I was reflecting-given the Advent readings for the week- on the theme of "Hurry, live the life you need NOW! Don't wait!" And I realize that I have been so blessed to actually do that this year. I have deepened my relationships with both my mother and my daughter, had a time of profound awakening connection with my beloved stepfather as he battled a life threatening illness, spent time tromping through the hills and sharing over a cup of tea with my beloved friends . I have lectured on the great passions of my life (Mary Magdalene, the Sibyls, muses, mystics, Medieval art and music, Dante, Beethoven, Greek myth) in three countries, initiated young adults into the spiritual world at sacred sites, taught children to connect to their hearts at the piano . I've been to more art museums than I can count, and heard gorgeous music in concert halls and cathedrals. I've had profound conversations with people who I have admired for years (Roger Housden, River Malcolm and Christine Downing), and now I am blessed to consider my friends. I've met two of the most celebrated composers of our age (Mark Adamo and Jake Heggie) and conversed with them one on one. I have paraglided over the Swiss Alps and danced in an Italian castle with a renowned filmmaker and sung Gregorian chant to the Black Madonna while locked in Chartres Cathedral all by myself.
It has been a glorious year, and if it was the last year in my life, I would think, "What a way to go!". If you were to go back in time and tell me five years ago what I would have experienced this year, I am not sure I could have believed you. It has been beyond my wildest dreams.
It has also been a time of profound letting go- of sending my cherished child off to college at UCLA, of surrendering a house, a dog, a cat, a career, a twenty four year marriage and any hope of certainty of what the future might hold. There have been moments of fear, grief, sorrow, doubt and maybe even sheer terror. It has been a year of jumping off of mountains, hoping I will fly. And it has been a year of learning that I can, because something wiser and more experienced than I am is holding and guiding me.
I think that is one of the most important lessons of Advent: be willing to let go of even the beautiful things that have nourished you in the past but which no longer bring vitality . Be willing to walk into the mystery and embrace the emptiness. Be willing to take that leap of faith, to jump off the mountains -of Switzerland, or of your old identity. Because what you will find will be beyond your wildest dreams.
Today is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a day which celebrates the Virgin Mary's appearance in the 16th century to a Mexican peasant. The religious authorities would not believe Juan Diego, so he was asked to furnish proof of her appearance. He went back to the site and found Spanish roses blooming in December. He gathered them in his cloak and brought them to the skeptical priest. The image which you see is the image of her face which was imprinted on his cloak, a dark skinned woman with a blue veil bedecked with gold stars. Today is a day that celebrates mothering love, nurturing, mercy and acceptance. For all of us- for the least of us.
Today is also 12-12-12, a day that so many people in the world are afraid of, a day that some prophets have tied themselves up about, thinking it the end of the world (though most seem sure it is on 12-21, according to the NY Times) . I read that both American Southerners and Russians are stockpiling provisions, anticipating the Apocalypse.
Other in the New Age movement have said that today is a portal, a doorway to a higher plane of consciousness, and that by connecting to what is deepest, truest, most real and beautiful in us today, we can leave behind what does not serve us any longer.
So this is my prayer for all of us today:
Like Juan Diego, may we find our way to carry the beautiful and unexpected flowers of our life, and hold them fast amid the skeptical and mocking voices that surround us
Like Our Lady of Guadalupe, may we be merciful and tender to the least wanted, and enfold those rejected parts of our being with a gentle gaze, in a cloak lit with the light of compassionate illumination
Like the Mayan and New Age prophecies, may what is necessary die within us so that we may find a deeper, truer, more integrated way of life
And most of all, in the words of the great poet and soul John O'Donahue:
May our minds come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites us to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.
May we have the courage today
To live the life that we would love,
To postpone our dream no longer
But do at last what we came here for
And waste our hearts on fear no more.
The truth is that there have been rumors of an impending apocalypse since the beginning of time. But the truth is also that today will be the end of the world for someone. For thousands of people, actually. For people hit by a drunk driver, and for those far off who are dying of hunger and for those dear souls who lose their battles with cancer. It will be the end of the world for someone like John O'Donahue, who died peacefully in his sleep at the all too young age of 53. I am so glad he didn't postpone his dreams, but instead lived a rich and full and meaningful and truly authentic life- even with all its paradoxes. May we all do the same.
Today, I will finish the prayer books for the Benedictine retreat I will be leading over the weekend, read yet another book on Mary Magdalene in preparation for my lecture tomorrow, go for an hour long hike in the hills, maybe even walk down to Rochioli Vineyards and buy a bottle of wine to drink by candlelight this evening. I will practice the Bach c minor fantasy on the piano, write a few more pages of my dissertation, do yoga and lead a labyrinth walk after dinner. If it is the last day of my life, it will be a good one. May it blessed for you as well.