O Antiphons

advent
The O Antiphons are a sequence of seven Advent prayers written in the first centuries of the Church. These prayers call on Christ to come, addressing Him not as Jesus, for in Advent the Messiah has not yet appeared, but by titles given Him in the Old Testament.
The poet Malcom Guite has written seven sonnets in response to the seven O Antiphons. I am going to share two of them here with you today. The first is O Clavis, O Key, and the second is O Oriens, O Dayspring. The first speaks of the darkness of our humanity and our need for the Key to unlock our prison; the second speaks of the rising Morning Star that will come to illuminate all our darkness.
Linger over these. Read them slowly. Read them again. Let the Key, let the Morning Star speak to you in the stillness.
advent waiting
O Clavis
Even in the darkness where I sit
And huddle in the midst of misery
I can remember freedom, but forget
That every lock must answer to a key,
That each dark clasp, sharp and intricate,
Must find a counter-clasp to meet its guard,
Particular, exact and intimate,
The clutch and catch that meshes with its ward.
I cry out for the key I threw away
That turned and over turned with certain touch
And with the lovely lifting of a latch
Opened my darkness to the light of day.
O come again, come quickly, set me free
Cut to the quick to fit, the master key.
advent light
O Oriens
First light and then first lines along the east
To touch and brush a sheen of light on water
As though behind the sky itself they traced
The shift and shimmer of another river
Flowing unbidden from its hidden source;
The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera.
Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice
Are bathing in it now, away upstream…
So every trace of light begins a grace
In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam
Is somehow a beginning and a calling:
‘Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream
For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,
Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking.’
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The Deepest of Darkness

There is much darkness in our world.
It is tempting to believe it will always be so.
The darkness feels thick, impossible to escape.
darkness
We see glimmers of light here and there, glimpses of what should be, but the darkness continues to prevail.
Yet once in time, Light entered our world, and we who walk in darkness saw His face.
Light came
Light came for a time,
then He left, returning to the Father, leaving the darkness unchanged.
The same hatred, the same selfishness, the same desire to be God,
it all fills the earth just as much as it did before the Light was made flesh and dwelt among us.
Yet something has changed.
The quality of the darkness has changed somehow. It feels different.
It feels…
desperate.
There is a frenzied quality to it, as though the darkness is no longer in its fullness, as though the Light who came was only a foretaste of what is to come.
There is much darkness in our world.
Yet the darkness that surrounds us feels now more like the deep darkness that comes just before the inexorable dawn.
glimmers of light
So keep watch.
Keep watch for the glimmers of light all around us.
Be a spark of light in the darkness around you.
No matter how dark the darkness, lift up your head and keep watch.
Morning comes
Morning is just over the horizon.

 

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credit: final photograph is by Kirk Sewell; all other photographs are copyright Made Sacred 2019

Face the Waiting

We are all waiting.
waiting
For a job.
For a child.
For a result.
For a friend.
We spend, it seems, much of our lives waiting.
waiting
When we are waiting, how do we behave?
We fidget, we fuss, we find a distraction.
Very rarely do we stop and embrace the waiting. Very rarely do we still ourselves and contemplate the waiting.
We often avoid leaning in to the waiting because the moment we stare into the face of our unfulfilled waiting, we are overcome with a strange longing.
For what, we are not sure, but there comes to us a lump in our throat, a tightness in our chest, a blinking away of tears.
And so we turn away. We turn to the diversion rather than to the waiting and believe ourselves to be satisfied.
Until we catch another glimpse of the waiting and discover ourselves to be empty.
Advent is a time for us to practice wrapping ourselves in the unfulfilled waiting.
unfulfilled waiting
It is a time for us to practice waiting well.
What does waiting well look like?
It means an active waiting, one that works toward what we are waiting for, just as a gardener waits for his crop of lettuce.
It means a patient waiting, a waiting that trusts in the sure coming of what we are waiting for, just as an astronomer waits for his star to rise.
Returning to our gardener friend who is waiting for his lettuce, it is a waiting that is peaceful, trusting that the waiting is purposeful, that the end depends upon the means.
This is Advent.
waiting well
It is a time for us to still ourselves and gaze straight into our waiting, knowing that even as He came once before, so will He come once again. Knowing that even as He will come again someday, so also does He come to us right now, in little ways, all throughout this in-between time.
In Advent we choose to practice the discipline of bidding welcome to our unfulfilled waiting,
knowing that in the proper time,
our waiting will be fulfilled.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

photographs copyright Made Sacred 2019

 

Isn’t That Just Like God?

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There is darkness in our world this Christmas.
advent
waiting
The news is currently full of war in Syria, a persecuted church in China, scandal at home.
There is, to be awkwardly transparent, darkness in my own self this Christmas.
be still
This has been a difficult year, full of the sorts of occurrences that God often uses to sanctify.
Deaths.
Medical troubles.
Bills resulting from the above.
Sanctification hurts.
darkness
As I sit in the darkness, in the stillness, in the waiting that is Advent,
sometimes I don’t want to be sanctified.
Sometimes I desire comfort and more than enough more than I desire to look like Jesus.
When we give our lives to God, He takes us at our word.
All that God desires for us comes steadily on, even when we sometimes would simply rather be left alone.
We think we know what we want.
We think we know what we need.
We think we know what to do to get it.
Especially at Christmas, we think that if we don’t do it, if we settle into the waiting and be still, it won’t get done, whatever it is.
advent waiting
Then God comes down into our darkness and asks us to see ourselves as we truly are:
empty-handed, powerless, dependent on One who refuses to leave us to our own devices.
This is often the way God loves us: with gifts we thought we didn’t need, which transform us into people we don’t necessarily want to be. ~ William Willimon
All of creation groans for redemption.
We are a people walking in darkness,
a people living in a land of great darkness.
we need a light
We are desperate for light, desperate for rescue, and God, in His great mercy, gives us

 

a baby.
We need a baby
Isn’t that just like God?

All photos copyright Made Sacred 2018

The Darkness of Advent

The final paper for my current master’s class was due this week, so I pray that this post from the archives blesses you. Thank you for your grace.

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

Christmas begins in the dark.
Dark
Advent, this season leading up to Christmas, is for us. It is for we who live in the dark.
This season seems to amplify pain. Those who are lonely feel more lonely, those who are grieving feel their grief more deeply, those who are hurting seem to suffer more.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay not to feel happy this time of year.
After all, Christmas doesn’t mean much if we don’t need it.
Mary
Mary understood. Her angel visitation led to a rift between her and her beloved, a painful journey on a donkey, and giving birth next to a chicken.
Even as she clutched her newborn son, she heard the prophecy of a sword piercing her heart and wondered.
Even after her Christmas, her beloved son grew farther and farther away from her, uttering such things as Why would you look for me? Don’t you know I must be about my Father’s business? and, when she came through the crowds to see him, My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.
Yet Mary stayed close. She trusted and held on to her faith in her son no matter how distant he seemed, even when he died. She stayed close. Everywhere we look in the gospels we see Mary, hovering on the outskirts, still showing up, still coming back to her son again and again.
Stay Close
Can we do the same?
Can we hold on to our faith in the Son no matter how distant He seems, even if He seems to be dead?
Light
This world is dark and we live in a continual Advent.
Don’t run away from the bitter-sweetness of this Advent season. You don’t have to pretend to feel joyful.
Colors
Tinsel
Don’t hide behind the tinsel and lights. Neither should you ignore the colors completely.
Linger as you abide with the sorrow and the joy, the hurt and the hope that are woven together in this season. Stay close to the Son however far away He may seem.
Christ
Settle into the knowing of how desperately we need Christmas, how desperately we need God-with-us.
Our Father promised that Christmas would come
and it came.
Our Father promises that He will come again
Christmas
and it will be all the more beautiful for having lived through the darkness of Advent.

Art credit: Pieta by Michelangelo; all other photographs copyrighted by Elizabeth Giger

Waiting in the Dark

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

We are all waiting in the dark.
dark
Waiting for results,
Waiting for change,
Waiting for healing.
Waiting for
Something.
We often believe that we are waiting in the light.
deceitful
We deceive ourselves into believing that we are not truly waiting at all.
false
Yet if we will simply be still in the dark,
if we will stop distracting ourselves with stark light,
if we will stop blinding ourselves with hollow sparkle,
there is a hope that whispers.
hope
This hope whispers that all of your waiting is pregnant with promise.
promise
This hope arrived once before.
This hope arrived silently, in the dark.
joy
This hope will come once again.
This hope will come in a blaze of holy light, banishing the darkness forever.
And in this in-between time,
in this already-and-not-yet time,
keep waiting.
Keep waiting with confidence.
Keep waiting with action.
Keep waiting with watchfulness.
waiting
Keep waiting with joy.

all photographs copyright Made Sacred 2018

This Flickering Hope

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

 

O Come
Flame
We cry out and we plead
O Come
Flickering
We need You. We hope for You.
O Come
Hope
Our hope is a flickering flame.
There are no bonfires of hope in a world like ours, only flames that flicker.
Sometimes our flame flickers so much that it seems, at times, to go out completely.

Hold on

Yet even if the flickering grows faint, hold on. It will not be extinguished altogether.
He promised.
…a bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice.
Hold on.
He will come
He promised He will come and set things right.
He is at this moment working through us – through you – to set it right.
Emmanuel
His promise was proved by His coming the first time. As a baby.
As Emmanuel.
God with us.
God with us
He established His Word as true by making His Word take on flesh and dwell among us.
God with us.
Emmanuel.
O Come
O Come
We raise our arms to the heavens in a desperate cry of
O Come
He replies, I did come and I will come again.
Emmanuel has promised.
Hope

This Industrious Advent

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

It is a quiet hush, this advent, but a hush that is expectant.
hush
It is a silent waiting, this advent, but a waiting that is heavy.
waiting
It is the upraised conductor’s baton before the explosive opening salvo.
advent
Don’t let the quiet waiting deceive you. The very idea of the God who spoke light into existence becoming an eyeless embryo swimming in the dark of a womb is astounding.
Don’t let the season itself distract you. The caroling and feasting, the decorating and gifting, it all tries to smother the startling significance of advent.
bling
Candy cane 2We must try to “restore that quietness, that inner peace, that willingness to wait unfulfilled in the dark, in the midst of a season that conspires to do nothing but fling bling and tinsel at us right through December.” ~ Malcolm Guite
Find your quiet moments and stay focused.
quiet
Advent celebrates a visitation to our world. A visitation that will happen again.
The visitation of our God upon this little planet of ours happened once and will happen again and we are to work to bring it about.
It is not a passive waiting. It is a heavy and expectant waiting. A waiting into which we are welcomed.
That is why, behind all our fun and games at Christmastime, we should not try to escape a sense of awe, almost a sense of fright, at what God has done…Nothing can alter the fact that we live on a visited planet. ~ J. B. Phillips
This advent is a waiting in which we are to pray and work for the spreading of God’s kingdom, for His will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.
This advent is a waiting in which we are to be awake and alert so that His coming will not be a horror to us but an unending joy.
It is a quiet hush, this advent, but a hush that is focused.
It is a silent waiting, this advent, but a waiting that is industrious.
advent
E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.

All photographs copyright Made Sacred 2017

Living in the Dark

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

Christmas begins in the dark.
Dark
Advent, this season leading up to Christmas, is for us. It is for we who live in the dark.
This season seems to amplify pain. Those who are lonely feel more lonely, those who are grieving feel their grief more deeply, those who are hurting seem to suffer more.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay not to feel happy this time of year.
After all, Christmas doesn’t mean much if we don’t need it.
Mary
Mary understood. Her angel visitation led to a rift between her and her beloved, a painful journey on a donkey, and giving birth next to a chicken.
Even as she clutched her newborn son, she heard the prophecy of a sword piercing her heart and wondered.
Even after her Christmas, her beloved son grew farther and farther away from her, uttering such things as Why would you look for me? Don’t you know I must be about my Father’s business? and, when she came through the crowds to see him, My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.
Yet Mary stayed close. She trusted and held on to her faith in her son no matter how distant he seemed, even when he died. She stayed close. Everywhere we look in the gospels we see Mary, hovering on the outskirts, still showing up, still coming back to her son again and again.
Stay Close
Can we do the same?
Can we hold on to our faith in the Son no matter how distant He seems, even if He seems to be dead?
Light
This world is dark and we live in a continual Advent.
Don’t run away from the bitter-sweetness of this Advent season. You don’t have to pretend to feel joyful.
Colors
Tinsel
Don’t hide behind the tinsel and lights. Neither should you ignore the colors completely.
Linger as you abide with the sorrow and the joy, the hurt and the hope that are woven together in this season. Stay close to the Son however far away He may seem.
Christ
Settle into the knowing of how desperately we need Christmas, how desperately we need God-with-us.
Our Father promised that Christmas would come
Christmas
and it will be all the more beautiful for having lived through the darkness of Advent.

Art credit: Pieta by Michelangelo; all other photographs copyrighted by Elizabeth Giger

Longing and Hoping He Will Come

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

Advent is a time of waiting. A time of light and of dark, a holy season of expectancy.
Come
Come
Advent means arrival and we are waiting for your arrival, oh Light of the world.
We sing our beautiful songs of longing and of hope and we pray that you will come.
Come
Come
Kings and prophets of old prayed, Come!
All my life, I have prayed, Come!
Yet has humanity gotten any closer to you in these thousands of years of our existence?
Have I gotten any closer to you in my few decades of life?
Or is the distance to you always the same no matter how far we travel?
When our bleeding feet have apparently covered a part of the distance to your eternity, don’t you always retreat twice as far away from us, into the immense reaches filled only by your infinite being?
You tell us that you have already come, once upon a time, as a baby in the straw. You tell us that you have come, have settled in among us and shared our drab and ordinary lives, but to be honest, it is hard to see you in this place.
Come
Come
To be honest, your arrival often feels more like a departure.
You came as you promised, but you did not change our poor and finite sort of life as you lived it. Instead, you became like us in every regard.
You lived every moment carefully, not letting any sort of torment slip from your cupped hands. You felt deeply every drop of this life and suffered it all, right to the bleeding end.
You, too, felt death coming for you, steadily, relentlessly. You, too, when you looked up to the One who is called Father, begging for comfort in your pain and dread, were met with deafening silence.
Is this why you came? Is this birth in Bethlehem and death on Golgotha the coming that is to redeem all of us from our human misery? Are we to be comforted simply because you also wept and met your end?
Come
No, now I begin to understand that we sing and pray this Come of hope and longing because you are still in the process of your coming. Your appearance as part of the very dirt you created was only the beginning of your coming.
You chose to rescue us from our misery by taking on our very misery and bringing it to the triumphant ending we could not have found. You alone are able to take the cross we all bear and change it into a triumphant banner of victory.
It is said you will come again, but again is misleading. It is said that you will appear again, and perhaps this is a better way of understanding because you have never really gone away. In all of our human existence you have never left us.
Come
Behold, you come. Now it is still the one single hour of your Advent, at the end of which we too shall have found out that you have really come. O God who is to come, grant me the grace to live now, in the hour of your Advent, in such a way that I may merit to live in your forever, in the blissful hour of your eternity.

~ all quotes are from Karl Rahner (1904-1984), German Jesuit priest and theologian. Many of the ideas in this essay are also from him.