The season of Winter calls us to quiet waiting on life hidden in the dark earth. The liturgical season of Advent similarly invites stillness as we await the re- birth of Christ in our hearts and world; Christ ever-present and yet to come.
The Biblical Tradition echoes the patterns of Earth. Wendell Berry says the Tradition “elevates just stopping above physiological necessity, makes it a requirement, an observance of the greatest dignity and mystery”. It is called, Sabbath. Sabbath is an essential part of the evolutionary and spiritual process. It is a time set aside to honour creation according to the very patterns of creation. We humans must make a choice. Berry asks, “Will we choose to participate by working in accordance with the world’s originating principles, in recognition of its inherent goodness and its maker’s approval of it, in gratitude for our membership in it, or will we participate by destroying it in accordance with our always tottering, never-resting self-justifications and selfish desires?”
These are strong words and yet what a beautiful reflection for living winter and for entering fully into the season of Advent this year. Earth and Tradition call us into a time of rest and reflection – a time of joy. In his beautiful book, “Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight”, Norman Wirzba says, “Just as God’s Shabbat completes the creation of the Universe – by demonstrating that the proper response to the gifts of life is celebration and delight – so too should our Sabbaths be the culmination of habits and days that express gratitude for a joy in the manifold blessings of God.”
Without a sense and practice of Sabbath how easy it is to forget the gifts of God and to enter into restless, joyless and destructive patterns of being. The personal, social and ecological costs of forgetting Sabbath, Norman Wizba maintains are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. They include stressful living to the point of breaking, a loss of meaningful relationship, a lack of peace, the destruction of Earth and its accompanying rise in human poverty and suffering.
So we are invited to reclaim a sense and practice of Sabbath. Winter and Advent, our waiting times, provide the best opportunities by calling us to rest in the rhythms of life. We are gently challenged to remember who we are and who we are called to be. Like plants that will yield fruit in the Spring only if they lie dormant in Winter we are invited to a fallow season. Wayne Muller writes of this most beautifully; “We must have a period in which we lie fallow and restore our souls. In Sabbath time we remember to celebrate what is beautiful and sacred; we light candles, sing songs, tell stories, eat, nap, love. It is a time to let our work, our lands, our animals lie fallow, to be nourished and refreshed. Within this sanctuary, we become available to the insights and blessings of deep mindfulness that arise only in stillness and time. When we act from a place of deep rest, we are more capable of cultivating what the Buddhists call right understanding, right action and right effort.” May this Winter, this Advent be for us such a contemplative time; a time for God, a time for Earth, a time for one another, a time for gratitude that when Christmas comes we can once again birth Christ in the World in peace and joy. Earth teach us the way! Word of God, guide us!
By Sr. Mary Rowell csj