Thursday, December 15, 2016

ADVENT GRIEF

Ever since I became a Christian, I have loved Advent. Picking out a tree is joyful and meaningful, reminding me of new life in the dark of the year. When I decorate the tree, I remember the star that blazed over Bethlehem.  I think of the shepherds shivering in their rough woolen cloaks as they guard their sheep by night. Then the angels come in a shatter of wings and light, and the shepherds are amazed, and afraid.  But--they somehow contain their fear and hike down to the stable where the luminous baby is lying in the manger.  So, too, the Three Kings or Magi, sway on their camels and turn their heads towards Bethlehem, arriving in time to offer costly gifts and worship. And isn't all worship costly in some form?

And the carols! After the tree is strung with lights, I bustle about, singing slightly off-key while I prepare candied walnuts to put into bags for my "kids." Soon the butter will soften, and I will make sugar cookies, using the ancient tin cutters passed down from my grandmother.

But still, still...despite all the real joy I find in Advent, making a wreath, attending Mass, and more...I have come to realize that this season is also a season of grief:

--grief for the babies who did not come or survive
--grief for our parents who have passed on, some too soon
--grief for youthful dreams of what we might have been
--grief for friendships lost and marriages dissolved
--grief for our grown children who are far away and may have lost their closeness
--grief for an aging body which used to be lithesome
--grief for the fantasy that we would live forever or at least one damn long time.

I think Advent is a time of great vulnerability. Is it the waiting for the Christ Child which brings this up or some other factors? I just know I am in touch with the raggedness of my heart this year and the holes in my soul.

Perhaps you attribute that plunging mood in the morning while you wait for coffee to the election of Trump and all the horrors it portends. I am guilty of this as well; this is real, but it is not all.

If we are going to "do" Advent in a way that heals us, we need to have rituals which acknowledge our losses at the same time we light the candles and hum carols.  As a Reiki master, I know of one such rite where people write down what they want to cast off and toss the slips of paper into the flames. We have a fire pit on the deck, and that will serve me well.

So, after I light the Advent wreath, possibly run into the bathroom to sob a bit and mourn my deceased
father, I will go outside, kindle a fire, and write down the griefs in my life. Then I will throw them into the flames and watch them turn to ash. Which is, in the end, exactly what will happen to them. And to us. The griefs will lose their hold; our body will change and be transformed; and we will pass into another life where there will be no tears, and no one shall hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, as God promised. And I am SO holding Him to that promise!