A Litany of Advent
I engage with sacred scripture, from any spiritual tradition, as offering a metaphor for my life. So when I read that Joseph, husband of Mary, had a dream in which he heard that his wife would conceive a son, to be named Jesus, who would save his people from their sins, I am reminded of my own redemption. When I hear the testimony of Peter, close friend of Mary’s son, saying that Jesus went about doing good and healing people from oppression, I recall my own healing; and when I ponder the declaration of Paul, a guy who had a life-altering vision of Jesus, stating that the anointing (consecration, power, or blessing) to manifest goodness, just like Mary’s son displayed, is alive and active in each of us, once more I recollect my own salvation. Paul called Jesus, Christ, literally the anointed one. He said that this anointing lives in each of us as “the hope of glory.” What is this anointing to do good? It is Love. Therefore, every time that anyone has shown me Love, manifested Christ, allowed him or herself to be a vessel of glory, Jesus has metaphorically, and quite literally, saved me from my sins. It’s a long list. I have been redeemed a lot.
With these considerations in mind, I begin my litany of Advent. When Mama said, “I am so proud of you,” I was redeemed. When Daddy called me “my lovely daughter,” I was redeemed. When Aaron said, “I want to eat the cookies. I want us to eat the cookies,” I was redeemed. When Zack told me that sometimes we must do things that are for the best, even if others don’t like it, I was redeemed. When Josh said that he and Zack know me in context, I was redeemed. When Julie called me “Ani of Jesus,” when Dana called me “Joy,” when Dottie said that my friendship was more important, when Anj said that it wasn’t personal, when Shirley said that God could free me from that, when Monique called me “Aunt Andrea,” when Lyn reminded me, “You always wanted . . .”, when Cathy paid for my meal when I forgot my wallet, when Martha said she loved me, when Marshall signed, “Merging,” when William called me “Good Ani,” when Snaggle sat on my lap, when Della and Gabe and Kurt and Bettie and Beth and Judy and Michael and Darby and Nathan and Olivia and Deidre and Maggie and Denise and Athena and Carey and Sylvia and Liz and Ann and Helen and Tony and Simone and . . . and . . . and if your name was not mentioned, it doesn’t mean that you are not on the list. If you are reading this, you are on the list.
You may be wondering why I call this a litany of Advent. It is because Advent is the time of year that I celebrate the birth of Christ, the anointing of Love, within me and within all. It is the time that I especially remember how I have been healed from oppressive shame, fear, and guilt through the kindness of others, those who have allowed Christ to be born in them. It is also the season when I am reminded to consecrate each day as a daily Advent. I recall my own story of how I have been been given a new name--favored one--of how I am invited to go about doing good and healing others from oppression through birthing the Love within me.
Kathleen Norris told the story of a Native American pastor who made the annunciation narrative meaningful to his congregation by calling it a naming ceremony. In the Jewish scriptures we read that Abram became Abraham, the father of many nations. Jacob became Israel, the one who struggles with God. In the Gospel of Luke, Gabriel called Mary, favored one.
What’s in a name? Redemption. Do you remember the movie Man of La Mancha? Within the story, an abused woman gets a new name. Here is an excerpt:
Don Quixote says: Sweet lady, fair virgin . . . (He averts his eyes worshipfully) I dare not gaze full upon thy countenance lest I be blinded by beauty. But I implore thee - speak once thy name.
The woman responds: ALDONZA
Don Quixote: My lady jests.
She says again: Aldonza
Don Quixote: The name of a kitchen-scullion... or perhaps my lady's serving-maid?
The woman replies: I told you my name! Now get out of the way.
(She clears past him to the table. She is invested in her own view of herself. She can’t accept his view of her as innocent, as beloved. Don Quixote keeps smiling, still keeping his eyes averted.)
He says: Did my lady think to put me to a test? Ah, sweet sovereign of my captive heart. I shall not fail thee, for I know... (and in the movie, he begins to sing to her, calling her by the name of a lady of high birth)
Don Quixote: I have dreamed thee too long, never seen thee or touched thee, but known thee with all of my heart. Half a prayer, half a song, thou hast always been with me, though we have been always apart. Dulcinea . . . Dulcinea . . . I see heaven when I see thee, Dulcinea. And thy name is like a prayer an angel whispers . . . Dulcinea . . . Dulcinea.
When the realization of Love awakens you, it is your annunciation. You hear your name, favored one. Your annunciation is between you and Love. It happens in the heart of your soul where Love dwells. It is an intimate exchange. It is deeply personal and transformative.
In this season of Advent, I invite you to construct your own litany and to accept your new name. Let it begin now. Merry Christmas, favored one. Love is with you.