Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Pause in Advent

The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. While our contemporary consumer culture begins the process celebrating Christmas right after Thanksgiving--with relentless marketing and an endless soundtrack of carols and songs--liturgical tradition takes a different approach. In liturgical churches you won't hear carols or see a Christmas tree in the sanctuary during Advent--those festivities are reserved for Christmas. Advent, by contrast, is a more solemn season of preparation and anticipation. We set aside these four weeks to prepare ourselves to receive this great mystery into our hearts.

"First Sunday of Advent: History of the Feast," God with Us

I've decided at the very last minute to sign up for Floss's A Pause in Advent. I would like the spiritual discipline of taking time every week to write about my favorite liturgical season of the year.

The above passage from God with Us goes on a little later to say, "Just as we might clean our house in preparation for the arrival of a special guest, so church tradition asks us to take stock of our souls and be at our best when the special day arrives." That's daunting, isn't it--the idea of taking stock of one's soul? How is your soul doing these days?

In general, I have felt that my soul is in need of watering. Of better care and feeding. I was reading an interview with the wonderful (and, sadly, late) poet Jane Kenyon last night and was struck when she said that poets need to be stewards of their gifts. "Protect your time," she writes. "Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours."

Not only is that wonderful advice for poets, I think it is fine advice for someone preparing to receive a great mystery. I will do my best to be quieter this Advent season, to turn off the radio, to turn away from the Internet, to read poetry and take long walks. On winter Sundays, I like to set out on a walk twenty minutes or so before dusk, so that as I'm headed for home the sky is flooded with pink and gold and a blue giving over to darkness.

I will leave you with a poem by Jane Kenyon from her wonderful collection, Let Evening Come (Graywolf Press, 1990).

Let Evening Come

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.


Nancy McCarroll said...

Thank you for her powerful poem. Let evening come, indeed.

Floss said...

That's brilliant, and I'm also really inspired by the words of the poet which you quote. So simple but true - it's not complicated but it's not necessarily easy, either. Thanks so much for joining the Pause - you are now in my sidebar and I'm looking forward to reading your comments each week in Advent.

Pom Pom said...

That's a fantastic poem. I'm so glad you joined Floss's Pause, Frances.
JK's advice is very good and right and I'm going to put it on my phone (in the notes) so I can read it over and over.

GretchenJoanna said...

I love that poem, and it is perfect for this season, of the year and of my life. Thank you, Frances, for the encouraging words.

Tracy said...

I like that last line or two.... God does not leave us comfortless. Thqt in itself is a comfort! I admire that you are able to step back in such a busy season of the year. For me that quiet begins at the end of the school year, which is mercifully earlier than the state schools.

This year I am looking forward to setting up our tree (first time I can say that in a while), planning gift shopping and thinking about our own Christmas meal once all the family get togethers are done. And then I an just looking forward to being still afterwards.

wayside wanderer said...

I really like this quote by this poet and am going to put that in my journal! I like the poem, too, but the quote fits me like a comfortable coat...which is very hard for me to find, I might add. Blessings to you as you ponder the Mystery anew!

Gumbo Lily said...

I love the poem. So many word pictures I can relate to. Her words are so good. Thank you and may God bless your Advent.

Heather said...

Those words make me aware of how peaceful we can make our lives if we only remember to make it so. Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Wow...I needed to read that today...thanks. Great to find you, Tina xxx

Chel @ Sweetbriar Dreams said...

This poem really made me pause for a while. I am using my daily posts for Advent as my time to have some peace and think about people and things around me more. Have a wonderful peaceful week.

Kezzie said...

Another beautiful poem x