Email sent Saturday to my spiritual director and posted here to provide a monthly update on themes we’ve been working on and my progress (or lack thereof). Lightly edited to fix obvious illiteracies and reformatted.
Hi Sister —
Just looked at the calendar with something else in mind and realized our meeting is Monday afternoon. Time to focus!
As usual, I’ve gone off in unanticipated directions. So I don’t have much written. And, of course, I’ve spent far too much time following the impeachment hearings and other political news. Early in the month I posted something about Advent riffing off of the sermon for the first (?) Sunday in Advent — “Is it time yet? Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Advent — ‘Savior of the Nations, Come’ and the presence of God with us.” Link here, if interest
But as I look back at it, I’m not sure there’s anything there worth spending time on Monday. Not that it’s not good stuff — I think anything that leads me back to the presence of God is worthwhile — but I had other, more immediate fish to fry this month.
Another journal, prompted more by political developments than the lectionary, I titled “A bookish, unlikely mantra for Advent in a dark time — wait, be patient, keep faith … just in case the world isn’t about to turn yet,” a reference to the Canticle of the Turning and a British writer’s formula for dealing with Brexit and the outcome of their parliamentary elections.
It led me back to a theme I’ve touched on before. Repeatedly:
What happens if the world isn’t about to turn? At least not quite yet? If the dawn isn’t drawing near anytime soon? If the new Jerusalem isn’t on the horizon? Well, there is that promise of the Magnificat, the Song of Mary. Though I am small, my God, my all, / you work great things in me. I think it’s the same promise of my favorite T-shirts from ELCA and the Old Lutheran online gift shop. God’s work. Our hands. (I keep coming back to those T-shirts. Sometimes I think they sum up my whole theology.) And now there’s that headline in the arts section of a British newspaper. Wait, be patient, keep faith. An unlikely mantra for life. Unlikely, yes, but maybe the one most readily available to us at the moment.
But I wound up going off in quite another direction, mostly because I was troubled by the gospel reading for the second Sunday in Advent, the passage in Matthew 3 where John the Baptist turns on the Sadducees and Pharisees who came to be baptized in the Jordan River. The “brood of vipers” passage. I tried to follow the procedure for Ignatian contemplation — putting myself in the gospel story, at that time and place, etc. — but I couldn’t shake the sense that a lot of the Christian anti-Semitism that came later had its beginning with that very story, and I had a sense of dramatic irony, that the story wasn’t going to end well.
Anyway, the meditation led me to picture a World War II concentration camp Debi and I have visited. (Bergen-Belsen, where Anne Frank died — and Debi’s uncle was imprisoned as a POW in 1945). Anyway, my journal on that Sunday’s gospel reading turned into quite a long one, and one that defies summary or excerpting. Link here:
I guess the gist of it comes from a Swedish theologian named Krister Stendahl who did a lot with Jewish-Christian dialog (he was a dean of Harvard Divinity and active in many ecumenical initiatives) and argued that Christians post-Holocaust are commanded — not called, commanded — to get past our historical anti-Semitism, atone, listen and try to make things better. Which does lead me back to a familiar thought — the call to action implied by those T-shirts! always the T-shirts — but it also leaves me with several things I’m going to have to think through.
But now I’ve given you quite enough to look at before our meeting! As always, I can be flexible if you need to postpone. But if I don’t hear otherwise, I’ll see you at the motherhouse Monday at 2:30 p.m.