by Catherine Doherty.
My Russian shrine stands peaceful and quiet. Its roof is covered with snow. The Virgin of Kiev is reflected in the vigil light that always burns before her face. It looks especially beautiful in the dark of the winter nights.
Squirrels and raccoons scamper around leaving tracks on the snow, as does my doe, who comes to drink at the river where the current is too swift to freeze. Once in a while, bear tracks are also seen on the snow.
In such an environment December comes to greet me and leads me slowly and gently into Advent, to the Expected One—the Child in the cave—the Child who is God. It isn’t difficult for me to imagine that snow and ice, trees and animals, share in my expectation. In December my island sings of the coming of the Prince of Peace.
The island is bare. There is a stillness, a holy stillness that makes very real to me the words of the Christmas antiphon: "When the night was still, your Almighty Word leapt down from heaven."
My mind turns to that holy night that is always so close, though it happened over 2000 years ago. I cannot help meditating on this beautiful antiphon. My mind spins a cradle of silence into which the Word that leapt from heaven comes to rest.
Silence and speech, contemplation and action—these form the very heart of the Christian life. To receive the Word we must gather ourselves up, recollect ourselves. The fire of the Holy Spirit is often expressed in many revolutionary ways, which seem confusing to us. But if we are silent, if we recollect ourselves and prepare to hear the voice of the Word, then we shall cease to be confused. We shall be made ready for the revolution of love.
Yes, we must become cradles of silence, meditation, and contemplation, so that the Word may find our hearts ready to receive him—our souls and minds ready to hear his message of love. And, hearing it, may we arise and go forth and live it!
So much is happening these days that many of us are shaken to the very core of our beings. We are confused and afraid. But if we make ourselves cradles of silence to receive the Word, then these feelings will be subdued by the Lord as he subdued the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Then we shall see clearly, with the eyes of love, what we must do and how we must implement the message of Christmas in our lives.
My island is bare. The water of the river is steel gray, and so is the sky. But the white, silent, peaceful snow that covers the ground teaches me to try to make out of my soul a cradle of silence so as to receive more reverently, more fully, the mighty Word that leapt from the royal throne.
—Adapted from Welcome, Pilgrim, pp. 92-94, available from Madonna House Publications.
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