A Book Journey – Chapter 2: Advent
A monthly book study by Amy McGehee-Lee
Festivals of the Year: A Workbook for Re-enlivening the Christian Festive Cycle
by Roger Druitt
The very air is changed at this time of year. A sense of expectation hangs about, being inhaled by young and old alike. Something is about to change. We must prepare.
In chapter two, Druitt says that Advent is a time of preparation. “The essence of Advent is to come to terms with the past in order to prepare for the future”.
Druitt tells us that images we find in nature can help us “grasp spiritual realities”. He offers us a couple of images from nature to consider as we move into a contemplative Advent mood. In one example, he writes about the experience of seeing the complementary colors within a sunset. He uses this as a reminder that “we live in worlds of varying degrees of reality”. I enjoyed his comparison of this ability to see complementary color after-images (you may have explored this concept with your child in sixth grade physics) to our ability to take in our life experiences, process them in our own uniquely personal way and then allow our soul to form an after-image. This after-image may provide insight into a “soul reality”. I have found this to be true in my own life. There have been times that I have gone through challenging situations, spiritual change, or subtle shifts in which I feel, what I would describe as, a soul movement. Usually, I do not have a complete understanding of the movement, but realize something holy is taking place. If I make space for it, I can trust growth is happening within me. From my observations, these experiences often involve big emotions. These feelings can be uncomfortable, but if I sit with these feelings and acknowledge them, they seem to tenderize my soul and open it for work to happen, an after-image to form.
Druitt gives us several references for the biblical context of Advent. The verses in Matthew seemed to resonate with me. I have found myself considering his proposed question of “what is lamp oil within our human soul?” Druitt gives some possibilities. I have found myself wondering if spiritual seeking may be a possibility. My own spiritual growth has often found fertile soil in openness and continual seeking and in converse, fallow soil when I think I have definite answers to my spiritual questions. I have found true spiritual growth to be a constant work of turning over every rock and examining each crevice with a sense of wonder, possibility, and openness. Advent seems like the perfect time to renew my sense of wonder, possibility, and openness; to check in with my soul, making sure these valued qualities are present and alive. Do I call upon these qualities each time I consider a question life presents? Do I call upon them when considering questions pertaining to both the physical and spiritual realms? Creating space to shift old paradigms seems to be a work that can receive special focus during this season of preparation and transformational expectation.
Druitt gives us many possibilities for meditative pictures. I can see myself revisiting this list for years to come and finding something fresh at each visit. I found number four especially relevant for the time and space I currently inhabit. These considerations have helped me move into a sense of personal spiritual power. My own spiritual work and development does indeed play a part in determining world affairs. Druitt says, “World Affairs are shaken open for change by spiritual powers in response to human activity of this kind”. He previously defined this “human activity” as “spiritual development tempered by perseverance and humility”. It is easy for me to fall into hopelessness in regard to world affairs, feeling as though I have no real power within that realm. However, my own spiritual development is very powerful and moves out in waves to the furthest reaches of this planet. I have a special opportunity to further my spiritual growth during this Advent season, thus affecting world affairs, by extension. We all have this opportunity! Together, we can be powerful, indeed.
Druitt tells us that Advent prayers are about making a new start. He gives us ideas about what may be helpful in regard to specific prayers. I especially liked the idea of praying that “an order of life may be established on Earth that is in harmony with the wholeness of the universe”.
When writing about the dichotomy of the northern and southern hemispheres, Druitt mentions using Rudolf Steiner’s Calendar of the Soul as a spiritual tool throughout the year. I have used these simple weekly verses over the last couple of years and found them very helpful in perceiving the spiritual energy behind each week of the year. Sometimes I will read the verse, feel that I do not completely grasp its meaning, sleep on it, and then find a new understanding of the verse the following day. I have clearly seen that sleep can be a learning tool for adults, just as it is for children! Druitt suggests not only reading the verse for your current week, but also finding its “mirror verse” and meditating upon these verses together. He says this is a way of helping us “contain the hemisphere dichotomy within our one soul”. Working with both of these verses may offer us an opportunity to help Earth evolve as a single entity (do you remember the reference to our capacity to care for Earth through our personal spiritual work/festival celebration back in chapter one?).
Toward the end of this chapter, Druitt explores specifics on how we can create our Advent festival. He says it is good to clear our mental and spiritual space for celebrating Advent by taking care of unfinished jobs. He says this will allow us to “gaze more freely into nature”. I found this to be especially pertinent to my life. I think I could extend this thought by making an intention to not take on more jobs than necessary, as well. By creating openness in my physical and mental world, I will make space for my spiritual development. Spiritual development definitely happens more naturally for me by shifting my gaze to the natural world. How better to do that than by gifting myself free time in the natural world, unencumbered by a lengthy to-do list?
Druitt says we may want to find a space in the heart of our homes in which to make Advent celebration visible. Our family usually has two or three areas in our home where we have some visible manifestation of Advent. All of these areas tend to be somewhere in or between the living and dining rooms – definitely the heart of our home! Each year we have some form of an Advent wreath, Advent spiral, and an evolving nativity. Each of these vignettes seems to become more pregnant with spiritual impulse with each passing year. I have completely given up any pretense that these little rituals and traditions are wholly for the benefit of my children. They carry just as much meaning for me as for the children and perhaps it is only due to the deep spiritual meaning they hold for me that they can be meaningful for my children. I find myself considering each small nuance of the nativity scene, each choice in color, each position of the figures of the nativity, with a certain soulfulness. In the last two years, I have even felt inspired to carve or build certain components of the nativity scene with my own hands. I’m sure each of us has our own way of incorporating ourselves into this process of creation. We can truly enter into this process by dipping into our own soul and bringing forth the truest parts of ourselves.
As I have meditated on this chapter, certain ideas and questions seem to come to the surface. I will lay a few of them before you for consideration.
Many of us have gone through pregnancy and birth. I find definite parallels between the preparation of Advent and preparing for a literal birth. As my time of birthing neared, I found a more pronounced need for inwardness and silence. I felt that a shift in my existence was about to take place and this turning inward was vital to my inner peace, leading up to this time of transition and transformation. I wonder if these same feelings can be tapped into for my spiritual growth during Advent. What do you think? Did you have this experience when preparing to give birth? Something different?
Another thought that seems to float to the surface as I contemplate Advent is that perhaps it is only through an intensely personal spiritual life that we are able to affect the unity of all humanity. That the individual would be required to cultivate something so personal and private in order to powerfully, yet silently shift the human experience and evolution of humanity itself, is a concept I find very intriguing. I feel certain I will continue to consider this as I move forward in this book. What do you think of this concept?
I will leave you now and move into my Advent celebration with a sense of holy expectation. I hope you will be inspired to share your thoughts on this chapter, contemplations on Advent or even your own Advent traditions, in the comments below.
I wish you and yours all the very best in this season of preparation!