On Sunday, after Liturgy, we trekked to the beach (about a mile from the church) and participated in the Blessing of the Waters- in this case, the Atlantic Ocean. This blessing happens as close to Theophany as possible. Theophany is celebrated on January 6- when we celebrate the Feast of the baptism of Christ and the blessing of the Holy Trinity is revealed. After the prayers are read, the cross is thrown into the water. Some intrepid soul or souls will dive after it and receive a blessing. My children could not believe that someone would actually go in- the temperature that day was only forty degrees. They really didn’t believe me that in colder climes like Russia and Canada, they actually cut holes in the ice to bless the water and dive for the cross!
Advent is this way of holding space for a coming not yet fulfilled. We are called to put on wonder and hope. What comes so simply for children becomes increasingly difficult for us as we grow older. We look out on a very weary, weary world; we have known sorrow; we are acquainted with grief. And somewhere along the way, we forget that the very babe we hope and pray for is the very Emmanuel, the God-with-us, that suffers sorrow unto death for us, who knows deep hurt, deep sorrow, deep pain, far more than we could ever fathom. The lines get crossed somehow. This is what Advent does- what Lent does- (and Advent is often referred to in the Church as ‘little Lent’ with good reason)- it circles round and opens a space of peace where we remember. We connect the dots. We put on joy, peace, hope, and love through grief, remembrance, and sorrow.
I keep thinking of this as I hear the news headlines. There is deep, deep pain right now. Crying out in the streets. So much hurt. So many voices wiser than I are speaking into these issues, but above all, I have felt so deeply in these moments that this is where we were meant to walk. We were and are supposed to be the Advent people, the Easter people, the people who know how to hold space for peace. I’m not sure how this looks all the time. Sometimes, it is giving voice for those who have no voice. Sometimes it is holding silence, because there are no words. It is always prayer, unceasing prayer. Sometimes it is caressing a child’s face, making cookies, and holding peace in our homes when the world outside storms. It is all these things and so much more. Rarely does deep and complex pain have easy answers, and it above all takes time. and space. Can we hold space for peace in a world desperately in need of safe places? What does that look like? These are the thoughts that have been circling my head of late as I watch my children in their wonder at Advent-tide.
“But let us not put our sights too high. We do not have to be saviours of the world! We are simply human beings, enfolded in weakness and in hope, called together to change our world one heart at a time.”
The world, it shakes underneath our feet. My brothers and sisters in the Middle East face grave danger; communities that have lived side by side for thousands of years fracture. Anger and fear walk wide upon the earth. In my own community, loss and sadness and pain. Frustration. Heat. Entrenched problems. It’s not so different. In my own home, the filth of my heart is laid bare, the sharp words, the impatience, the weakness of a heart that fails to trust her Maker.
“What can I do in the face of this sorrow?” my heart begs.
The answer comes. The little things. The little prayer grows large before the Throne. The little task, the washing of a child’s face- to see the face of God, to see how He sees the world, all of us children, all of us sons and daughters. I will trust my small and unknowable things to the Father above. He holds us all, little ones, in the palm of His hand, and He will take our loaves and fishes and make of them what He wills.