Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent Books to Ponder

Advent for the Christian is the 4-week season of waiting that precedes the celebration of Jesus the Savior’s coming into the world.  Unfortunately, it is greatly overshadowed by the frenetic frenzy of a commercialized Christmas in our American culture today.  To remind us of the spiritual significance of Christmas, the Incarnation, I offer two small books with thoughts to ponder:

First, The Reed of God,  by Caryll Houselander –a classic.
It is not a new book, and even if you have read it, it bears re-reading.  The author uses simple symbols for the theme of waiting:  the reed on the river bank, empty and waiting for the breath of someone to create a gentle melody; the empty nest, awaiting the arrival of a new-born bird; and the chalice, empty and waiting for the sacramental presence of Jesus.

Mary of Nazareth, after her acceptance of the unbelievable honor of becoming the Mother of God’s own Son, enters upon a time of expectant waiting.  Sensing that this privileged role will include both joy and sorrow, she empties herself of self, intent only in providing a welcome home for Jesus, the Savior, and doing the will of God.

An attitude of expectant waiting to celebrate the awesome event of God’s taking on a human form and becoming our brother and Redeemer, is not only the role of Mary, but also of every Christian.  Receptive to God’s coming, we may also experience the joy of a personal re-birth.


The second book is Advent and Psychic Birth, by Mariann Burke

This author, a Jungian therapist, a graduate student of scripture and theology and a member of a religious order, speaks of Advent from an entirely different perspective.  She presents a background of the Advent season by describing ancient myths and practices during the winter solstice, with celebrations of the return of the sun.  They spoke of the sun as “the new child”, whose arrival was preceded by a period of expectant waiting. 

Various cultures in a variety of ways expressed the themes of anticipation, longing and hope, synonymous with our Advent themes and reflected in the Scripture readings of the season’s liturgy.  Themes of darkness and light, of death and re-birth and even of fear of the new and unknown, were used.  Regarding the theme of fear, some of our Advent Scripture could invoke that also, for example those containing such predictions as “The powers of the heavens will be shaken”, and even the Baptist’s stern command to repent

These themes are transformed into joy as Mary is chosen to bear the very Son of God, along with images of dew, streams of clear water, freshness and new life.  Psychological language is used to depict the “re-birth” of God into the world and a psychic birth in ourselves. Colors were chosen for various myths and celebrations.  It is interesting that the color assigned to “re-birth” is red. So besides inheriting themes for Advent from days gone by, it appears that we have also inherited our favorite Christmas color from the past.  The book is quite fascinating, and if you can find time in these last days for reading, I think you would enjoy it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Let in the Light, Facing the Hard Stuff With Hope” by Patricia M. Livingston

This small book presents powerful lessons for life.  With stories from her own experience and from the lives of others, Ms. Livingston shows that a “mess” can become a “blessing;” that what seems to be a disaster can often become a blessing in disguise.  She uses light as a metaphor for things spiritual:  Just as the light of the sun brought life into existence at the creation of the universe (according to the well-known physicist Brian Swimme), so the divine light can dispel the darkness in our soul and bring us new life.
And we can be a light for others by our prayer and goodness.
The author says that as photosynthesis in the physical world enables plant forms to capture sunlight and ensure their survival, so in opening ourselves to the light of God’s goodness we become filled with trust and hope that serves us well in times of pain and darkness.  And, she says, when we remain in darkness, our sufferings can always be united with the redemptive Passion of the Lord Jesus.

You will find this book easy and pleasant to read, besides being a source of valuable insights for living.  You would enjoy it.