Getting Ready for Advent

Today (Friday) is a retreat day – meaning the sisters are in silence – no corporate worship or meals but lots of quiet.  I had a productive morning working on an Advent Retreat address, a power-point presentation with art and meditative text.  Bede and I lead a retreat at Holy Cross Monastery every year (with soundscapes by Sister Helena-Marie CHS during the Saturday night event).  This year it’s December 4-5-6.

ApcalypseUnknownWeaverC1380FrenchHEADCROPI’m working still (35 years of this, maybe?) on the sense of movement from one place to another within the soul – by analogy – rooms to other rooms, landscapes, ladders, labyrinths, windows.  Mary Carruther’s extraordinary book The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images 400-1200, still offers a banquet for my imagination and non-stop inspiration.  And I’m just finishing The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton.  Here’s some quotes from the latter book from a meditation on incorporating virtue into ourselfs from our surroundings.

“Architecture can arrest transient and timid inclinations, amplify and solidify them, and thereby grant us more permanent access to a range of emotional textures which we might otherwise have experienced only accidentally and occasionally.” 

“While a common reaction to seeing a thing of beauty is to want to buy it, our real desire may be not so much to own what we find beautiful as to lay permanent claim to the inner qualities it embodies.”

“What we seek, at the deepest level, is inwardly to resemble, rather than physically to possess, the objects and places that touch us through their beauty.”


John the Divine watches Michael slay the seven-headed dragon from his "prayer palace". Unknown Weaver C.1380

For the Friday night presentation I’m looking at art depicting interiors, both real and imaginary.  Countless Annunciations taking place in a symbolic shelter.  Monks watching their own meditations on Biblical adventures through a window of prayer.  Donors and saints watching with Jesus in retrospect at the foot of the cross, in an eternal now of pain and possibility.

Advent offers its own set of symbols which propel us through a series of obstacles, problems, and archetypal and universal images. Signs in the heavens, purgations of flame, repentance with water, and the earth-womb … air, fire, water, earth … the four Sundays create an itinerary which we try to negotiate over a weekend on our retreat.  I’m not sure yet of the final form of the retreat – every year we do something different according to intuition and inspiration.

Bede and I worked with pilgrimage and space the past few years.  Saturday night culminated in a pilgrimage to the crèche we’d set up ahead of time in either the crypt or the enclosure library.  I think we’re doing that again this year. Moving from space to space, and “noticing” as Bede says.  Noticing what you’ve seen a thousand times but never seen.

Oh, I love Advent.

2 Responses to “Getting Ready for Advent”

  1. Su Murdock Says:

    A lot to think about. I love the idea that perhaps what we really want is to inwardly resemble the things that move and touch us. Another way we are attracted to the beauty of our Creator.

  2. Nia Says:

    Advent!? Already!? But-but-but…. already!?

    Honestly, I’m speechless!

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