My Deepest Fears

See Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Advent 1 (year C), December 2, 2012
“The Portal” 


detail, Russian Icon, Novgorod School

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:25

Why does the new year begin with dread, darkness, portents in the sky: the sun darkened, the moon obscured, stars falling, the heavens shaken? Why does the new year begin with the ultimate ending : the end of life, the end of the world, the end of time itself?

A beginner in faith might come to church on the first Sunday in Advent expecting to catch an early glimpse of the baby Jesus. Instead, the sky roils with doom, earthquakes shaking us until our bones rattle. Why begin the liturgical year with the end of everything?

Keep awake! says the Church on the First Sunday of Advent. The very warning cuts to the heart of my deepest, unnamed fear. This fear lurking at the edges of my being arises from my implicit worry about existence itself. If I exist, I can be annihilated. Dread is the twin sister of consciousness. As soon as I realize I am awake, I know that I can die.

Surely I can choose to wake just a little, and stay oblivious to larger questions of the puzzle of existence. Surely I can fill my life with distractions and glittery things and a thousand lesser worries, to keep that one great worry in the shadows behind the lesser ones. But the church asks me right from the first day to enter my dread, my fear of death, my existential anxiety.

On the first Sunday of Advent the church says, Look! Keep awake! Face your profoundest fear, and then, my Love, I have something wonderful to show you!

I was not particularly thrilled when I realized that I was on a Christian path forty years ago. But at least I knew from the beginning that the Church kindly acknowledged my deepest fears.


One Response to “My Deepest Fears”

  1. claire46 Says:

    Dread is the twin sister of consciousness. As soon as I realize I am awake, I know that I can die.
    Strange, Suzanne, I fear to be sleep-walking through life rather than being awake…

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