Sunday, December 6, 2009

advent 2.1

I recently learned that the Carmelite tradition includes contemplating waiting, accepting, journeying, and birthing during the four weeks of Advent. Last week I spent a lot of time contemplating darkness and waiting, and I'm thinking this evening about the idea of "accepting." What does it meant to accept, in this theo-drama of the church year?

I see the story of God's work in Israel in the Carmelite themes, and particularly in the experiences of Mary. The people of Israel were waiting for salvation from their very real troubles and for things to finally be made right. Mary certainly wasn't sitting around waiting for an angel to show up and tell her she'd have a child who would Change Everything: but she was waiting, we might guess, for God to reach into history and do something good. (We are waiting--I am waiting--still, again. But how much should we be waiting, and how much should we be doing?)

After waiting, we move to accepting. I love a Kathleen Norris poem called "Mysteries of the Incarnation: She Said Yeah," which plays with the Rolling Stones song the crazy beauty of sexuality, its potential for loveliness and godliness in both practice and renunciation. Rosemary Radford Reuther is one of the many feminist theologians who point out the beautiful fact that Mary, Mother of Christ, could be called the first Christian: the first to say "yes" to God's redemptive work in the world through Christ, the first to submit to the upside-down nature of that Incarnation as God's intervention in human history. The angel asked Mary -- and God waited for an answer, reliant on Mary as a partner in this unfathomable project.

What did Mary have to accept? First of all, the impossible. But also, an uncertain future, the prospect of being called crazy and unchaste, even becoming a social outcast. And she accepted it all. Why?

And what are we called to accept?

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