In the dark, in the light

 

‘while it is still dark’ Jan Richardson

The hours slowly past. The silence was deafening. After her Lord’s death, Mary and all those around her felt that creation had paused in inexplicable grief.

They were barely able to carry Jesus from the cross to a tomb before the Day of Preparation began. Mary was unable to perform the ritual bathing and anointing for burial and so she waited. In the silence.

At the start of the new day, before the sun began to rise, Mary ran to the tomb. It was still dark but her heart was heavy and her love great.

No one could have prepared her for the moments to come. Moments where the blur of vision before dawn caused fear, confusion and awe. Where had he gone? What was she to do?

She was brave and filled with conviction. Whatever had happened she would work to get answers. She would proclaim the truth before her. In his absence and his return, Mary remained open to God’s love however far away.

In the moments of dark-before-dawn Mary’s faith would be sealed.

While it is still dark

You hardly imagined
standing here,
everything you ever loved
suddenly returned to you,
looking you in the eye
and calling your name.
And now
you do not know
how to abide this hole
in the center
of your chest,
where a door
slams shut
and swings open
at the same time,
turning on the hinge
of your aching
and hopeful heart.
I tell you,
this is not a banishment
from the garden.
This is an invitation,
a choice,
a threshold,
a gate.
This is your life
calling to you
from a place
you could never
have dreamed,
but now that you
have glimpsed its edge,
you cannot imagine
choosing any other way.
So let the tears come
as anointing,
as consecration,
and then
let them go.
Let this blessing
gather itself around you.
Let it give you
what you will need
for this journey.
You will not remember
the words—
they do not matter.
All you need to remember
is how it sounded
when you stood
in the place of death
and heard the living
call your name.
Jan Richardson

Mary’s “yes”

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

 

‘Yes’ has come among us. A light of hope shines to balance the darkness.

‘Yes’ was heard from near and far. It brought shepherds, angels, wise ones and the fear of a ruler. It was Mary’s “Yes’ that turned the world upside down.

If we listen closely we can hear that call today. We turn toward the sound of ‘Yes’ with hope. Hope- that our lives might emulate her decision that we, too, can carry God’s light.

Through the fog of hate and selfish living – through the noise of diversion and the fear of defeat, Mary’s ‘Yes’ arrives to show us a different way. It moves throughout this world searching for those in need and listening to those who feel they have no voice.

Saying yes is life changing, world changing.  What better time to reflect on Mary’s strong and courageous action. Did she know that faith-filled risks had to be considered for saving grace to shake a broken and scared world? Or did she just trust the angel’s explanation and move forward in her role as God-bearer?

Either way her example is before us. May we be inspired by her willingness, may we take the necessary risks to see the world changed once again.

Holy Monday — Precious oil

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(Annie Vallotton drawings)

“Mary’s act of extravagant love does not stand in the way service to the poor. Far from it.
It is the fount from which springs a lifetime of giving for the love of Jesus.”  Fred Durham

Holy Monday. John’s gospel told the story of Mary bathing Jesus’ feet with costly and fragrant perfume. Oil, they called it. With each stroke of her hand and brush of her hair she quietly and purposefully offered the first anointing as Jesus moved closer to his death.

The story does not end with Mary’s gentle preparation. This act was noticed and berated. The sweet smell and intimate scene probably drew much attention. Judas Iscariot, already focused on his own betrayal, considered Mary’s offering as a waste. This fragrant oil could bring much money, he chided, money which could be given to those in need, the poor. Judas was indignant as so often seen in the guilty. The reading tells us he cared little about the poor but found more interest in what filled the common purse. A purse he kept and often gleaned from the top for his own purpose.

A familiar voice indeed. We hear much talk about how money is distributed to include support for those in need yet right beneath the surface a different intent appears to brew. Maybe humans are wired to be selfish, maybe the “survival of the fittest” is primary in our DNA. So the concern becomes what is rightfully mine, what is fair, or worse, what do the poor really deserve.

We may find ourselves in each person at one time or another – Mary’s extravagance, Judas’ judgment and Jesus pausing to receive. This story is rich for reflection. Take note, our call to care for one another is best heard when the buzz of what should be is silenced.

A visit, a sanctuary 

 

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A painting by Enedina Vasquez

We have spent three Sundays listening to the strong and powerful voices of wise men and prophets. Men sharing news of what is to come – proclaiming good news and warning of the importance to prepare.

This Sunday the themes of sharing good news and preparation are ever-present yet we now shift to the gentle, honest exchange between two women. Filled with excitement and awe they share their insights. Together they can  acknowledge the holy children they each have been called to birth and mother. They can openly share their excitement and concern. They can support one another as they experience the wisdom they have gained, the sacred they now carry.

Elizabeth and Mary greet one another with a sacred kiss and in her elder-wisdom, Elizabeth shelters Mary as she gathers her strength to proclaim God’s good news to the world. The good news that justice will rain down and mercy will be ever known.  The scene has changed.

The time is near. As we have heard in the past weeks and here on this fourth Sunday of Advent, all of creation is preparing. May we continue to do the same. 

A Blessing Called Sanctuary

You hardly knew
how hungry you were
to be gathered in,
to receive the welcome
that invited you to enter
entirely—
nothing of you
found foreign or strange,
nothing of your life
that you were asked
to leave behind
or to carry in silence
or in shame.

Tentative steps
became settling in,
leaning into the blessing
that enfolded you,
taking your place
in the circle
that stunned you
with its unimagined grace.

You began to breathe again,
to move without fear,
to speak with abandon
the words you carried
in your bones,
that echoed in your being.

You learned to sing.

But the deal with this blessing
is that it will not leave you alone,
will not let you linger
in safety,
in stasis.

The time will come
when this blessing
will ask you to leave,
not because it has tired of you
but because it desires for you
to become the sanctuary
that you have found—
to speak your word
into the world,
to tell what you have heard
with your own ears,
seen with your own eyes,
known in your own heart:

that you are beloved,
precious child of God,
beautiful to behold, *
and you are welcome
and more than welcome
here.

—Jan Richardson 
from Circle of Grace