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Advent: Uncovering What Has Been Hidden

Advent 1a

Every year for the first Sunday of Advent we read a version of Jesus’ description of the end of days.  In the Gospel reading from St. Luke this week, Jesus’ language is filled with apocalyptic images of fear and trembling and signs “in the sun, the moon, and the stars.”   The word apocalypse essentially means revelation and is from the Greek for “uncovering what has been hidden.” In other words, apocalypse is about the revelation of a new truth in our lives.  And Jesus’ reminder to “beware that your hearts do not become drowsy” is well-heeded in a time when we are numbed by commercialism gone terribly awry.

This first week of Advent, as we enter a season of waiting and anticipation, we are being called to a state of alertness and watchfulness. Not the kind of caffeinated-hyperactivity we might experience trying to get through an endless stream of shopping and festive gatherings, but the kind of alertness that comes when we have rested well and are present to the movements of the Holy One among us.  What I hear in these words is a caution against the temptation to succumb to the busyness of life, to pile on commitments so that I never have time to really rest well and so am always too weary to be truly alert.

Awakening is a powerful metaphor for the spiritual journey.   In Eastern religion the dominant 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.  Dawn is a potent hour of the day experienced as a threshold time.  Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all prescribe morning prayers to greet the newness of God’s creation again with fresh eyes.  In Jesus’ invitation to us, he is calling us to this practice of becoming fully present to the moment and not falling asleep by dwelling in the past or worrying our way into the future.  This moment right now contains all the signs we need. The excerpt from Marilyn Buck’s poem above reminds us that everything is already revealed, we simply need eyes to see.  Jesus said the Reign of God is already here, we just need to know how to look.

In the invitation of Advent to prepare for the birth of God into the world, we are invited to awaken to the sacred possibilities being birthed deep within us, to shake off our slumber, open our eyes wide, and discover the sacredness of everything we encounter. This requires that we are well-rested, that our lives are rooted in balance so that our energy can be focused on this important task.  Our work this season is to examine the ways we keep ourselves asleep or numb and to make sure we are rested enough to be alert to the holy moments.

I invite you to awaken right now – begin by breathing in the beauty of this very moment.  Pause for just a moment and allow your breath to bring you to the present until it opens before you in all of its expansive grace.  Consider taking on a practice for Advent of cultivating presence, of saying no to something you find draining to create a holy pause in the day so you might discover the poem written in a grain of sand.

In your own life where have you fallen asleep? What are you awakening to?  When you become present to this moment in time, what are the secret gifts you uncover hidden deep in your heart?

Advent 1

© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts

Way of Monk Banner - April 12-May 23, 2010

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10 Responses

  1. Hi Christine, I’ve come back to this post today after just reading your latest post and viewing your latest beautiful visual meditation. I wrote of being awakened and alert several times this week over at MindSieve. As I reread your post right now, I realize that your post and my Advent readings have combined to waken me and allow me to curse the irrelevant busyness of this season and to bless the quiet moments that allow me to remember what this season is all about. Thank you! xoxoxo

  2. Thank you, Christine. A very helpful and lovely meditation. I am making the rounds of my favorite blogs this morning and all of them are inviting me to see how I have fallen asleep to Hope. Not in a personal sense or even in my “immediate” life. But to hope in a very global sense. To continue to hope for a time when our world will know peace. Or to hope that humanity will evolve to a point where it will be able to sustain itself and the planet. So, I appreciate the time this morning to sit and breathe in hope. And then, to breathe it out again. For the whole world.


  3. Thank you Christine for these reflections. I’ve choosen to read them at my Christian yoga classes this week – they fit so perfectly with what I had been pondering this morning as I gazed upon the sunrise, watching God’s great glory unfolding.

  4. Thank you so much for this awakening call at the beginning of Advent. I posted this on my blog with links to come here. Thank you.

  5. We read these same verses last night at church. Mary’s homily focused not on the fear of the end times, but rather on being alert and aware as you’ve explained so beautifully. Her challenge was to be doing God’s will and way when those times come. To do that you have to stay awake to God and His presence. I’ve started a Centering prayer practice and taking that holy pause during the day to simply rest in God’s presence has made me more aware of God’s presence all the other times or the day.

  6. Christine, you are the abbey this morning in all its prayerful retreat and wonder, and I celebrate you in that role and delight in your meditation. You asked: “When you become present to this moment in time, what are the secret gifts you uncover hidden deep in your heart?”

    I did discover something recently, and probably others know it well and work with it, but it seemed like a secret revealed. I was sitting at the computer, and I thought to straighten my back, place my feet flat on the floor and take my hands off the keyboard and place them on my thighs, closing my eyes halfway. After a time, I realized that my inner being had straightened also, it was not just in my mind, but the spiritual energy straightened also and it seemed like a yoga of being was occurring, the inner self realigning and reshaping into a most beautiful posture within.