Reflection for the Vigil of the Third Sunday of Advent 2015
December 12, 2015
By Sister Janelle Maes, OSB
Shout for joy, sing joyfully…be glad and exult with all your heart…rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” What readings! They are full of joy and shout words. Some people may not be in the mood for this: “Be quiet…I am not very joyful right now.” However, I believe that neither Zephaniah nor Paul would soften their words; in fact both had a lot of grief in their lives and still they are saying this.
So, how do we get to this joyfulness? Cassian said “Thoughts matter.” What thoughts do we need to become joyful and peaceful? If we read the book of Zephaniah we discover that the first two chapters are literally doom and gloom; in fact, the ‘Dies Irae’ (Day of wrath, day of mourning) from the pre-Vatican funeral rite is taken from these chapters preceding these joyous words. Suddenly, Zephaniah turns to a totally different style because as he says “The King of Israel is in your midst. You have no further misfortune to fear.” Zephaniah is proclaiming this good news to us today, now, at this very moment.
Christ has been born in us and continues to live in the humble dwelling of our personalities, our selves. What could be more joyful and life-giving news than that? Christmas is always with us as we find Christ in ourselves and in one another. That beautiful poem of Hopkins tells us:
“the just man
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is---
Christ---for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.”
(As Kingfishers Catch Fire)
And here in this chapel, we witness Christ in all of us, “Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his.” That does not mean we are all the same Christ clone. Oh, no, our God does more than that for us. Our personalities are ours and Christ shines through them, does not overlook them, or blot them out. For example, my Janelleness is stable within me. However, hopefully some good shines forth that tells you that Christ is in the midst of Janelle with all her faults and eccentricities. Sometimes we may not recognize Christ in someone. That could be the transformation is not yet complete in us or that too much of them (such as too much Janelle ) is showing. As John said, “I must decrease, so He can increase.” That is so true.
So as we look over the chapel, there’s Christ “beside us, before us, above us, within us, in quiet, in danger, in hearts of all that love us, in mouth of friend or stranger.” So with that, is it possible for us to ‘dismiss all anxiety from our minds?’
What do we do to let Christ be enfleshed in our flesh? Just as John the Baptist in this Sunday’s Gospel is telling three different groups how to do that, so Benedict also tells us in the Rule with the chapters on the instruments of good works and the good zeal the monastics are to have for one another. IN FACT, Benedict probably used the reading from Galatians to develop his chapter on good zeal. Being transformed into Christ means going through the fire of purification that John is warning us about; yet as we go through this fire, it becomes a glowing fire of love. Now don’t be surprised if this takes a lifetime. It is in heaven the fire of purification turns into the fire of love.
That beautiful hymn of Aelred-Seton Shanley talks about Christmas being every day:
From earth, the Word drew nourishment,
From us, the body we possess;
Our sun provided warmth and light---
With these the Word took on our flesh.
Creation’s dawning God deemed “Good!”
Yet still we scarce believe our worth:
But pregnant, full, the word here dawns,
And yearns in us to come to birth.
So I experience Christ’s coming every day in Seraphine and Linda who sit next to me in choir, in Mary Beth who works with me and in all of you who I meet throughout the day. I can also say with Hopkins
I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke poor potsherd, patch, matchwork, immortal
Is immortal diamond.
WHAT AN ASTONISHING, MAGNIFICENT, LIFE-GIVING GIFT!
Rejoice in the Lord always…shout for joy, O daughter of Benedict for He will renew you in His love.