Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent Journey

Last fall we contemplated The Psalms in our women’s scripture study group. The study guide, by Jeff Cavins, is entitled Psalms: The School of Prayer.  The ancient tradition of daily meditation on scripture, Lectio Divina, came alive as we journeyed with God’s people to receive His blessing. As I reflect upon these responses to our Father that have been recited since the time of Abraham, I’ve new appreciation for the well- worn path I trod toward heaven. Nothing I experience is unique in the eyes of my Father. Modern circumstances may appear different, but when you scrape all the trappings back to the route of the problem -- fear, grief, loss, hunger, greed, anger, envy, self- doubt – there has been no emotional or spiritual evolution in the human race. In fact, it would appear our technological advances have made it more difficult to follow our primary mandate; to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and to love our neighbor as our self.
In the Old Testament, God’s people had a long standing tradition to journey to the house of the Lord to receive His blessing. According to Cavins, “God has always been about the business of that life giving action we call blessing. He blessed Adam and Eve in the beginning with fruitful life and He renewed that blessing with Noah’s family when sin threatened to engulf life. With Abraham, God stepped in and gave a special blessing to help people turn back to Him, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:23-26)
This blessing was enough to send God’s people out into the wilderness in search of it. They loaded up their families and the first fruits of their labor and set out on long, physically demanding journeys to seek the blessing of the Lord. I have to ask myself if I have a depth of love for the Lord that would inspire me to make such a journey even once in my life, let alone once a year. Christians are called to walk this path each Advent Season with the Holy Family in liturgy and in spirit, and sometimes even that journey fails to become a priority for me when compared to the energy I expend on the chaos of the material aspects of the Christmas season.
The journey to God’s House is long, Satan is crafty, and we often stumble. Sometimes we stumble so far out of sight that we fail for a time to return to the path. Those closest to us, the people we love most and hope to share the blessing with, may choose not to make the journey with us. The blessing eludes us. We wonder, but fail to see what has been awaiting us all along. We rename and reformat our Father to fit our own agenda; we recalculate, listening to our fleshly GPS, and head off in the wrong direction.  
This year I had hoped to set out on a journey to seek the blessing of the Lord. I started most days with reflection on the daily readings of the liturgy and reflections on devotion to the Blessed Mother. I do feel a sense of peace that surpasses understanding, considering my circumstances. I wish I could say I experienced miracles worthy of an inspirational testimony, but in reality not much changed. Much like that first Christmas Eve, life went on as it always had; unchanged by the presence of the Savior.  The shepherd’s still had sheep to tend; but they had experienced the face of the Lord shining upon them, and I am confident returned to their ordinary lives with an extraordinary reassurance that God keeps His promises.   
The beauty of the liturgy becomes more vibrant each year as I have experienced my own passing of the seasons. “This too shall pass” has become ingrained in my reflections, but often I forget to embrace, “This will return; I will journey to my Father’s house once more. I will receive the blessing. His countenance will shine upon me. I am his beloved daughter, no matter where I find myself on the path. I am blest.”
I am grateful for each of you this Advent season and I pray that you have the heartfelt assurance of God’s love for you. “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”