I haven’t posted on this blog in over a month. It’s not because I don’t have things to say. I think it is more that this time of year, Advent, specifically, lends itself to darkness and silence. I have been writing more than ever, but those thoughts are going other places. My thoughts feel connected inside myself, but when I go to put them here, they seem disconnected and random. So, perhaps I shall just deliver them to you that way. Sometimes you sit down to a plate of food composed with care and everything is harmonious and makes sense. Sometimes you go to a potluck and eat spaghetti, fried chicken, sushi, and chocolate pudding all on the same plate. And you enjoy it. This is that.
- This time last year I was hanging by a thread. I was so depressed, it was difficult to keep my head above water. This year, although financially and relationally not much has changed, I feel so much better. And I think it is that I no longer work in the same kitchen where I never saw sunlight. I would go into work in the mornings in the dim light and leave in the afternoon after it was already dark. My kitchen had no windows. So, I just felt so sad all the time. This year I feel hope. It feels almost indulgent. It’s audacious that I should feel this hopeful about my life when there are no outward indications that things are on an upward trajectory. Hope is not always so rational. Yet its very irrationality feels appropriate for the darkest days of the year. “The heart has its reasons that reason does not know.” (Blaise Pascal)
- Maybe hope is the perfect virtue of bleak midwinter. This last week before Christmastide feels like hope. We are living in a time of “already, but not yet.” We are waiting for the Christ child. We are waiting for the shocking physicality of our faith as God takes on flesh. God’s love is about to burst into visibility to the world. Right now he is tucked in the womb of the Blessed Mother. She carries a great secret and shines forth hopefulness. You know how they say that pregnant women glow and are radiant? Can you even imagine how much she radiates hope in the final days of hiding Divine Love in the secret places?
- If she is the human ideal–the most sublime creature in existence–and we are to follow her, maybe in some tiny little way in these final days of Advent, we can radiate hopefulness because we know Divine Love is coming? The already, but not yet.
- Today in the Maronite liturgy we observed the Genealogy of Jesus. For some reason I found such delight in hearing the genealogies read. The very idea that these names are read for thousands of years, faithfully, moved me. You know how when someone dies we say, “May his memory be eternal”? How much more real is this idea knowing that these names are being proclaimed eternally. We just keep saying who begot whom in perpetuity. It makes the Gospel so real, so tangible. Jesus came of these extraordinarily ordinary people who lived real lives, who did their chores and made their suppers and fell in love and quarreled with their neighbors and said their prayers and watched the sunrise. As my priest said this morning, they were “faithfully human.” And while no one will likely ever be reading my name fourteen generations from now, if my name is said in the presence of God, that is enough.
- As the names were read today it affirmed for me this little practice I have of saying the names of the dead at Mass. At the consecration or during the intentions sometimes I just say the names of my beloved dead–or the beloved dead of my friends. I have this sense that Jesus, fully present there on the altar as the Holy Spirit descends on the gifts, will hold these names in his passion. I don’t know when I started doing this but hearing the names of the generations read today made me think I will keep up this practice of saying their names.
- This year I am feeling very cozy. I feel like sitting by my fire writing cards and drinking mulled wine is perfection. I want to do nothing else but wear fuzzy socks and read books to my kids cuddled in the living room. I didn’t feel as cozy in past years. I felt rushed and sad and exhausted. I am still tired (I mean, I work two jobs, homeschool the kids, and try to be active in my parish) but when I come home from a long day of work there is a bowl of soup my daughter made and whiskey to sip and I just sit by the woodstove and give thanks. I think gratitude has made a huge difference this year, too. I was getting a wee bit down two weeks ago and a friend texted me, “What three things are you grateful for?” This is his way always of pulling me out of a funk. It works for me, because life really is rather lovely, isn’t it? “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty.” Rilke
What I am reading:
- For my heart: Good Boundaries and Goodbyes by Lysa TerKeurst and Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly
- For the family read aloud: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- For fun: Anthony Esolen’s translation of Dante’s Inferno
What I am listening to:
- Newpolity podcast
- The Symbolic World podcast
- Sulfjan Stevens Christmas album, Songs for Christmas
- Rain for Roots Advent album, Waiting Songs
- Bhajis. Gluten free and vegan, these are on the menu for every season of fasting and I love them.
- Winter Squash stuffed with things. Delicata, acorn, babynut, all the squash–stuffed with various mixtures of chickpeas, rice, herbs, tomatoes. When not fasting stuffed with chorizo, shredded pork, bacon, goat cheese, and creamy risotto. It is the hygge of food.
- Mulled Wine. This is a winter staple and you should try it. In a pot, preferably over your woodstove, place about ¼ cup of maple syrup, a few slices of orange, a handful of whole cranberries, two cinnamon sticks, a star anise, and a bottle of dry red wine. While usually I would not say to buy cheap wine or anything that comes in a box, you can get away with it here. Heat it gently, stirring occasionally but do not let it boil. Ladle it into warm punch cups and add about a half an ounce amaretto or brandy. Garnish with a candied orange.