From the Hermitage
By Sister terese alise
There is a certain amount of hopelessness in our world and each of us has to learn to navigate through. It is never God’s plan for us to suffer so God has promised to be with us when we do. The Christmas story, all the way through to the Baptism, shows us some of these ways.
These seasons are filled with all the virtues we have come to recognize…charity, hope, faith and peace among the most outstanding. We might experience them in silence. Yet at root is selflessness.
If we explore hopelessness carefully, we might discover self-seeking or someone else to blame. I feel hopeless when politics grind on or families feud. Hopelessness is noisy, full of conversation and full of excuses. Hopelessness winds its way through dark and wild spots. We feel betrayed. It reminds us that we are useless and that things cannot indeed be fixed or even improved upon. It is a place of frustration where the focus is on me and my desire rather than the other and what they might need. Hopelessness is self-seeking.
If we enter, however into silence, even if only of the heart, we might discover that the expansive life we can live is all-inclusive. Even those things that bug us, those things that cause us to wallow in our sin or self-deprecation, even these things can be swept up into a world that is open and welcoming. Is one always cheery? Probably not. Do things hurt us or leave us scratching our heads? Probably. But cast within the winds of this place, our hearts are turned another way. Look, for example, at our wonderful story. Neither Mary nor Elizabeth were hopeless at the news of the birth of sons. They were concerned first about each other. Even Joseph and Zechariah’s hearts, in their surprise, were turned toward the women they loved and the sons to be born. The tiny Infant Jesus will gloriously wink at His parents and they will receive the gift of His presence. There is no self-seeking among any of them…only the tenderness of loving.
Silence is an attitude and practice of the heart and not always an external atmosphere. I have been in many, many very noisy situations and yet my heart was still and who would know? Equally, I have been in many quiet retreats and my insides were not at all peaceful. The former was something about selflessness, the latter about self-seeking. Our journey through Advent hopefully helped us with those virtues and the movement away from self-seeking. Even in the color scheme of purples and rose, of darkness and light, or the quickening fire of love, we are caught up. We want to be busy about decorations and presents and visiting…and yet there is something in this season that invites us deeper. Silence holds us so that we can learn to receive midst all our desire to give.
In these next few days before we celebrate the Nativity of our Sweet Redeemer, let’s explore. First let’s ask, am I willing to search no matter where or when to find this Jesus that I might learn to receive from Him; and secondly, like the Kings who will come from far away to behold the tiny One in awe, am I willing to be caught up in a selflessness that allows God to give to me? Do I know the peace of receiving Him? Am I willing to enter into the silence that “breaks the hold on time and accept that our true home is not here on earth, but in eternity”? (Sr. Wendy,1999).
By choice God expresses fullness and devotion, respect and reverence, humility and peace wanting us to receive, that we might become an ever deeper part of this amazing incarnation, enfleshment, and Kindom bearer with all our kinfolks who are willing to stand up against hopelessness and embrace selflessness. This is where peace is born. This is where we are drawn in silence into the very heart of our God.
“The path to peace is not to seek it, but to seek selflessness. Self-seeking of any kind narrows our potential and destroys the balance on which peace depends. Too often we misunderstand the nature of it. We should not try to control our lives. If we are set upon doing so, we have abdicated from peace.” (Sr. Wendy, 1999).
Be filled with the silence of selflessness and receive the One who loves you dearly. BLESSINGS.
(Sister alies therese is a vowed Catholic solitary who lives an eremitical life. Her days are formed around prayer, art and writing. She is author of six books of spiritual fiction and is a columnist. She lives and writes in Mississippi.)
From the Hermitage