Saturday, December 24, 2011

Meditation on a Drawing by Fritz Eichenberg

Born in a manger

Announced by angels

Tracked by comets

Greeted by shepherds

Welcomed by gentle animals

Sought by ruthless kings

Found by curious magi

Adored by generations:

Remember the children

Save the church

Calm the avenger

Heal the rivers

Restore the fish

Reconcile religions

Restrain demons

Depose idols

Deploy angels

Whatever it takes.


May mirth and merriment prevail in your households and in your hearts.

Jonathan+, Nancy and

Jason, Jayden, & Teagan (Troy) Caitlin & Michael (New York City) James (Troy) David (Detroit) Zack (Flint, MI, soon to be Bedford, IN) Katie (East Lansing, MI)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hunting and Hunted

Advent: Hunting and Hunted

Why is it that I seem to flourish during Advent?

“It’s because he gets to go deer hunting,” you are thinking, and that is partly true.

Yet there is more to Advent, even for someone who cherishes the rituals of deer camp only a

little less than those of the church year. As the weather grows more harsh, something in the heart

of the world seems to soften. As the leaves wither and dry, something in the trees comes alive, as

if listening. As the first snows soften the landscape, something warms the spirit, just as a

woodstove warms a frigid room.

“There he goes, back to deer camp again,” you may be thinking. But it was in Advent, 1958,

that I first attended a silent Retreat, and first allowed myself to become submerged in the flow of

divine reality around me. It snowed heavily during those three days, wrapping the Retreat

Center in a shroud of silence. For the first time, I found myself spending long periods of time

sitting quietly in church with no service in progress, no organized activity at all, only the tangible

sense of a silent and living presence.

If you think that was odd behavior for a sixteen-year old, remember that I was used to sitting

for hours in the woods listening for the sound of a deer’s approach. Listening for God isn’t that

much different, except that you don’t wear blaze orange and you don’t have the intention of

shooting God if given the opportunity.

But in Advent we are “hunting” for God, and, amazingly, God comes “hunting” for us. So the

hunter becomes the hunted, stalked by a ghostly presence. Yet this powerful being is the most

gentle of predators, the kindest of adversaries. To be swallowed by God is the happiest of fates.

To be ambushed by God is to cast out all fear. To be preyed upon by God is the epitome of

prayer. To die with God is to be reborn with Christ at Bethlehem, in Michigan, or in Paradise.

These may not be your Advent thoughts, nor were they mine in the winter of 1958. But every

Advent has its own surprises, its own brand of silence. All we have to do is listen.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Random Reflections: The "Great O Antiphons"

Random Reflections: The “Great O Antiphons”at Christ Church Cranbrook, 2nd Sunday of Advent, 20-11

Latin phrases often evoke strange, and sometimes bizarre, associations for me. Last Sunday at Christ Church Cranbrook, as I listened to the choir chant the traditional Advent “O Antiphons”, these are some of the random thoughts that occurred to me, and I wrote down…

O sapientia. O wisdom. O intelligibility. O logic. O sanity. O mathematical equations. O sentence structure and syntax. O coherence and structure and form. If objects are indeed intelligible, “does not the intelligibility of the object presuppose an intelligent ground?” (Bernard Lonergen)“O O O O that Shakespearian Rag— It’s so elegant So intelligent…” (T.S. Eliot) O sapientia, “quae ex ore altissimi prodisti, and covered the earth like a mist.’ (Ecclesiasticus 24:2) O O O O.

O Adonai. O mighty. O fire of the Burning Bush. O consumption unconsumed. O point dimensionless, at which Being emerges, unexplained, from Nothing, at this moment coaxing atoms into material existence from the vortex of whatever whirls at their center, at this moment spinning us off from the limitless center, spinning us off as atomic dervishes, whirling mightily, whirling on the seamless line where Nothing ends…

O radix Jesse. O root. O radish. O turnip. O beet. O rutabaga, O root vegetables of every kind, buried safely under earth and snow, beyond the need for retaliation or revenge, beyond the need to hurt or destroy in all the holy mountain, feeding us far into the winter, feeding us when all other food has failed, feeding us jam noli tardare – never tardy, rarely served in fashionable restaurants, barely noticed by government inspectors, ever abundant, ever prodigal, ever rooted/radix/radical/ and real…

O clavis David. O key. O combination to the lock. O password. “You open and no one closes; you close, and no one opens”. Sedentum in tenebris et umbra mortis… sedimented in darkness and under the umbrella of death… buried under yards of earth alongside the beets and radishes… buried, but here unearthed by the descent of a mighty silence, its power unlocked by chant, loud organ, and this clavis David…

O oriens- O rising dawn. O morning star. Directional orientation for every nomadic tribe, gravitational force without magnetism, center without circumference, beloved of navigators, goal of every compass, hope of the lost …(disoriented in thick woods, I came across my own boot-prints in the snow, consulted my compass, saw how lost I had become, saw, astounded, how much counterintuitivity would be required to become unlost again. From whence did all these benign themes originate? Hope for the lost…release of prisoners… kindness to strangers… peace among peoples… food for the hungry…water in drought-stricken places… a universal vision of gentleness and mutual peace… how did such notions come to swirl together with such force within the literature of one small middle-eastern country?... How do such far-fetched notions come to resonate so powerfully with us still?

O Rex gentium… O ruler of the unruly and the alien, the unbelievers and the unsaved…O rock and cornerstone…lapisque angularis…

Two Chinamen, behind them a third,
Are carved in lapis lazuli,
Over them flies a long-legged bird,
A symbol of longevity;
The third, doubtless a serving-man,
Carries a musical instrument.

W.B. Yeats, Lapis Lazuli

We are the long-legged bird, lifted by the music for a bird’s eye view, lifted high above the angle of the rock, our lapisque angularis, which is our listening-post, our perch, our launch pad, and, if we ever hope to come to earth again, our landing-zone.

O Emmanuel… O God-who-is with, with us, with it …with our children in an unknown future, with these singers in a flourishing past, with us witless pilgrims come from outer space, washed up unexpected on what Holy Isle?