“A branch shall sprout from the root of Jesse, and the glory of the Lord will fill the whole earth, and all flesh will see the salvation of God.”
—Entrance Antiphon for Dec. 20
The season of Advent; this season of silence and stillness; the season of waiting is fast approaching its end. In just a little while we will begin our celebration of Christmas. The glory of the Lord will once again “fill the whole earth” … or at least as much of it as we have given to him to fill. For the Lord cannot fill a cup already full.
This is the great challenge of Advent; to do some major de-cluttering in our hearts in the stillness and silence. In “The Reed of God,” author Caryll Houselander has provided some beautiful imagery to help us do just that in imitation of Our Lady. She speaks of the virginal emptiness of Mary as an “emptiness like the hollow in the reed, the narrow riftless emptiness, which can have only one destiny: to receive the piper’s breath and to utter the song that is in his heart. It is emptiness like the hollow in the cup, shaped to receive water or wine. It is emptiness like that of the bird’s nest, built in a round warm ring to receive the little bird.”
She goes on to ask, “can someone whose life is already cluttered up with trivial things get back to this virginal emptiness?” Yes! So, too, can those who are too full of their own big plans, those who are “too set on their own conscious purpose in life … Zealots and triflers and all besides who have crowded the emptiness out of their minds and the silence out of their souls can restore it. At least they can allow God to restore it and ask him to do so.”
If we have not yet captured the silence and stillness of Advent, it is not too late to do so. With God, it is never too late. Doing so is well worth the effort because as we learn from the example of Our Lady, into this emptiness rushes the Holy Spirit and in her case God is made man — the Incarnation — the greatest event in human history. For us as well, new life will be made in us when we make space for the Holy Spirit, when we carve out stillness and silence and dwell in expectant emptiness.
We can also follow Our Lady further and continue to learn from her. Having received, Mary then gives. “She had nothing to give Him but herself. He asked for nothing else. She gave Him herself. Working, eating, sleeping, she was forming His body from hers. His flesh and blood. From her humanity she gave Him his humanity.” As Houselander points out, Jesus is formed as Mary moves through her daily activities. “Every beat of her heart gave Him his heart to love with. … Breaking and eating the bread, drinking the wine of the country, she gave Him his flesh and blood.”
This is where stewardship enters our story. In embracing this Catholic Way of Life, we allow God into all our daily activities; we invite the Holy Spirit to come and dwell in our lives; we allow him to guide our daily activities, choices and work and he brings his life into the mundane. Like Mary, we have nothing to give but ourselves. And He asks for nothing else. But when we give that which we have, he gives back life in abundance. I think sometimes our greatest barrier to living this life of generosity, of abundance, of dedicated discipleship is that deep down we really don’t believe that it works this way. We doubt His generosity, we doubt our own ability to receive and then to give. Deep down, do we really believe in God’s ability and desire to transform our lives; to make them holy? If we struggle, living a life of stewardship can help. Stewardship gives us concrete ways to bring God into the small, daily choices of life. To allow Him to be made in the ordinary. To live deeply in the mystery of the Incarnation.
May the remainder of our Advent be filled with expectant stillness and silence. May we all experience the deep love of the Word Incarnate this Christmas. Many blessings to you and to your family from the Office of Stewardship!