DARK AFTERNOON - ADVENT
Winter time – cloudy – cool
days – rain – snow in the air.
Although predicted, no sun came out. Something drew me to
walk outside – I miss sunshine
but felt drawn to walk. Cool damp
air wrapped around me. Kept on walking –
quiet of the neighborhood touched
me – I felt something – deep –
mystery. Modern life – big cities –
full of noise – we have busy lives.
Today in the neighborhood –
silence reigns – mysterious – deep.
One can say – silence
is empty – nothing there.
But walking slowly – listening –
feeling something is there –
I have to stop once in a whole –
look – listen –not to look – hear
sport’s racing cars. Walking in the
quiet, I am in another wave
length. Slowing down – listening –
I feel myself – my heart beating –
see winter trees – standing bare – at attention.
Silence prompts me to write this poem –
trying to put into words –
what seems to be nothing – silence –
If I listen closely – stand still –
I feel a meeting – silence has a
presence – presence of the divine.
My life has slowed down – someone
else came in.
Let me to be open to this meeting –
someone tells me – the Lord loves me –
watches over me – fills the silence
with my gratitude.
OUR CONTEMPLATIVE PATH
“My soul longs for the Lord more than
the watchman waits for the dawn.”
WATCHMEN IN THE NIGHT: ADVENT
In the Old Testament, the psalmist mentions that his soul yearns for the Lord more than the watchman waiting for the dawn. Watchmen, the security guards of the ancient cities, made their rounds in the night and were happy when the dawn came to end their work. On examining the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, we note that many important things happened at night. The shepherds were tending their flocks and the angels announced to them the birth of a savior. Then, a choir of angels appeared and sang praises to the newborn. The shepherds went to the town of Bethlehem to visit the family with the child. The Magi, also, watched the stars in the night and then followed the special one in the darkness until it led them to Bethlehem
I have been attracted by the phrase “watchmen in the night” as capturing the meaning of the contemplative path to which God calls us. It points to the mystery of this encounter since God is transcendent and an ineffable presence in our life. Our contemplative life is a response to this meeting. As John of the Cross mentions, in the dark night, God has us lose many attractions we have for our human activities, such as work, recreation, art, etc, and we are drawn to a peaceful resting in the divine presence. It is not something that we have control over but God gently touches us to want to be with Him/Her. This presence is different from others because we sense it at our deepest core – at our center. For this reason, there is no one so close to us as God. On the other hand, in other relationships such as friendship or marriage, the other person is always opposite to us.
For all the above, contemplatives are called to grow in their inward journey and be sign to others who are also called to discover this way of interiority. The mystics that are popular in history are ones often who have left behind writings and exemplary lives showing us the way to God. John of the Cross’ beautiful poetry and the autobiographical and spiritual writings of Theresa of Avila are examples. By reading these works, we can get an insight into their interior life helping us on our path.
Contemplatives living out their inward journey are a sign and ask a question to the world around them. Humans are busy with their life of work, family, education, etc. and the contemplative path being one of silence and interiority presents another dimension of life. It raises the issue of the ultimate meaning of our journey on earth with its contingency and temporality. The contemplative path points to a presence within us which is the ground of our being and the goal of our life on earth. We can be so busy in life with every day affairs that we lose sight of this or never discover it. It takes a reorientation of our life to become aware of this presence and make those changes so that we can grow in a relationship with it. God is not only present within us but also is active in the world and in the lives of all people. In beginning our journey inward, we will grow in sensitivity to the divine actions in the world. We are social animals living in societies with other people and need to realize how God is active in these groups making them more just and peaceful.
Contemplatives are examples of ‘watchmen in the night’ signaling others to join them in this interior journey. As Psalm 129 says, “My soul longs for God more than the watchman waits for the dawn.” It is a difficult journey demanding changes within ourselves so that we can be ready to meet the absolute; we humans are selfish and proud and these are obstacles to growth in union with the Transcendent. In the contemplative path, God takes the initiative to meet and touch us and we have to sit in silence and listen and wait to see how the divine reveals itself and woos us into a mutual love. We are not in control but God will do it in His/Her own way and time.
As I mentioned in the title, contemplatives are ‘watchmen in the night.’ They live in silence and a presence hopefully helping others to be aware of a light and love within themselves. This presence of God who is transcendent but also so close to us as no one else is a mystery and so our relationship with the Absolute is in the night. As long as we live on earth, we will not possess God but only touch and taste the divine. For this reason, John of the Cross in his beautiful poem ‘In the Dark Night’ has to two lovers meeting each other in the night full of mystery and desire.
In a dark night,
burning with fires of love!
“I will seduce my love, lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.”