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Adventby Sr. Christine Schenk, CSJI waitwith quickened hopefor crooked pathsto straighten,with tough-soul’danguish,while blindedkeepers of the keysshut outGod’s own.(If such a thingwere possible.)I wait,and will not bedismayed.For tiny shootof Jesse treetook root in meto lovetransform,give sight
set free.Source: National Catholic Reporter, December 12, 2003 – found on the Education for Justice website.
I remember the Advent Calendar of my childhood. Mother would pull it out of the box of decorations every year, and every day I would open a new window or door and see the delightful picture behind it. I don’t recall that it felt like a particularly spiritual experience, and it was a Christmas-y (with Santa) kind of decoration. Nonetheless, it still had its spiritual lessons – to count the days – to wait patiently – to experience expectancy and anticipation of something good. We need that still in this darkest time of the year – and in all the darkest seasons of our lives. It’s the lesson for a child and for us.
Advent Calendarby Rowan WilliamsHe will come like last leaf’s fall.One night when the November windhas flayed the trees to bone, and earthwakes choking on the mould,the soft shroud’s folding.He will come like the frost.One morning when the shrinking earthopens on mist, to find itselfarrested in the netof alien, sword-set beauty.He will come like dark.One evening when the bursting redDecember sun draws up the sheetand penny-masks its eye to yieldthe star-snowed fields of sky.He will come, will comewill come like crying in the night,like blood, like breaking,as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child
Source: The Poems of Rowan Williams, by Rowan Williams. Grand Rapids,MI: William B. Eerdsman Publishing Co., 2004. Found on the Education for Justice website.
Advent 1955By John BetjemanThe Advent wind begins to stirWith sea-like sounds in our Scotch fir,It’s dark at breakfast, dark at tea,And in between we only seeClouds hurrying across the skyAnd rain-wet roads the wind blows dryAnd branches bending to the galeAgainst great skies all silver paleThe world seems travelling into space,And travelling at a faster paceThan in the leisured summer weatherWhen we and it sit out together,For now we feel the world spin roundOn some momentous journey bound -Journey to what? to whom? to where?The Advent bells call out ‘Prepare,Your world is journeying to the birth
Of God made Man for us on earth.And how, in fact, do we prepareThe great day that waits us there -For the twenty-fifth day of December,The birth of Christ? For some it meansAn interchange of hunting scenesOn coloured cards, And I rememberLast year I sent out twenty yards,Laid end to end, of Christmas cardsTo people that I scarcely know -They’d sent a card to me, and soI had to send one back. Oh dear!Is this a form of Christmas cheer?Or is it, which is less surprising,My pride gone in for advertising?The only cards that really countAre that extremely small amountFrom real friends who keep in touchAnd are not rich but love us muchSome ways indeed are very odd
By which we hail the birth of GodWe raise the price of things in shops,We give plain boxes fancy topsAnd lines which traders cannot sellThus parcell’d go extremely wellWe dole out bribes we call a presentTo those to whom we must be pleasantFor business reasons. Our defence isThese bribes are charged against expensesAnd bring relief in Income TaxEnough of these unworthy cracks!‘The time draws near the birth of Christ’.A present that cannot be pricedGiven two thousand years agoYet if God had not given soHe still would be a distant stranger
And not the Baby in the manger
Source: Collected Poems by John Betjeman. London: John Murray; New Edition, 2003. Found on the Education for Justice website.
“Expectans Expectavi”, by Anne RidlerThe candid freezing season again:Candle and cracker, needles of fir and frost;Carols that through the night air pass, piercingThe glassy husk of heart and heaven;Children’s faces white in the pane, bright in the tree-light.
And the waiting season again,That begs a crust and suffers joy vicariously:In bodily starvation now, in the spirit’s exile always.O might the hilarious reign of love begin, let inLike carols from the coldThe lost who crowd the pane, numb outcasts into welcome.Source: Collected Poems, Anne Ridler. Manchester: Carcanet, 1997. Found on the Education for Justice website.
This is but an excerpt from the Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem entitled, “The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air We Breathe”, found on the Education for Justice website.
WILD air, world-mothering air,Nestling me everywhere,That each eyelash or hairGirdles; goes home betwixtThe fleeciest, frailest-flixedSnowflake; that ’s fairly mixedWith, riddles, and is rifeIn every least thing’s life;This needful, never spent,And nursing element;My more than meat and drink,My meal at every wink;This air, which, by life’s law,My lung must draw and drawNow but to breathe its praise,Minds me in many waysOf her who not onlyGave God’s infinityDwindled to infancyWelcome in womb and breast,Birth, milk, and all the restBut mothers each new graceThat does now reach our race—Mary Immaculate,Merely a woman, yetWhose presence, power isGreat as no goddess’sWas deemèd, dreamèd; whoThis one work has to do—Let all God’s glory through,God’s glory which would goThrough her and from her flow
Off, and no way but soSource:Poems, by Gerard Manley Hopkins. London: Oxford University Press, 1956.
Somewhere your star-struck choir singsAs the evening unpeels our histories.The world is here again!I feel the breathing of yuletide fires,The ribboned refrains of seasoned candlesAnd bars of voices beyond St. Stephen’s Wall.The robin appears in a globe of joyHis carol negotiating wreaths of cloudAnd tinsled cakes of snow.We wing into the holy dayWhile the blinking eye of the gifting moonReceives you at that vanishing pointOn memory’s path:Outlived by loveAlone.
Today’s Advent poem from Education for Justice is by Edwin Muir.
As if their grace would never break
This is an excerpt from the poem “Annunciation” by Denise Levertov. I read this poem last advent when on a wonderful Advent Retreat with Michael Fish, OSB Cam, at Santa Sabina Center in San Rafael, CA. The poem can be found on the Education for Justice website.
‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn, Greece, VICWe know the scene: the room, variouslyfurnished,almost always a lectern, a book; alwaysthe tall lily.Arrived on solemn grandeur ofgreat wings,the angelic ambassador, standing orhovering,whom she acknowledges, a guest.But we are told of meek obedience. No onementionscourage.The engendering Spiritdid not enter her without consent.God waited.She was freeto accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.Aren’t there annunciationsof one sort or anotherin most lives?Some unwillinglyundertake great destinies,enact them in sullen pride,uncomprehending.More oftenthose momentswhen roads of light and stormopen from darkness in a man or woman,are turned away fromin dread, in a wave of weakness, in despairand with relief.Ordinary lives continue.God does not smite them.But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.Source: “Annunciation” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by Denise Levertov. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997
Here we are on December 1st: the first day of Advent and 24 days till Christmas. If you saw any postings here during Lent, you would have seen some poetry that I found on the educationfor justice.org website. There is a similar collection entitled “Advent Poetry Companion:Poems for Prayer and Pondering. ” I hope they will help you in this time of waiting – while our days grow shorter and the night grows long -while we look longingly for one who will bring us hope. We wait for the Advent – the Coming of the Light.
“In Mary-Darkness” , by Jessica PowersI live my Advent in the womb of MaryAnd on one night when a great star swings freeFrom its high mooring and walks down the skyTo be the dot above the Christus i,I shall be born of her by blessed grace.I wait in Mary-darkness, faith’s walled place,With hope’s expectance of nativity.I knew for long she carried me and fed me,Guarded and loved me, though I could not see,But only now, with inward jubilee,I come upon earth’s most amazing knowledge:Someone is hidden in this dark with me.Source: “In Mary-Darkness” from The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, edited by Regina Siegfried, ASC, and Robert F. Morneau. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward, 1989