In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’ (Mk 1:8)
To live in hope. This sounds rather deflating to us today who are used to instant gratification. It seems to mean either being reconciled to a continuous lack of fulfillment or to live in a kind of quiet desperation – just getting through to the end. This isn’t what the ‘virtue’ – the strength – of hope that meditation nurtures is about at all.
Hope blooms as hopes die. Hopes are veiled desires or fantasies which we use as substitutes for reality or as defenses against disappointments and sufferings. Often we have to tremble on the brink of despair and the evacuation of desire before discovering the meaning of hope. Before we get to that brink we start clutching at false hopes. The John the Baptists of our lives – those who alone give authentic consolation – are not harbingers of doom but preachers of reality.
But at the graced moment of emptiness we are visited by hope that enlightens us about the meaning of the process we are passing through. Even if we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel yet we know – with a kind of night-vision – that we are on the way and even the feeling of failure or of being forgotten are part of the process that will flower in the light of love.
For those who live in hope (this is what Advent is about learning) there is no final closure or shutdown. As the old rabbi said God does not expect us to succeed but we are not allowed to give up. This is not only human wisdom about the need to endure. It is a disclosure about the infinite simplicity of God.
Laurence Freeman OSB
Stay Awake. This is the teaching of Jesus in the gospel for the first Sunday of Advent – the preparation time for Christmas.
I have been travelling in S America and Asia in the past few weeks and have seen the various effects of the global financial crisis. In retrospect it’s obvious that we slept-walked into the crisis, allowing the oscillation between greed and fear that controls the market place to induce a dangerous dream state.
The bubble burst. Reality dawned . And the awakening has been hard; and, as always in financial matters, hardest for those who have least and are the most vulnerable. In personal life also we frequently lurch from sleep-walking to rude awakening. Is there a way that we can stay awake? Can we avoid the extremes that cause so much suffering and confusion? Often when we are at our most inflamed and hyper-active we are in the deepest sleep.
Meditation – morning and evening – is the best antidote known to humanity to keep us awake, clear-minded about the illusions that lure us and the fears that control us. And to keep us attuned to the beauty and freshness of reality as each day invites us to be more awake, more real.
We know when we are awake because we maintain the same clam spirit of attention between all changing activities and sensations.
If your meditation has become lazy or more irregular of late, think of this training time of Advent as an opportunity to restart and renew the practice.
A good lectio practice would be to memorise these words form the Gospel and allow them to clear the mind at stressful times of the day, morning noon or night:
“Stay awake, then for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight or in the morning. And what I say to you I say to all: stay awake. (Mark 13: 34)
Laurence Freeman OSB
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London W8 6HT UK
New book by Laurence Freeman now published:
First Sight: The Experience of Faith