Advent is the time when we prepare our hearts for the birth of Christ anew within us. We are not waiting for the birth of a baby. We are not waiting for someone who is not already here. Rather, we are clearing away the obstacles that cloud our awareness of the indwelling Christ. Our own vanity and seeking security, control, and approval/esteem in the world are the obstacles that kidnap our awareness from Christ within. Let us release the incessant mental commentary and walking around in the kingdom of me and instead, be captivated by admiration and appreciation of the abundance within and among us--the kingdom of God made manifest here and now on Earth.
Adaptation of the Contemplation on Divine Love
(from The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius)
Begin by imagining yourself in the presence of a person with whom you deeply resonate and love. This could be a spiritual figure, a close friend--animal, plant, or human, or a beloved family member (alive or deceased). Imagine in detail the place where you meet. Hear the sounds, notice the scenery, smell the aromas, feel the air on your skin and the comfort of being in their presence. Notice how relaxed and at peace you feel. Allow yourself to experience the warmth of their love. Take your time.
Next, share with them the desires of your heart. What do you truly want at this time in your life? Talk to them about your hopes for the future. Know that they care deeply about you, that they are FOR you. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Jesus). “All things are possible for the one who believes” (Jesus). You are always with me, and all I have is yours (LOVE).
Now as you rest in this embrace, recall the many gifts that you have already received in this life, particularly the gift of redemption. Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. He came to give us life abundantly. From what have you been redeemed? Redemption is experienced differently by each person. Perhaps you have been redeemed from guilt and shame. Perhaps you have been redeemed from anger. Perhaps you have been redeemed from financial poverty. Perhaps you have been redeemed from fear. Perhaps you have been redeemed from low self-worth. Perhaps you have been redeemed from an abusive situation. Perhaps you have been redeemed from sickness. Perhaps you have been redeemed from addiction. Perhaps you have been redeemed from arrogance. Perhaps you have been redeemed from grief and loneliness. Perhaps you have been redeemed from self-pity. Remember with gratitude and fondness the unique gift of redemption that you have received. Hear LOVE’s voice saying, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.”
Next, reflect on how God dwells in creatures, in the elements, in the plants, in the animals, and so in you, giving you being, animating you, giving you sensation, and making you to understand; likewise making a temple of you, being created in the image and likeness of Divine LOVE. Absorb the fact of the indwelling Christ. Christ is in you, the hope of glory (St. Paul). “Love is [your] true identity. Selflessness is [your] true self. Love is [your] true character. Love is [your] name” (Thomas Merton). Your soul is like a beautiful castle made of diamond or crystal with God dwelling in the center (St. Teresa of Avila). Your soul is like a highly polished mirror with the image of Christ at its center. Christ may be seen in every part of your soul as clearly and distinctly as you may see him in a mirror (St. Teresa of Avila). “For God in his goodness has united the soul so completely to himself that nothing at all comes between” (Julian of Norwich). You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Now, consider how God works and labors for you in all things created on the face of the earth; how you are part of an interdependent web of life; how your very being depends on the existence of everything else on the planet; how every detail of life is intricately formed to preserve all beings. Reflect, also, on how you are called to work and labor to promote the reign of God on Earth, the country where LOVE is president, by manifesting love, compassion, kindness, and forgiveness; how by challenging the societal status quo that promotes us against them, consumerism, fear, pride, greed, and selfishness, you are joining Jesus in standing with the poor, oppressed, and neglected. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Jesus).
Finally, ponder the abundant provision that is yours daily; how all of your needs are met; how tenderly you are loved. Allow yourself to be lost in admiration and appreciation for the gift of your daily life. “Do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? . . . But seek first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Jesus).
And so, this Advent we pray:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding, and my entire will,
all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Be born in us, Incarnate Love! Be born in us, Incarnate Love!
Take our flesh and blood and give us Your humanity;
Take our eyes and give us Your vision;
Take our minds and give us Your pure thought;
Take our feet and set them in Your path;
Take our hands and fold them in Your prayers;
Take our hearts and give them Your will to Love.