Even in our most cherished moments, it’s there—this “something more,” a feeling that all life can offer is not enough. C. S. Lewis says of our best experiences, “They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
This print of an original artwork by David Arms hangs in the dining room of our home. It is rich with symbolism, as is all of David’s art. On this Saturday that is called silent because Christ has been crucified but not yet risen, I stand and consider the meaning portrayed by the artist and more importantly, the meaning and mystery of all that Christians celebrate in their remembering during Lent, the week called Holy, and this time when we wait in vigil and anticipation of Resurrection. I am Eastering. Each year that passes (now 76 for me) I am more aware of all that I do not know yet all that I know that I have been given. The name of this painting is The Last Supper.*
*This is the story of the Last Supper portrayed symbolically. The sparrow is the most common and lowly of man. The blackbird represents sin. The nest with the three eggs (home in heaven with the trinity) is where this scene is leading. The floating table meaning God is in control. And most importantly, the white dove is Jesus.
When we were little girls, my sister and I played under our raised back porch, shaded by two magnificent hydrangea bushes. The huge leaves and blooms were part of our tea parties. At times the leaves were the plates and blossoms separated into dainty cookies and cakes. Other times the same leaves and flowers became bridal bouquets or fancy hats. I was amazed when I learned the colors of the blooms can be changed by what is added to the soil. Only pink and bkue blooms can be influenced. White blooms never change! I am thankful everyday for the beauty of God’s creation, and that He gives the same gift of these blooms over and over. I am reassured that the lovely white hydrangea blooms like the ones on my kitchen table are not going to change. Everytime I look at them I smile and think, “Again!”
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
Advent is neither just a period on the church calendar nor my personal one. Advent has become an important preparation time, a time to reflect on my path, entering into the darkness of unknowing, opening to new possibility and radical availability. Light coming into darkness.
Blowing bubbles on the porch with my 2 year old granddaughter turns me into a child again. We laugh as we watch the bubbles float out over the grass and disappear. This batch of bubbles mysteriously decided to stay longer, lingering on a fern frond or hibiscus leaf long enough to amaze us.
As swimmers dare to lie face to the sky and water bears them, as hawks rest upon air and air sustains them, so would I learn to attain freefall, and float into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace, knowing no effort earns that all-surrounding grace.
We are happy every year when the magnolia tree in our yard begins adding little upright buds that look like candles on an old-fashioned Christmas tree. The smooth, straight stick figures that hide tightly furled promise were described by poet Wallace Stevens as “ghosts of its forthcoming flowers” They look fragile as if bird or breeze could tip them over and onto the ground.
So after flooding rains and wind that snapped some trees, we welcomed the unfolding of huge ivory blooms. Joe brought one to me as I sat on the porch swing this morning. Its fragrance and beauty bring both tears and smiles. The magnolia is one of my earliest childhood memories. Like pine boughs and gardenias, even if I close my eyes, the fragrance brings a surge of memory and story.
“Like the magnolia tree,
She bends with the wind,
Trials and tribulation may weather her,
Yet, after the storm her beauty blooms,
See her standing there, like steel,
With her roots forever buried,
Deep in her Southern soil.”― Nancy B. Brewer, Letters from Lizzie
My friend sent me cuttings of her night blooming Cereus plants. She is a good gardener, and as her photo displays, she is an excellent photographer. But she would not be able to share this picture if she were not also willing to sacrifice some sleep (they only bloom at night) as well as patiently wait for the swelling buds to open. I removed my cuttings from their mailing envelope and put them into damp earth. But I, too, must wait as they begin to root and grow and bloom.
As I sit this morning, the first day of Advent, I think of this cycle and am reminded of another gift, the wonder of beginning again, of rooting and growing and waiting to experience the greatest mystery of all. .
Adult Advent Announcement
Let Advent begin again
Not merely in commercials;
For that first Christmas was not
Simply for children,
But for the
Wise and the strong.
Crowded around that cradle,
With kings kneeling.
Speak to us
Who seek an adult seat this year.
Help us to realize,
As we fill stockings,
Christmas is mainly
For the old folks —
And tired eyes
Need relief and light
A little more.
It was grown-ups
Who were the first
Such a star.