Yesterday morning I awoke at my hermitage and stood in the kitchen to make some breakfast with my back to the window. I eventually turned around and saw a small rainbow across the waters of the Hood Canal over the Olympics. Leaving behind my food, I grabbed my camera and hurried down the steps to the beach.
One of the readings last Sunday from the Christian lectionary is from the letter St. Paul wrote to the Romans. This line has been lingering with me the last couple of days: "You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep." I don't like the rest of the reading with its emphasis on apocalyptic endings and leaving behind the evil darkness. My theology isn't salvation-oriented, and is much more cyclical and embracing of the gifts of darkness. However, I love the image of awakening. It is the theme of our expressive arts program for spiritual directors and is a great metaphor for our journey of transformation.
When I heard Michael Meade speaking a few weeks ago he talked about how the primary metaphor in Western religion is that of the fall, we are a fallen humanity needing to be redeemed and so the emphasis becomes salvation. But in Eastern religion the metaphor is of a humanity that has fallen asleep to our true nature and forgotten who we are, so practices emphasize learning how to re-awaken to our truest and most authentic selves. One of the great gifts of inter-religious dialogue is the expansion of vision we have for how the world operates. Each is a metaphor, a way of thinking about things. Each contains some kernel of truth. These two ways of seeing the world may seem at odds, but the nature of religion is paradox, and so each offers us a part of the whole. And one vision is never the entirety of what is possible or true.
Advent is very much about awakening, shaking off our slumber and opening our eyes wide to see the sacredness of everything we encounter. So awaken my friends, and begin by breathing in some beauty that was a gift to me on a quiet morning.
-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts