Nov 12 2017

Observing Celtic Advent & Liturgical Time

 

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The Myrrh-Bearing Women, witnesses to the Resurrection, celebrated on the third Sunday of Easter

I studied for my MDiv at a school embedded in a monastic community. Each day, we gathered for prayer under the guidance of the church calendar. Time itself was caught up like a thread and woven into the recurring round of seasons, feast days, memorials, and observances. Liturgical time became a reminder that the Kingdom was at hand and we could not help but remember the centuries of disciples gone before. And God was weaving each of our timelines into the Story for future generations.

I wondered: what is the design God is weaving with me?

Even the way dates were named changed. Sunday, November 12, would become the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (or for the Anglicans and Presbyterians among us, the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost). After a few months of hearing the date proclaimed in this way,  my own internal sense of time and seasons began to shift. One day as I began to journal, I started to write the liturgical date, so natural it had become. The relationship between human time and God’s story of redemption intertwined.

presentation Bénédite de la Roncière

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, February 2

At the Contemplative Cottage, the seasons are represented by icons and symbols that call to mind the particular story remembered. The Orthodox tradition brings to the Body of Christ rich gifts of visual images for this specific use–icons honoring the many feasts and observances, windows to the wider reality of Kingdom life. The icons help us remember the great cloud of witnesses and each thread of their lives woven as a testimony to us today. On a particular day or throughout a season, an icon or symbol takes a more prominent place in the house, and a bouquet of flowers or candle might mark it.

mary tells the disciples

Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles, July 22

Observing Celtic Advent at the Contemplative Cottage is a way for me to recover a more contemplative and prayerful focus between Thanksgiving and Epiphany. The early Celtic Christians observed 40 days of Advent as a preparation for the Lord’s Nativity, mirroring the 40 days of Lent. This practice begins on November 15. Not unlike Advent calendars which count down the traditional 4 weeks before Christmas, the Celtic Advent Calendar journeys from mid-November to Christmas. I’ve also included additional traditions of the “O Antiphons” and the “twelve days of Christmas,” ending the calendar with the chalk Epiphany Blessing (20+C+M+B+18). It anchors the busyness of this season by giving a simple activity and/or a scripture verse for reflection for each day.

Celtic Advent Calendar 2017

The observances at the Cottage and shared on this blog come from years of moving through the cycle of stories, rediscovering old traditions, reclaiming their practice, and then sharing them with others. The most challenging seasons are ones that sneak up on me–as Advent and Christmas did for so many years. The rush of the consumer holiday season (now starting with Halloween!) and the academic year often meant I missed expectantly reflecting on Christ’s birth in my life and in the world of human history.

If observing an extended preparation for and post reflection on the Nativity this year resonates with you, I’ve updated the Celtic Advent Calendar for your use. Feel free to share it with others and your wider community.

Happy 23rd Sunday after Pentecost!

Susan

If you want more ideas for living the church year in home and life, I recommend Kimberlee Conway Ireton’s lovely book The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year. It is out of print, but you can still get it for Kindle here

(an edited repost from the archives)

May 28 2017

Experiencing Spacious Time

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I’m honored to be a guest blogger at Presbyterian Outlook this week.

Over Easter weekend in 1999, my close friends convinced me to end my Lenten media fast a day early by going to a movie. Based on the good reviews and the promise of an enjoyable evening, I agreed.

The movie was “The Matrix.”

Advice for people who have fasted from food is to ease back into eating with a small, slow meal. After six weeks without media, “The Matrix” was like eating a five-course dinner while skydiving.

Though tame in comparison to today’s movies, the violence shocked me, even as I was captivated by the incredible story. It drove home how the Lenten fast had reset and heightened my senses. Like Neo, when he finally sees the Matrix for what it is, I realized how much immersion in screen stories had desensitized me.

Working with Young Adult Volunteers at the time, I longed to live more faithfully within the Story that God was writing. However, especially after a long day of ministry, it was easy to disappear into a show or movie. While screen stories, such as “The Matrix,” were powerful food for reflection, too much screen-time dulled my sense of participation in my own life and in the lives of those around me.

That Lenten fast was the first of many media fasts I practiced over the years. At the turn of the millennium, it was easier to set boundaries around the internet and TV.

Then everything changed.

Join me for the rest over at Presbyterian Outlook Magazine.


Nov 15 2016

Celtic Advent Begins

2017 Version is here.

Day 27 on Cultivating Sanctuary.

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Sometimes the smallest act can have the biggest consequences. Even a small pebble creates ripples.

And this is what I’m inviting you to do for the next 40 days of Celtic Advent…

Make some ripples of beauty, joy, and love.

St John of the Cross writes, “Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.”

Many years ago I created this calendar for Advent that suggests one simple thing you can do each day that might create a ripple of love moving out into a love-thirsty world.

You can read more about the history of this calendar in this blog post. It’s really three calendars in one, celebrating Advent, the ancient “O Antiphons” and the 12 days of Christmas.

Share widely and freely.

And for some further encouragement, here is a lovely version of the prayer of St Francis (pause the Music for Dreaming to the right >>):

Happy Advent!


Nov 8 2016

Leaving Sanctuary, Part One

Day 26 in a series on Cultivating Sanctuary.

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While cultivating sanctuary space and time is incredibly important in a world where such intentional practice is often in short supply, sometimes the sanctuary itself can become a barrier.

It is so easy to take something good, an icon that invites us into a wider reality of God’s presence and kingdom, and make it into an idol, something that chains and imprisons us away from love, into self-protective habits.

When a sanctuary is functioning as an icon, our vision is open and possibilities are abundant. Peace pervades the space or the time, and the focus is on gratitude for God’s presence. Self-care boundaries are in place, but permeable and flexible, allowing for the breath of life to rhythmically flow in and out.

When a sanctuary becomes an idol, we move into guard-mode. Lock doors and shrouded windows. The world outside becomes a scary place to venture and it all seems easier to stay safe at home. This desire to stay home can be literal or metaphorical, and in my own life, I’ve experienced both temptations.

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Years ago, I was terrified to fly. My first flight was trans-atlantic to Germany and I flew many times back and forth over two decades without issue. Then I flew through a powerful thunderstorm, spending what felt like an eternity holding on as the plane climbed and then dropped sharply over and over.

Looking back, I had also just been in a serious carwreck and as trauma often does, I can see now that the two experiences merged in my psyche. From that point on, I panicked everytime I needed to fly and finally began taking the train (which gave me a love of train travel). My pastor and mentor at the time, Lynne Baab, challenged me when I said I would never fly again. She said, “You cannot promise that. You need to be prepared to go where God calls you, and that might require flying.”

She was right. While I finally found freedom from the fear, I didn’t let it stop me from traveling by air when necessary.

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And then, God called me to lead trips to Ireland each year. What I would have missed if I had remained safely on the ground!

Sanctuaries are great to come home to after an adventure or a scary experience, but not to stay in without leaving.

Crafting sanctuary in our homes and lives will only be life-giving if we are weaving beauty, peace, joy, love, and life, into them, nurturing the very gifts that the world needs; making visible in our lives and homes God’s presence and welcoming others to experience it.

When fear or anger is a thread in the making of sanctuary, the temptation to build defenses and hide within becomes strong.

If remembering to leave your sanctuary is a challenge (it can be for me, too), I offer this beautifully rendered short-film by Pixar. It captures the call to move out of our sanctuary into the world, better than words, and more joyfully.

Be at peace, Christ has overcome the world!

Susan

 


Nov 3 2016

Retreat


I’ve been leading two retreats the past week at Sinsinawa Dominican Convent. The last days of the Cultivating Sanctuary series will continue when I return…


Christ’s grace and peace to you,

Susan


Oct 28 2016

Friday Florilegium

Day 25 in a month-long series on Cultivating Sanctuary. (And yes, my faithful readers, I’ve had to choose not to blog a few times this week in order to maintain an internet-free sanctuary.)

julian-with-cat

The florilegium for today comes from Julian of Norwich, 14th century English anchoress, and the first woman known to have published a book in English–Showings, or Revelations of Divine Love. She lived in a small two-room cell leaning up against a church, spending her days in prayer and giving spiritual counsel to those who visited her window. Anchoresses were allowed a cat, so Julian’s icon often shows her with a cat.

Considering how important Minerva is in my own life as a single person, I can imagine that Julian’s cat was more than just a mouser, but a companion as well.

Julian experienced 16 “showings” she believed were given to her by God, and then spent 20 years meditating on those visions. Here are my three favorite passages, among many, that show our sanctuary in the love of God:

And in this [God] showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God. In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it. But what is this to me? Truly, the Creator, the Keeper, the Lover. For until I am substantially “oned” to him, I may never have full rest nor true bliss. That is to say, until I be so fastened to him that there is nothing that is made between my God and me.

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Would you learn our Lord’s meaning in this thing?
Learn it well: Love was his meaning.
Who showed it to you? Love.
What did he show you? Only love.
And for what reason did he show you? For love.
Hold on to this, and you will learn more of the same.
But you will never, without end, learn in it any other meaning. 

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All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

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