Reflection for the Vigil of the Second Sunday of Advent, 2012

by Eleanor Suther, OSB

December 8, 2012

Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10; Luke 3:1-6

Lately, I’ve been seeing these gray spots, floaters, the optometrist calls them. I wondered if they were the beginning of cataracts... Some of you may remember the thank you note that Sister Evangeline posted after her cataract surgery. There were two pictures—one rather blurred and another quite crisp and clear and bright. She was delighted by what she could now see. It was what we could see, and what she had earlier seen, but over the years had become clouded and blurred.

I think the liturgy today may be offering us today a kind of “cataract surgery.” Through the year, and maybe through the years, we may develop a kind of loss of vision, a forgetfulness of the great mystery into which we have been baptized and in which we live. We can become prisoners of our own little world.

The liturgy today offers us an anamnesis, a "You are there" kind of remembering. We remember an historical event, the appearance of a preacher in the desert, calling the people to metanoia, to conversion. The liturgy makes that event present for us, but we have an advantage over John’s original hearers. We know what comes next. We have been given the gift of the Spirit through our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ. But John speaks to us too, we are called to metanoia, to remember who we are and the gift we have been given through our baptism.. We are to “take off the robe of misery and mourning” and clothe ourselves again in the “splendor of the glory of God” which illumines all creation. (Baruch 5:1)

There is misery and mourning a-plenty in our world today, in Syria, Afghanistan, Egypt and Toreon...and countless other places we don’t know about. But we are invited to see the splendor of God revealed to us though the death and resurrection of Christ, and shining through the lives of martyrs. We are invited to see the Spirit of God shining through our sisters at Pan de Vida monastery, through our sisters, volunteers and clients at Keeler Center, the guests who come to us through Sophia Center or Benedictine College , the residents and staff in Dooley Center and everywhere else we live and minister.

We are invited to see the splendor of God illumining all creation, in ways our scientist are always discovering and in ways beyond any of our understanding. Our iconography retreat last week was a way of helping us to see beyond our ability to describe or communicate in words.

Our iconographers began their work with preparing a simple board a gift of Nature. It required some sanding and then a covering over with a kind of shellac. At just the right time, the gold leaf was applied, symbol of the splendor of God into which we have all been baptized. But that splendor is too great for us to see, and so it is refracted through human beings—people who have especially manifested to us that glory. The figures themselves don’t always appear to us to be glorious, we see the cross, and the various signs of the martyrs , but through it all that glory shines.

In our gathered assembly, the Holy Spirit moves among us, opening our eyes, transforming our hearts. The Holy Spirit leaves this assembly with us, helping us to see one another, all of creation, in the light of that glory. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live and act with God’s mercy and justice so that all flesh may see the salvation of God.

We keep coming back here because we keep forgetting. We need this anamnesis so that we can really see and expect to see God’s splendor all around. And with Paul we encourage one another: “I am confident about this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:6)