not evil of its self. Rather, it can become the tending place in which are longing for healing, justice, and peace grow and come to birth. . . to give [us] vision to see into the night. I believe that this is the gift that God holds out to us in this season: to carry the light, yes, but also to see in the dark and to find the shape of things in the shadows. . . With a perception that goes beyond visual site, we are called to know and to name the gifts of the night and to share the visions that emerge from the darkness.” — Jan Richardson, Night Visions, p. xv-xvii Wednesday: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice by Stephanie Noble Do not be afraid of the darkness. Dark is the rich fertile earth that cradles the seed, nourishing growth. Dark is the soft night that cradles us to rest. Only in darkness can stars shine across the vastness of space. Only in darkness is the moon's dance so clear. There is mystery woven in the dark quiet hours. There is magic in the darkness. Do not be afraid. We are born of this magic. It fills our dreams that root, unravel and reweave themselves in the shelter of the deep dark night. The dark has its own hue, its own resonance, its own breath. It fills our soul, not with despair, but with promise. Dark is the gestation of our deep and knowing self. Dark is the cave where we rest and renew our soul. We are born of the darkness, and each night we return to the deep moist womb of our beginnings. Do not be afraid of the darkness, for in the depth of that very darkness comes a first glimpse of our own light, the pure inner light of love and knowing. As it glows and grows, the darkness recedes. As we shed our light, we shed our fear, and revel in the wonder of all that is revealed. So, do not rush the coming of the sun. Do not crave the lengthening of the day. Celebrate the darkness. Here and now. A time of richness. A time of joy. Friday with Lacey: One, One, One by Rumi The lamps are different, But the Light is the same. So many garish lamps in the dying brain's lamp shop, Forget about them. Concentrate on essence, concentrate on Light. In lucid bliss, calmly smoking off its own holy fire. The Light streams toward you from all things, All people, all permutations of good, evil, thought, passion. The lamps are different, But the Light is the same. One matter, one energy, one Light, one Light-mind, Endlessly emanating all things. One turning and burning diamond, One, one, one. Ground yourself, strip yourself down, To Blind loving silence. Stay there, until you see You are gazing at the Light With its own ageless eye. Saturday: Annunciation by Denise Levertov We know the scene: the room, variously furnished, almost always a lectern, a book; always the tall lily. Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings, the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering, whom she acknowledges, a guest. But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions courage. The engendering Spirit did not enter her without consent. God waited. She was free to accept or to refuse, choice integral to humanness. ____________________________ Aren’t there annunciations of one sort or another in most lives? Some unwillingly undertake great destinies, enact them in sullen pride, uncomprehending. More often those moments when roads of light and storm open from darkness in a man or woman, are turned away from in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair and with relief. Ordinary lives continue. God does not smite them. But the gates close, the pathway vanishes. ______________________________ She had been a child who played, ate, slept like any other child – but unlike others, wept only for pity, laughed in joy not triumph. Compassion and intelligence fused in her, indivisible. Called to a destiny more momentous than any in all of Time, she did not quail, only asked a simple, ‘How can this be?’ and gravely, courteously, took to heart the angel’s reply, perceiving instantly the astounding ministry she was offered: to bear in her womb Infinite weight and lightness; to carry in hidden, finite inwardness, nine months of Eternity; to contain in slender vase of being, the sum of power – in narrow flesh, the sum of light. Then bring to birth, push out into air, a Man-child needing, like any other, milk and love – but who was God. This was the moment no one speaks of, when she could still refuse. A breath unbreathed, Spirit, suspended, waiting. ______________________________ She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’ Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’ She did not submit with gritted teeth, raging, coerced. Bravest of all humans, consent illumined her. The room filled with its light, the lily glowed in it, and the iridescent wings. Consent, courage unparalleled, opened her utterly.