And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all." And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us." And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. Luke 2:8-16
From the Isaiah lectionary passage this week, with crocus photos from last spring that I prepared for Assembly's Advent retreat this morning:
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
Isaiah 35: 1,2
There is a multitude of the heavenly host on my living room bookcase, singing, blowing trumpets, and playing harps. I suppose even the stars are singing.If you come to visit and step closer, you'll discover the tiny creche at the center of this scene. Someone in the household compared the sizes of the creche and the angels and declared, "That must be why the first angels say is always 'Fear not."
Our daughter, Beth, made this creche years ago from Sculpey clay, in a period where she was having great fun with miniatures. We're still enjoying it.
The ordinary table match in the background is there to give a sense of how tiny these figures are. My favorite is the kneeling camel, though the cat beside the manger and the pair of sheep also make me smile.
I've been musing on emptiness today.
This grows out of some recent conversations, as well as my Advent reading. I've been dipping into A Child in Winter, a collection of excerpts from the writings of Caryll Houselander, as well as Caryll's book of meditations on Mary, The Reed of God. Caryll was a lay Catholic Englishwoman, a mystic, artist and poet who did much of her writing during the challenges of World War II Britain.
Here's one from her on emptiness:
The law of growth is rest. We must be content in winter to wait patiently through the long bleak season in which we experience nothing whatever of the sweetness or realization of the Divine Presence, believing the truth, that these seasons which seem to be the most empty are the most pregnant with life. Child in Winter, p 29
Caryll was intrigued with the pre-Advent emptiness of Mary:
It is not a formless emptiness, a void without meaning; on the contrary it has a shape, a form given to it by the purpose for which it is intended.
It is emptiness like the hollow in the reed, the narrow riftless emptiness, which can have only one destiny: to receive the piper's breath and to utter the song that is in his heart.
It is emptiness like the hollow in the cup, shaped to receive water or wine.
It is emptiness like the bird's nest, built in a round warm ring to receive the little bird. Reed of God, p 21
At the beginning it will be necessary for each individual to discard deliberately all the trifling unnecessary things in his life, all the hard blocks and congestions; not necessarily to discard all his interests forever, but at least once to stop still, and having prayed for courage, to visualize himself without all the extras, escapes, and interests other than Love in his life: to see ourselves as if we had just come from God's hand and had gathered nothing to ourselves yet, to discover just what shape is the virginal emptiness of our own being, and of what material we are made...
Our own effort will consist in sifting and sorting out everything that is not essential and that fills up space and silence in us and in discovering what sort of shape this emptiness in us, is. From this we shall learn what sort of purpose God has for us. In what way are we to fulfil the work of giving Christ life in us? Reed of God, p 24
What shape is your emptiness? Where are you pregnant with life? How is Christ being birthed through you?
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"