By Sister Arlene Flaherty, OP, Director, Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC)
The liturgical season we call ADVENT has a way, if we allow it, of drawing us into a special dimension of time where despite the noise around us, our spirits and hearts are drawn inward. In this space we are attuned to a deeper listening, and more vigilant with contemplative seeing.
Perhaps, this experience we call Advent, is the closest we come to that which the Celtic peoples call “the thin place,” where we are somehow graced to encounter the Divine in ways that are illuminative, spacious, mystical, and new.
Advent, as we know, is not just a liturgical season but truly a season of the human spirit- a season of the human heart. The Advent season seems singular in its capacity to summon our better angels as we experience a deeper longing emerging within that we sense is somehow connected to our desire for God.
It’s as though the deepening darkness of the season casts a spell of introspection, longing, wondering, and transformation over the rational and striving energies that often define and distort the beauty and potential of our species, our culture, our daily lives. It’s as though the journey of the Earth in her rotation around her mother star the Sun, kindles in our consciousness deeply embedded embers of memory and longing. We find ourselves asking questions such as “where have we come from? Who we are now? Who we are called to become?
The Advent season always beckons us, whether we are ready or not, to let go of what has gone before. Advent invites us to let go of what is happening now. Advents asks us to give our full contemplative consideration to the question: to what, to whom, to where is this Advent journey leading me?
The Advent season, situated as it is in the northern hemisphere between the Fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice, draws us into a time-life sequence where twilight and darkness dominate our days. Shadows lengthen around us, and we are held in this frame by the sentinels of the season—elegant trees whose barren, dark, branches summon us to remember that we too are in transition, we too are waiting, we too are called to let go in trust, and embrace this sacred season to which our planet as well as our personal lives, now gravitate.
During this season of our planet’s migratory journey around the Sun, Earth is genuflecting to the shadow cast by her distant star. The posture of our planet is reminding us that we also must pay our respect to the deepening darkness. We too must be willing to bend and shift in order to enter the shadows this season casts in our lives in order to locate and abide in the thin yet prodigiously pregnant places where Grace and God await us this Advent.
During the Advent season, we are more frequently drawn by chill and the early nightfall to inside spaces, whether they be our home, our hearth, or the inward space that is the depths of our own hearts, our own souls, our own consciousness. As such, the Advent season draws us into liminal space, thin places where we find ourselves suspended, wondering, in-between, and awaiting what has yet to emerge.
For Reflection: How am I experiencing Advent as a “Thin Space” or a “Liminal Space?”