sometimes the universes dispatches angelic ambassadors. sometimes it provides signs that renew our strength and replenish the sense of endurance and fortitude we need to continue. sometimes it sends assurance that the sense of salvation and redemption we are seeking is on its way. just as there are forebodings, warnings, and omens,( that can seem almost diabolically , if not conspiratorally complicit with what may be happening in our lives, so does the language of the Divine include prescient and symbolic harbingers of “things to come.” It is the second week of advent. for some, it is still continuing to grow darker, colder, more barren – and more challenging. hope diminishes. belief grows anemic. we can become gaunt. hunger deepens. death seems to prevail in the landscape – and in our own emotional, spiritual interiors
in this weeks gospel reading we hear of the arrival of John The Baptist, announcing and assuring of us of the Lord’s Imminence. As advent, we continue to wait in joyful anticipation, even though the dark elements seem to be combining and growing in strength around us – and now we have one arriving in advance to assure, with certitude, the arrival. as spiritual beings, we are most happy and serene when we feel at one with God, when we feel God’s presence, inextricable from the rapture, sense of exultation, and tranquility in our hearts. but we do not always feel the presence of God. sometimes we feel forsaken, abandoned, and are tempted by the sense of Doubt induced by logic and reason. for faith and belief are always mystical and defiant in this regard. neither faith nor belief are manufactured by the intellect. they are mystical, sacred, and mysterious. our mental faculties are merely tools in service of a belief and faith that must be renewed in our hearts and souls. sometimes we need what john the babtist symbolizes to assure us with infallible certainty that the light and warmth we are seeking is on its way. but we must never mistake the messenger with the messiah…he has come announce the forthcoming arrival, to assure us, and, as in the lenten period, prepare our souls to welcome the sacred guest…he baptises with water to clean us so that we may be prepared to receive the truth and the spirit, which will have the properties of fire. it will bring light and warmth into the world, into our hearts, although outwardly the darkness and cold still threaten….
we must prepare to receive god, just as martha prepares. but we must not mistake those that precede – as the holy or the divine. as christians we are asked to be like christ. we are also asked to be like john, to announce and assure others, to carry the message, despite how forsaken or bereft. the word precede is at the root of precedent. john sets a precedent…sometimes what we have to offer to another, compassion, guidance, a kind word, a smile, is what offers an innuendo of divine love, it can have the very qualities of mercy, tenderness, compassion and forgiveness that we ourselves seek, and have learned from our love for the divine.
What occurred to me while i sat here not doing the laundry is How John Himself Was Delivered. What do we know about him, and his appearance in the mortal realm – how does he appear – announcing the pursuant deity?
We are told that he arrives in wild garb, and eats of berries and nuts. He exists outside the norm, hardly one of social convention. His attire alone reinforces his “closeness to the elements.” There is something both Wild and Transient about him and his solitary travels A primate, a neanderthal, a sort of sonni (of sonni and cher who i always remember wearing furry vests) and subsidized by raw nutrients that bear a direct affinity with nature and the wilderness. While our education has trained us to Know and Approve of John, we must not forget (just as the controversial nature of Mary’s pregnancy) the Unexpected, Unconventional, Extraordinary, Means by which he introduces himself. He could easily be perceived as a barbarian, an outcast, a renegade, a heathen. There is a spiritual primacy to all of us. As christians we are reminded that Salvation will be born in a manger, remember – amid the lambs and goats and cows and ox, in hay, in a stable (or cave) – – but not in the Inn. There is no room at the inn, which is a social, civilized construct. The Religious Experience occurs outside all civilized constructs. This is why John – in not appearing like the others but bring testimony and assurance – must also chastise those who represent The Temple (or Organized Religion) – The church can prepare us to recieve God, and its rites and rituals create a framework and Discipline (from the word Disciple) – but they are aids in our spiritual journey. They are not necessarily the spiritual experience. They prepare our souls to be transformed into mangers where salvation begins…Our souls are not artificial constructs. They are not civilized (unnatural) man made fabrications. They are hidden within the trappings of experience, education, learning and all the things we acquire that are extraneously imposed. Christ returns us to that spiritual primacy and infancy. It is where the grotto, the cave, (and femininist doctrine would eagerly chime in “the womb”), where God originates and is both conceived and delivered – in the Soul.