You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

      John O’Donohue, “For the Interim Time” 

It is an essential tenet of Buddhism that we can begin to change the world by first changing how we look at the world. The Vatican II Council Fathers simply decided to change the opening words of their groundbreaking encyclical, “Gaudium et Spes.” Originally, it read, speaking of the world: “The grief and the anguish…” then they just decided to cross out those words and famously inserted instead, “The joy and the hope…”

Fr. Greg Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart

The joy and the hope.

Since before writing my last post, I’ve been feeling the path washing out, sometimes under my feet as I take a step forward. I have been seeking and seeking and seeking the joy and the hope, the steady and solid ground on which to walk.

The grief and the anguish in our country and our world are so clear. A surge in post-election hate crimes, fires in Tennessee and in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, stabbings on a college campus in Ohio, a plane crash in Colombia, airstrikes in east Aleppo leaving the area without functioning hospitals. There is so much to grieve.

The joy and the hope are sometimes elusive. And yet –

 O come, o come, Emmanuel.
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

And yet, we have entered the season of Advent, a time for waiting in hope and preparing joyfully to welcome anew the Prince of Peace, even if we know not how his presence will alter our grief and our anguish.

Even before Advent, Creation reminds us that death precedes the budding of new life. Our world – that which we see around us, as well as the intricate workings of our own bodies – reminds us that life and death dance together, each in turn taking the lead.

To die is not a bad thing. Cells die every day. Paradoxically, it is how the body lives. Casings shed. Coverings fall away. New growth appears. It is how we stay vital. Likewise, ways of thinking die like cells, and we suffer greatly when we refuse to let what’s growing underneath make its way as the new skin of our lives.

Mark Nepo, “Preparing the Way”

Each year, we watch flowers burst into bloom and then die, trees turn from gangly to full and robust, then back to gangly. Many parts of our Earth cycle from warmth, frantic activity, and vibrant color to cold, stillness, and muted shades that urge us to rest before the busy hum begins again. During that time of rest, much is going on within, hidden so deeply that we may not even be aware of the new growth waiting to emerge.

Uncertain yet hopeful, we wait for Mystery to offer us the vision we need to move forward.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

It is the stubbornness with which we refuse to let what’s growing underneath come through that pains us. It is the fear that nothing is growing underneath that feeds our despair.

Mark Nepo, “Preparing the Way”

Do we trust that Wisdom is growing underneath?

As we shed our old ways of thinking, we open a place for Wisdom to grow. Allowing ourselves rest, we open time and space where She, with quiet confidence, may mature. With joyful anticipation, we await Her radiant emergence, Her stepping into the dance and taking the lead.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.