The Middle Advent

The best time at the monastery was on Tuesday nights when the Harvard community were welcomed into the monastery for a taste of our life, our bread, our wine and sour dinner.  Intellectuals are fun because they are indistinguishable from the homeless. Almost as a way to prepare for the psychic energy that it takes to have hundreds of people enter into one’s home – many of whom were broken and sad and searching- was to pray together.  The brothers would gather in a chapel just next to this main chapel.  It was similarly cave-like, dark grey stone, heavy with windows intentionally designed in blues and oranges to cast a feminine hue on the place.  Both chapels were designed by Cramm to be womb-like caves.

In that side chapel we would gather, one and two at a time, an hour before the community Eucharist and in that hour, once we were all there, we would sit together, in silence, before the reserve sacrament and meditate together.  It was the most powerful experience of God I have ever experienced.  A dozen or more people, all trained meditators, were focusing their mind on God for what the church calls the “middle coming” of Jesus.  The first coming is in Advent and the last in Revelation but there are three comings of Jesus; and not two.  The middle coming is daily, in our lives, in prayer and meditation.

Recently I spent time with a friend and in our daily meditation times we sat in silence together meditating and then discussing what we noticed in our thoughts – gently holding psychic lanterns for each other.  Last night at Cathedral Nite it happened again for 20 or so of us – darkness, 20 minutes, silence, together, but with the Holy Spirit doing whirling dervishes between us as we sat in stillness.

It takes immense courage to be mindful.  One must face one’s thoughts, and then stay with them.  It’s a bit like standing in a crowded bus stop pavilion with familiar and unfamiliar travelers – all sorts and conditions – as the Book of Common Prayer says. But even more courage is summoned in order to face one’s inner life with compassion and loving kindness – to make friends with our fellow traveller-thoughts.  The scolding, boney finger of the skeletal 5th grade teacher is easy – any one can scold people.  But to be in loving, compassionate, kind, thoughtful conversation with one’s self or with others – facing hard things, acknowledging painful things, mourning losses, welcoming transitions, honoring successes with a nod and honoring failures with questions and compassion; this is Kingdom work.

“Thy Kingdom come” says the Lord’s prayer. What is it, this prolepsian “now” event, this “coming”? What if the question is not “When will Jesus come?” but rather “Can I be quiet enough to feel his moist breath on the small hairs on the back of my neck?”  And on yours.  And on his.  And on theirs.  And on ours. Welcoming “the One who Is” as there to love me as a model for my own self-compassion.

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