Advent  – Hope

How can we have hope unless we have had no hope?  Recently someone shared with me how difficult it was in her own story to find the safe places she needed when she had no hope.  Most of us are uncomfortable when another expresses a deep despondency of hopelessness.  But there are moments, pockets of time, in all of our lives where we can’t see the path ahead, we have no idea how we will move forward.  We may not know how we will live with our loss, our pain, our grief.  We may not know how we will survive trauma, betrayal, or death.

            Moments in our lives without hope are so real.  Raw.  Vulnerable.  Tender.  And… sometimes long.  That is why hope is a gift when it comes.  It is not like positive thinking, where we focus our minds to a certain idea or truth.  Hope is an energetic quality that rises within like the first glimpses of light after a long, dark night.  As we all know, it is darkest just before dawn.  Hope is like the rays of light streaming up from the blackest black of night; it rises seemingly unexpectedly as a gift.

            Hope reveals there is a new day before us, a new chance, a new opportunity to live.  Hope reveals a way forward, a clarity of the next step, a rekindling of the heart to rise, a desire to lift one’s eyes and begin again.  Hope speaks of a new landscape of possibility that we never knew was there.  Hope is astonishing, surprising, and filled with awe.

            There was a time my eyes were cast down and I did not know hope.  A friend wrote to me in that time, asking if I was writing any music.  Writing music?  How can one write when hope is gone?  The question made me angry.  I quoted out of the Psalms; “I’ve heard it said I should ‘lift up my eyes to the hills where my hope comes from’ but my eyes are full of tears and cast down.”  No music writing.  No thoughts of creativity.

            A few years later, I was painting with a friend.  As we were painting, I lifted my eyes to the window before me and realized I was looking at the mountains, the hills of beauty. This previous conversation returned to my mind and I realized I had entered a new season, and was living a new reality. My eyes lifted to the mountains, where my help came from.  I was writing music again.  Hope had slowly emerged after a long, dark night of tears.

The painting from that day - called, I'm Alive

painting by Cathy AJ Hardy

            Hope is a gift, a tender, precious gift.  And it is part of the message of Advent.  Celtic spirituality honoured the darkness, seeing it as a formative and powerful time of the year.  Lights were meant to decorate the darkness, illuminating the beauty of this season.  We don’t often ‘celebrate’ our darkness, the times in our lives when we can’t see, can’t know, can’t plan, can’t figure out the next step.  But Advent invites us to be with waiting, longing, and pausing … in the dark moments of life.

            The word for darkness that St. John of the Cross used in his writings of Dark Night of the Soul, is the word ‘obscura’, which means obscurity.  Obscurity is an interesting take on our view of darkness and one that I can deeply relate to.  We, in our culture, value clarity, knowing, making decisions, getting a task done.  Being in obscurity is challenging as a situation or a decision is not yet ‘clear’.  Some things, in fact most precious things in life, require waiting, allowing, resting, trusting.

            Advent reminds us of the story of Mary and a journey of pregnancy.  Pregnancy is all about waiting, formation, yielding to a mystery of a new life being formed.  What if our times of waiting are a gift?  What if times of obscurity lead to an unfolding of a path that is more expansive than we could ever have hoped or dreamed?

            This Advent I invite us to notice the darkness, and let it be symbolic to us of our places of being without hope, the places of obscurity, the places of not-knowing, the places where we are pregnant with waiting.

            Perhaps if we don’t fight the darkness, but we learn to be in it, we will come to notice the gifts that are here amid not knowing, waiting, and yearning.  Perhaps, as the rays of dawn light up the sky in our darkness, we will realize we are breathing, we have a second chance, and we feel a pounding in our chest with the awareness that hope has been reborn.

Advent Poem

Advent is a season

of waiting, of longing,

of active attentiveness to what is being birthed.

Advent is a time of pregnancy,

of expectation,

of yearning

for the reality of Love’s presence

within us and in the whole world.

Advent is a time

of being present to the darkness

of the womb during pregnancy;

of being present to the unknown,

to mystery, to what is yet unseen

and still being formed.

Advent is a time

of trusting in the midst

of whatever darkness we are in,

trusting as Mary did

that light would emerge for the path ahead.

Advent invites us to open our hearts,

to trust amidst darkness,

and make room for Love;

Love With Us and Love Within Us.

This longing is made up of simplicity,  of expectancy,

of hope

and the

spirit of childhood and joy.

Cathy AJ Hardy, Love Breathes with Me

Advent Prayer

O Radiance of Light, we are recalled to the story of humble beginnings.

O Radiance of Darkness, we are recalled to the story of the unexpected.

O Radiance of Mystery, we are recalled to the story of new life.

O Radiance of Song, we are recalled to the mystery of Love with us.

As we rest in the deepest darkness of the year, we awaken to the light rising.

As we wait in the deepest darkness of the year, we awaken to the gifts of longing in the unknown.

As we hope in the deepest darkness of the year, we listen for the song of the Eternal.

As we sing in the deepest darkness of the year, we open to the harmony of the spheres.

May we be recalled to the truth and beauty of our souls.

May we be recalled to the wonder of this season.

Cathy AJ Hardy, Love Breathes with Me II



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