Second Sunday of Advent (December 8, 2013): Burning Away What Divides Us

second_sunday_advent
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. — Matthew 3:11

This Sunday is the Second Sunday of Advent. The readings can be found here. The beautiful first reading is from Isiah and talks about the vision where the things that divide us are eliminated and all of Creation is brought together in Unity. The Gospel includes a speech from St. John the Baptist that talks about the need for God’s purifying fire to break down our divisions before this Unity can occur.

Christ: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!"

A Purifying Fire

This week’s reflection comes from Fr. Ron Rolheiser and St. Louis University reflections. I encourage you to read the entire reflection here but set forth below is an extended excerpt:

“Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once suggested that peace and justice will come to us when we reach a high enough psychic temperature so as to burn away the things that still hold us apart. In saying this, he was drawing upon a principle in chemistry: Sometimes two elements will simply lie side by side inside a test-tube and not unite until sufficient heat is applied so as to bring them to a high enough temperature where unity can take place.That’s wonderful metaphor for advent. What is advent?Advent is about getting in touch with our longing. It’s about letting our yearnings raise our psychic temperatures so that we are pushed to eventually let down our guard, hope in new ways, and risk intimacy.

St. John of the Cross has a similar image: Intimacy with God and with each other will only take place, he says, when we reach a certain kindling temperature. For too much of our lives, he suggests, we lie around as damp, green logs inside the fire of love, waiting to come to flame but never bursting into flame because of our dampness. Before we can burst into flame, we must first dry out and come to kindling temperature. We do that, as does a damp log inside a fire, by first sizzling for a long time in the flames so as to dry out.

How do we sizzle psychologically and spiritually? For St. John of the Cross, we do that through the pain of loneliness, restlessness, disquiet, anxiety, frustration, and unrequited desire. In the torment of incompleteness our psychic temperature rises so that eventually we come to kindling temperature and, there, we finally open ourselves to union in new ways. That too is an image for advent.

* * *

And what’s the lesson in this? What we learn from loneliness is that we are more than any moment in our lives, more than any situation we are in, more than any humiliation we have experienced, more than any rejection we have endured, and more than all the limits within which we find ourselves. Loneliness and longing take us beyond ourselves. How?

Thomas Aquinas once taught that we can attain something in one of two ways: through possession or through desire. We like to possess what we love, but that isn’t often possible and it has an underside.

Possession is limited, desire is infinite. Possession sets up fences, desire takes down fences. To quote Karl Rahner, only in the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable do we know that we are more than the limits of our bodies, our present relationships, our jobs, our achievements, and the concrete situations within which we live, work, and die.

Loneliness and longing let us touch, through desire, God’s ultimate design for us. In our longing, the mystics tell us, we intuit the kingdom of God. What that means is that in our desires we sense the deeper blueprint for things. And what is that?

Scripture tells us that the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, of simple bodily pleasure, but a coming together in justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, that is what we ache for in our loneliness and longing: consummation, oneness, intimacy, completeness, harmony, peace, and justice. Sometimes, of course, in our fantasies and daydreams that isn’t so evident. God’s kingdom seems something much loftier and more holy than what we often long for – sex, revenge, fame, power, glory, pleasure. However even in these fantasies, be they ever so crass, there is present always a deeper desire, for justice, for peace, for joy, for oneness in Christ.

Our loneliness and longing are a hunger and an energy that drive us, always, beyond the present moment. In them we do intuit the kingdom of God.

Advent is about longing, about getting in touch with it, about heightening it, about letting it raise our psychic temperatures, about sizzling as damp, green logs inside the fires of intimacy, about intuiting the kingdom of God by seeing, through desire, what the world might look like if a Messiah were to come and, with us, establish justice, peace, and unity on this earth.”

About William Ockham

I am a father of two with eclectic interests in theology, philosophy and sports. I chose the pseudonym William Ockham in honor of his contributions to philosophy, specifically Occam's Razor, and its contributions to modern scientific theory. My blog (www.teilhard.com) explores Ignatian Spirituality and the intersection of faith, science and reason through the life and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured above).
This entry was posted in Sunday Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Second Sunday of Advent (December 8, 2013): Burning Away What Divides Us

  1. gtrudelle says:

    “Loneliness and longing let us touch, through desire, God’s ultimate design for us.” So beautiful and true.

  2. Heidi Viars says:

    how often we forfeit the longing by filling our fleshly desires and make it all about earth instead of Heaven … thank you for sharing! Blessings to in your waiting and longing!

  3. Thank you for a great article. My question is: How can we really become disciples of Christ? Longing needs to be actualized in good thoughts and deeds. May this Christmas bring you and the rest of us closer to Christ.

  4. Cristina says:

    Oh how I loved this! I am still awake working on a presentation for RCIA on Monday. Came across this (you’re in my reader) and liked as always – this one really resonated. I appreciate the divine and scientific you got these to the right temperature for me 🙂 I especially enjoyed (this really long quote):

    St. John of the Cross has a similar image: Intimacy with God and with each other will only take place, he says, when we reach a certain kindling temperature. For too much of our lives, he suggests, we lie around as damp, green logs inside the fire of love, waiting to come to flame but never bursting into flame because of our dampness. Before we can burst into flame, we must first dry out and come to kindling temperature. We do that, as does a damp log inside a fire, by first sizzling for a long time in the flames so as to dry out.

    Could it have something to do with my birthday coinciding with St. John of the Cross’ Memorial?

    Maybe.

    Good stuff.
    Blessings,
    Cristina

    P.S. thanks for being one of the first followers. I’m at 100 now. You’ve been around since the beginning. Ages ago (May 2013) ha!

    • Cristina, thank you for your kind comments. That quote resonated with me also.

      I really enjoy your blog and your openness and authenticity. Keep on writing and sharing your journey.

      Peace,
      W. Ockham

  5. Pingback: 2013 Reflections on Blogging (Part I): Country Data and Top Posts | Teilhard de Chardin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s