INTO THE DESERT OF HUMAN HISTORY, and even here, in to the modern deserts we shape and inhabit, at a time when the poor and needy—their tongues parched with thirst—desperately seek life-sustaining waters, the Holy One pours out rivers and fountains. He places the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive along their banks, and he sets together the cypress, the plane, and the pine. He is with us in our poverty, and he is with us in our respite from it.
It is good to humbly realize that we are all of us poor, needy, and parched with thirst, just as it is a great relief to discover that he provides all we need and more. Witnessing the bounty and the beauty of his works, we are called to “see and know, [to] consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.”
Still, as we prepare our hearts and our homes to receive anew the Gift that supplies all need and more, we must consider and understand together that the deserts we inhabit are to be restored, that while this earth is a means of revelation, it is also more than that. It is an earth, a beautifully, lovingly shaped thing that speaks to us, even as it feeds us, shelters us, holds us up. By his entering our creaturely condition, he makes the stuff itself more worthy.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, we say, smiling. So long as we perceive the Word as a reference merely, a stick figure pointing to God, so long as we suppose that all our words are simply signs directing the mind to abstract circumstance, we fail to grasp the appalling, bodily, life-renewing fact of incarnation.
He is our help. He takes our hands into his own, and, if we will agree to it, he makes our hands in to his own, so that we may become the very members of the Body we pray to be.
~From Scott Cairns, “Second Thursday of Advent,” GOD WITH US: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe
In the middle of his prophecy announcing the regeneration of the earth, the holy prophet Isaiah announces that “the wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.” This image is one of substantial resurrection; that is, the very stuff of a desiccated earth awakens, quickens, blossoms in new life.
Perhaps [we] might be healed this season; perhaps, at the appearance of the Word and with the faithful assistance of those who love us, [like the paralytic we will find] the faith to rise up, the strength to lift our beds, the willingness to walk. And perhaps Isaiah’s words propose as well that the barren desert of human generation will also bloom, and bring to lush fullness the desiccated hearts of humankind.
Let us pray that, thereafter, we may become fonts of his love and mercy, that we too may become wells of living water, refreshing those around us, even as we are restored.
~Adapted from Scott Cairns, “Second Monday of Advent,” GOD WITH US: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe