Advent is soon to be upon us and for the upcoming Advent season, I have chosen doorways, windows, and hallways from Saint John’s Cathedral and from Prague as my photo-start to the meditation-writing process. Each morning after meditation practice and thought practice, I wander images I have taken over time and wait for one of them to shimmer in my mind when I see it. I then choose that image – and from it emerges a 300-600 word meditation which, combined with the photo, becomes the blog of that day.
One of the beautiful things about being a person who has chosen a spiritual path is that we are warmed by each other when we gather together. We gather online when we read together. We gather at church when we worship together. We gather in pairs when we meet together for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. We gather together in billions when we pray together alongside all the other humans on the planet whose prayers ascend together to the One who listens.
It is time to begin thinking about our Advent spiritual practice and I notice many questions as people at the Cathedral are considering their Advent. Do I need a spiritual guide these weeks? Do I have my spiritual director scheduled for the beginning of the season? Do I have the Cathedral Advent Quiet Nights (Wednesdays) scheduled into my month? What will I read? How will I pray? What can I do to mix things up in this season of longing and preparation for the incarnation?
Doorways, hallways and windows have long been symbols of liminal places. A liminal place is an in-between place. In the monastic tradition they are very special, holy, hot places. A monk is trained to pause at a doorway or at the end of a hallway to physically stop, pause and then proceed into the room or next hallway. This pause links the physical body to the mental activity of being in-between what was and what will be. A liminal place is an opportunity to ask good, hard, deep questions of our lives. Am I making straight pathways for God or are the hallways of my life cluttered? What will God have to scramble over in my life as God careens towards me in Advent?
By coming together with other people of faith, we stop treating Sundays as a spiritual good-luck charm or a weekly accessory to our lives. Being in church does not make us Christians any more than being in a garage makes a bicycle into a car. We begin to realize that church is about people gathering and warming themselves beside each other and in God’s glory on their way to transformation. We then take that warmth – shared in proximity and blown on by the blacksmith’s bellows of God’s Holy Spirit – and we take that warmth into a cold world craving God’s warmth in whatever flavor it comes.
In the fall we recommit by making our pledge so that money is not somehow separate from our spiritual lives. Then in Advent we commit to the coming of God in the form of a gentle, beautiful human. It must have broken the hearts of the disciples to have to have let Him go. What human has ever had such an impact on history? Church history tell us the hard truth that what we have done with that impact is arguably a mixture of good and bad choices – good and bad results. But Jesus must have been warm, kind, humble and gentle to have so freaked out the religious leaders of the day and, at the same time, gathered everyone else around Him into a following along the Way. So, in these days preceding Advent I am looking for warmth in cold days. By pausing at doorways and windows and the ends of hallways, I wait and listen for where I hear God’s bellows blowing and head for that heat.