Reflection: Second Sunday of Advent

By: Sister Micaela Randolph, OSB | December 3, 2016

John the Baptist cries to us again this Advent, Prepare the Way of the Lord...Prepare.

That word is so familiar! We use it all the time. It seems that our lives are made up of preparing! We prepare for the day, we prepare for the night. We prepare for Sunday, for dinner, for supper, for class, for spring, for summer and for winter. We prepare for a trip, a family gathering, a community meeting.

That word sounds urgent. Upon hearing it, I automatically think of doing something...Of getting something accomplished. Of doing something measurable. 

I don't know what image comes to your mind, but as I continue to listen to John the Baptist asking us to prepare, I realize he is using that word as a powerful metaphor, leading us to a much deeper reality. 

As I was reflecting on John's admonition, I was somehow reminded of a presentation given by Sr. Carol Zinn. She was speaking to the Federation of Prioresses here in Atchison in 2014. The topic of the Federation was Faithful Evolution: Embraced by Hope.

Her presentation is entitled: Living in These Evolving Times from a Benedictine Heart. Sr. Carol Zinn presented two stimulating, engaging and challenging sessions on the topic of how we, as Benedictines, can be faithful to this evolution.

One of her points was that the world and humanity are shifting-moving to a deeper level...a deeper level of being. She said that those who have a significant practice of prayer, music, silence, and meditation are much more able to make the leap from doing to being. A leap from an attitude of being assertive, in control, looking for outcomes or wanting tangible results, to one of vulnerability, humility, detachment, openness and receptivity. 

Prayer, music, silence and meditation. These gifts of contemplative are ours to give. So how do we use them to create an environment which is not only healing for us but also healing for our world?

One of the gifts mentioned by Sr. Carol which is essential to all the others, is the gift of silence. Both interior and exterior silence. And of course, St. Benedict highly recommends it!

How can our practice of silence lead to a more fruitful prayer life, to deeper meditation and to more soul-filled music? How can our gift of silence be for the healing of the world?

Both interior and exterior silences are two sides of the same coin. They belong together. Each transforms and deepens the other. To practice one eventually leads to the practice of the other. 

From Wendell Berry, we read: "Silence helps honor the more that is in all of us. Perhaps it is not so much our words of communication that distinguish as human beings but rather our ability to choose silence over words to express our deepest communion."

It is in this silence that we can hear God speak to us. It is there that we open ourselves to the transforming power of God. It is there that we open ourselves to the transforming power of God. it is there in the silence that we find the strength to live faithfully. 

Exterior silence is the other side of the coin. To talk softly, to walk quietly, to work mindfully, to listen carefully and to act with compassion toward others deepens our awareness of the God within. Permeating and strengthening our resolve to live fully in the present moment.

Wendell Barry writes: "And we pray not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye, clear. What we need is here."

It seems that there is also something here of our monastic vow of stability. we root ourselves in silence and open ourselves to the possibilities which it offers us. In patience, we wait for the good work of God to be done in us.

During this time of Advent, as we wait for God, I was reminded of the beautiful passage from the Book of Wisdom: "For while all things were in quiet silence and night was in the midst of her course, your almighty word leaped down from heaven out of your royal throne." This mighty Word is Jesus, Emmanuel. Let us wait then, in silence.