Hope holders: Reflections on Mary
Do you wonder why these beliefs have taken root in your
Roots which deepen, burrow into the secret places of mind and
Year after year, prayer by prayer, tear by tear, doubt by doubt until
Do you wonder why you believe the impossible-god as infant born of a
Do you wonder at this girl child, at her trust in the incomprehensible
How can this be, she asked, how can this be, we ask?
Why such Love For faded facsimiles of divinity, stumbling blindly toward light and Truth?
The Holy Spirit will overshadow you, Gabriel answered… is that an
Enveloped by wisdom, she carried eternity in her womb,
A child emptied of ego, of self, of sin, full, instead, of grace.
She who was filled with the hope of Adam, she who came
To dry the tears of Eve through her incomparable sorrows.
Do you wonder if there is a price for these gifts we have been freely
Must we not somehow offer back to Him some tiny
Struggle and sacrifice, penance and passion, some small
Finally we hear, we see and understand from her silence, her
Too immense for words, cannot be contained by the sea or the
We are to proclaim, to put in our hands and our hearts, to be
Poetry as language of the heart
I wrote that poem, “Hope Holders Reflections on Mary” back when poetry was the sole method for me to convey the search for, and then the gift, of this faith— the stunning, world-shaking, descent of it. Poetry has never been a form of writing that appealed to me. And yet, during those years, the “language of the heart” worked…when nothing else did.
The Greek word for conversion or repentance is metanoia- some, like me, think of it as turn around-180 degree turnaround. Think of a small child whirling around and around…then stopping, often to fall on the ground, giggling. Repentance just is not a big enough word, it’s too bounded and packed with narrow, rigid thought.
Turn around is better.
A Zen koan comes close, but only kind of: “Before enlightenment chopping wood and carrying water; after enlightenment chopping wood and carrying water.” Close because superficially, everything’s the same. But interiorly, nothing is the same.
Fr. James Brent translates metanoia as transformation of the mind. In a beautiful piece called, The Pathways of Metanoia, Fr. Brent writes,
The eyes of the heart are even capable of beholding God by grace. By the light of grace, the eyes of our hearts can behold God enigmatically in this life, through a certain reflection of him in our hearts, and face to face in the next (1 Cor. 13:12). Since the heart has eyes all of its own, and is capable of cognition, it is sometimes also called mind.
Once I learned about Advent,
it became of critical importance and becomes more so with each passing year. True, I think, because increasingly I see the awful consequence of sin. My own, and that of all of us. So these upcoming weeks are rife with opportunity for spirtual growth. To think about her: The young girl so reflective of the Lord that the angel Gabriel addresses her not with her name. But as “full of grace.” We could ponder that greeting for the rest of our lives and not plumb its depths!
Amidst the Hallmark Christmas movies, red bows, tinsel, parties, Christmas music and ubiquitous political clamor, lurks a presence. A whisper deep in our hearts, in our psyches and in our souls. One which evokes the proper phrase “the shaking reality of Advent.” It isn’t mine, but belongs to Jesuit Priest and martyr, Alfred Delp. A man who chose not to close his eyes to the growing evil around him, Father Delp was the Rector of St. Georg Church in Munich and an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime. Falsely accused of conspiring against Hitler, Fr. Delp was arrested in 1944, imprisoned, tortured and executed on February 2, 1945.
His phrase does not conjure images of jingle bells or merriment; he doesn’t intend them to. Instead, the shaking reality of advent inspires fear and trembling-even awe- if we but pause, close our eyes and let the Truth pierce through the myriad distractions, lies and evil which surround us.
Consider this statement written from Tegel Prison just months before he would be killed-
Oh, if people know nothing about the message and the promises anymore, if they only experience the four walls and the prison windows of their gray days, and no longer perceive the quiet footsteps of the announcing angels, if the angels’ murmured word does not simultaneously shake us to the depths and lift up our souls—then it is over for us.
Worth a repeat:
Father Alfred Delp’s words. “if the angels’ murmured word does not simultaneously shake us to the depths and lift up our souls” were penned in a prison, a Nazi prison by a man who knew he would be executed.
The Jesuit priest’s words exhort—from his grave:
” There is perhaps nothing we modern people need more than to be genuinely shaken up. Where life is firm we need to sense its firmness; and where it is unstable and uncertain and has no basis, we need to know this, too, and endure it.
Here is the message of Advent: faced with him who is the Last, the world will begin to shake. Only when we do not cling to false securities will our eyes be able to see this Last One and get to the bottom of things. Only then will we have the strength to overcome the terrors into which God has let the world sink. God uses these terrors to awaken us from sleep, as Paul says, and to show us that it is time to repent, time to change things. It is time to say, “all right, it was night; but let that be over now and let us get ready for the day.” We must do this with a decision that comes out of the very horrors we experience. Because of this our decision will be unshakable even in uncertainty….
We need people who are moved
by the horrific calamities and emerge from them with the knowledge that those who look to the Lord will be preserved by him, even if they are hounded from the earth.
The Advent message comes out of our encounter with God, with the gospel. It is thus the message that shakes – so that in the end the entire world shall be shaken. The fact that the son of man shall come again is more than a historic prophecy; it is also a decree that God’s coming and the shaking up of humanity are somehow connected…
Being shocked, however, out of our pathetic complacency is only part of Advent.
There is much more that belongs to it. Advent is blessed with God’s promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time. These promises kindle the light in our hearts. Being shattered, being awakened – these are necessary for Advent. In the bitterness of awakening, in the helplessness of “coming to,” in the wretchedness of realizing our limitations, the golden threads that pass between heaven and earth reach us. These threads give the world a taste of the abundance it can have….
We must not shy away from Advent thoughts of this kind. We must let our inner eye see and our hearts range far. Then we will encounter both the seriousness of Advent and its blessings in a different way. We will, if we would but listen, hear the message calling out to us to cheer us, to console us, and to uplift us.”
Used with permission from Lin Wilder.