We strive to know Christ more deeply and bring others to his redeeming grace.


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In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea,

proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way

of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:1-3, NRSV).

What does road construction have to do with the season of Advent?

I wonder if there are roads in our hearts, community, and our church

that must be prepared so that God can be born anew in us? For me

“preparing a way” is a struggle to let go of my ideas of the right way

to be and the right things to do that might block the path for Christ

truly to enter and change my heart and mind. The truth is I don’t

have perfect knowledge and can only begin to guess what God wants.

I can only hope I am on the same road with Jesus. That’s why I like

Thomas Merton’s prayer:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right
road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

This way of “unknowing” is part of the apophatic tradition of Christianity. Apophaticism is a way of coming to know Jesus that is self-emptying and allows space for encountering him. Even if we can’t step outside our personal assumptions and biases, which may be impossible, at least we may attempt a beginning awareness of how hard it is to get to know Jesus without trying to tame him somehow or make a relationship with Christ simplistic.

Historically, Advent has been an opportunity to look within and prepare the way of the Lord. Contemplative writer, Cynthia Bourgeault says that the word translated in our scripture above as “repent” really means “beyond or larger mind.” This Advent some of us will be doing a little road construction of this sort together into larger minds with God’s help as we read and study, New Seeds of Contemplation, by Susan Monk Kidd and Thomas Merton. At the same time, St. Bede’s plans to continue conversations about the Sunday lectionary readings during Advent for those who are interested. Please join us! In any case, I pray we will approach our Advent road construction with renewed wonder about the coming of Christ by preparing the way in our hearts and minds.