Thursday, December 13, 2018

when you find yourself standing at the edge of an ocean

With music on the harp and all stringed instruments; sing out with joy as you proclaim: the works of God are all of them good.
~Sirach 39:16

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Our holy seasons always ought to be something special. They are really holy mysteries, and they should awaken a mystery as echo, as consideration, as prayer, in our minds and in our hearts.

The theme…is that, somehow man will be confronted with the Last Things, will be placed in the final order, will face the definitive questions, and definitive answers will be expected of him.  Whenever the Church dons solemn purple vestments, it always means that serious questions are being set forth and we are facing the great connections, the principles of universal validity… This means that we think about man, about ourselves, from the perspective of the ultimate reality and, in so doing, become ready—really ready—to encounter and respond to Him, the Ultimate, in an appropriate way, as befits a creature encountering the [Absolute] Ultimate.”

~Alfred Delp, S.J. in
Advent of the Heart:
Seasonal Sermons and Prison Writings

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Advent may be my favorite of all liturgical seasons.

We are eagerly waiting for Christmas, yes. But we are also getting ready, our homes and, hopefully, our hearts.

I think life is like Advent. We are always getting ready for what comes next, praying that we learn to notice God in the every day of life, and begging that our hearts awaken to His voice within us—now.

What do you think of the quote above? I have been ingesting and chewing on Father Alfred Delp’s words on Advent for several years now—off and on.  And I am struck by the reality that the personal confrontation with “definitive questions” that Father Delp notes as intrinsic to holy seasons, is not only relevant for Advent, but it also applies rather well to significant, major life events in my life.

Major life moments—the birth of a baby, a major crisis, the death of a parentbecome our very own, personal, intimate, holy “seasons.” Much like the liturgical "purple seasons," these moments confront us in a very poignant way, challenging us to meet head-on the ultimate questions about life and its meaning.

I first thought about this four years ago, as I mourned the death of my dad. In a very real way, the months that followed his sudden death reminded me of that feeling when I’m standing in the waves at the edge of the ocean—and I begin to loose my footing. With every wave, my feet sink deeper and deeper into the wet sand as the water threatens to topple me over. It’s the epitome of the phrase, loosing my footing!

That time was most certainly a “holy season,” one that demanded that I confront deep questions and fears, even doubts, about death, and about my certainty regarding the meaning of life—both now and in the hereafter.

Whether I admitted it out loud, God already knew that along with the sadness and grieving, my spirit was swimming in questions. What do I really believe? Why are we here? Why death? How confident and certain am I about the “Absolute Ultimate”? Is it okay to acknowledge doubt?

At the end of the day, at least today, all I can do is kneel humbly before God… right in the midst of this holy mystery that is my life.

I don’t have to have it all figured out. I am waiting—and getting ready.

[all photos from our Holy Land pilgrimage!
© Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, 2018]

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