Third Sunday in Advent from the “sunny pew”

As we venture into the third week of advent, the elements of winter -–
that seem so antithetic and threatening to life – expand the
parameters of their reign.  We are venturing – as Joseph Conrad might
say – into The Heart of Darkness.  I am struck in the readings by the
relationship that is being requested between the Natural and the
Supernatural, between the Physical and the Metaphysical – and likewise
between the Mind (which can conceive) and the Body (and its senses,
which are confined to the immediate physical and transitory realm of
existence).  It is not only a relationship – but an argument, a
dialogue, a discourse  – one which arbitrates between that which is
evident and apparent in ostensible realm of the human experience, –
and that which resides beyond the mere image and appearance of the
temporal, material plane – and which contributes to a disparity
between the spiritual and the material , the mystical and the mundane,
the sacred and the profane.

Again, advent is a theological construct that implants itself at a
point in the calendar year when  the severe and extreme conditions of
the natural world force us to experience the threshold of our
tolerance and limitations. The hostile forces of nature become so
fierce and so unmitigating in the external landscape, that they
connive to abolish all sense of hope. The elements of darkness and
cold become increasingly more vicious and unrelenting in their
assault. It is an exceedingly arduous and difficult passage of time
during which we are asked to withstand a darkness that intensifies and
grows more pervasive with each day that passes.  And as Light in our
world diminishes, so does Warmth.  The earth is no longer capable of
replenishing the sustenance necessary for survival. Things become more
gaunt, more attenuated, more grim – as do our spirits.  If logic and
reason were confined to the mere material realm, and the information
transmitted through the physical senses, our outlooks would be
psychically gruesome – and apocalyptic. For it would feel and appear
as if the tyrannical reign of darkness were going to overtake and
triumph over the power of light, as if the frigid temperatures that
betray the capacity of life and growth were going to irrevocably
subsume and engulf. The sense of Anarchy and anxiety induced by
darkness is replacing the certitude and assurance of form and order
which typify the Illumined world. It is chilling and grim.
Understandably such apprehensions – ratified by the factual realm,
metabolize into fear, anxiety, hopelessness and futility. It is easy
to get apocalyptic in our distress and despair. It would seem that
dissolution and decay,  have victor-ed over the creative, the
regenerative.  Death seems to be winning over Life. And it is this
fear, anxiety, terror, and hopelessness, induced by that which is
occurring on the outside, and in the Natural kingdom –  that brings us
to God – and to the other worldly considerations. That brings us to
meditation and prayer.  And that brings us to the aspect in our own
nature that conceives and believes and interacts with the divine.   As
if there is within the human anatomy, in addition to the more physical
attributes that define the species, the small kernel, the seed which
signifies the capacity to understand, address, and await God. This
kernel, is the manger in which salvation will be delivered. It is the
grotto.  It is primitive and hidden beneath the layers of artifice,
edifice and civilization.  Beneath Image and Appearance.

And even now, the days continue to grow darker, colder, more ominous.
The readings are those that offer hope to subsidize our endurance.
They offer assurance   Not to give up – to wait –to have faith.  As I
shared before, there is no greater feeling than to sense that God is
with us, to feel the inextricable presence of the divine in the
immediacy of our lives and our spirits, our surroundings.  To
experience God in the present moment.  But often, the human experience
implies feeling forsaken or abandoned – experiencing the absence of
the sacred or the divine.  Of  having our spirits eroded by Doubt. It
is then we must rely on the scaffolding and framework, that our Faith
as Christians and our belief system provides, to pull us through. It
is an inner construct.   Symbolically, just as what we are being asked
to persevere as we approach the threshold our our limitations, a voice
cries out in the wilderness, assuring us that salvation is on its way.
Our readings during this challenging time of the year are infused
with John’s Assurance, his unassailable Certitude of what is to come.
And so we await in joyful anticipation. In eager expectancy. Out of
the wilderness appears John The Baptist proclaiming the imminence of
the Lord, urging us to keep fast the straight and narrow, to get rid
of the highs and lows, not to deviate,  to fix the straightest course
in our consciousness and souls between ourselves and God.  The
shortest distance between two points. John arrives not from a
synagogue, not from civilization, not from the social, political, or
economic construct, but out of the wilderness to assure us that Help
is on the way, and to prepare ourselves to receive  – and perceive its
presence when it arrives.  As we know from being seasoned, such divine
presence and Holiness will be controversial, denied, refuted,

In Isaiah, we are prepared to anticipate
the utter transformation and revolution that will occur as a result
of God’s arrival and presence into our lives, That which is barren
will be made fruitful, that which is dry and parched will be
moistened, the high shall be made low, etc.  Such attributes are are
reiterated on an emotional, political and social level by Mary in The
Magnificat .  Where God is present all is transformed.  The ordinary
is extraordinary.  The First become Last, The Humble Exalted.   I am
most touched in The Isaiah reading  by the reference to a path – a
holy path amidst all the otherwise unsanguine aspects of
existence…This is the spiritual path…And it exists within the
subterfuge of each moment – and of each extraneous construct – it
exists within  and in spite of any social, political and economic
system –  Offering a course,  a sense of direction, guidance, and
deliverance.  Holy things are for the Holy.   This is a path we
follow, as people of a sublime faith, toward the metaphorical promised
land, the kingdom of God, It is the journey from darkness to light.
from bondage toward liberation, from damnation toward salvation.  It
offers Deliverance.

In the gospel reading Christ acknowledges and affirms the promises of
transformation anticipated in both Isaiah and the Psalm…And Christ
establishes a correspondence between the heavens and the earth,
between the divine and the mortal, His presence and power encourages
and relies on the  testimonies of those whom he serves. It is not
dictatorial or dogmatic in that regard. It is not estranged from
humankind.   It invites us.  It needs and requires our eyes, our ears,
our mouths, We are active participants in the ministries.  The news is
carried from John to Christ and back again through messengers.
Through mortals.  We bear witness and give testimony.  It is a
dialogue.  A discourse. A correspondence.  Sometimes we carry the
message.  Sometimes we are the message.  Christ  signifies the mediary
ambassador between the supernatural and the natural, the divine and
the corporeal, the sacred and the profane.  His ministries require our
participation – and in order to participate we must abolish our own
separateness.

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