Holding the Difficult in Our Souls
Feeling like your Advent was not productive? Not feeling that so called seasonal joy? Feel that you have failed to grow during this holy season? There is still time to stop, pray, and prepare our hearts--just as we will be preparing our tables and tree trimmings for the celebration to come. We've made it to the shortest day of the year, and we are rounding the corner to the shortest 4th Week of Advent that is possible in our calendar! In these final days of Advent our dear friend, Miss Robin Hebert, shares a reflection about what it means to ponder and hold on to the difficult. Know that you and your families are in my prayers!
As Advent begins to wind down, (and the bells and whistles of Christmas speed up), I wonder if Advent has “stoked my longing for God.” That’s what Father Roger Landry says that Advent is supposed to do. He also warns that many (including you and me) face the temptation to focus more on welcoming Santa Claus than on getting our souls ready to embrace Christ.
As I prepare to stoke my longing for God in this last week of Advent, I’ll think about Mary, the “ponderer”, the one who weighed in her mind and reflected on her child’s imminent birth, and then deliberated how this one great moment—and many to follow—would shape her life. (We who live in a culture where people text every thought and Facebook their every movement have much to learn about pondering.)
I witnessed the power of Mary’s pondering when I saw the movie “Mary of Nazareth”. Particularly poignant was the scene where Mary sat pensively back at home after she had presented Baby Jesus in the temple, receiving the ominous message from Simeon (“And you yourself a sword will pierce!”). Sensing her despair, Joseph tenderly questioned what seemed to be the matter. Her simple, noble response exposed the storyline she would live for many years to follow: “I know not yet what it means.”
Catholic theologian, Edward Sri, describes her encounter with Simeon as her passage from “the joys of new motherhood to a deeper awareness of the sacrifices that awaited her.” To be a mother, physically and spiritually, is to cross that threshold—and to cross it over and over again. I’ve heard pondering described as “holding the difficult in one’s soul.” No, dear friends, we can’t get by in this life until we learn to hold the difficult in our souls.
In this Advent week of supposed joy, I know many folks who are holding in their souls the very difficult, sometimes the incomprehensible. There are mothers and fathers who recently suffered the loss of a child, leaving them bearing the unbearable. There are many encountering cancer, infertility, loneliness, despair. There are those who lost their mother or husband or grandpa this past year and must face Christmas without them. Not to mention that there are countless people around the world who are suffering persecution and exile. You, too, are holding the difficult. What’s this about Advent joy?
What if Advent is simply that time to bear?
As Advent comes to a close, my longing for God seems stoked by a deep and growing compassion I feel for the hurting ones. I want to bear their pains with them. Isn’t that what our Mother did for Jesus and does for each of us so that we are never alone in our suffering? She simply asks us to do the same. Ponder that, sweet friends, and bring a bit of hope to the ones who need it the most this last week before the Child is born in our hearts once again. Perhaps that is the true purpose of Christ’s birth in us. It’s called redemptive suffering; and for me, suffering—my own and for another— always brings with it a hint of joy and the promise of resurrection.
Whatever it is you hold deep within, whatever it is you know not yet what it means, may God grace you with an anticipation of hope and a bit of joy this Holy Season.
Robin Hebert is a mother of four, stepmother of two, and grandmother of twenty. She is passionate about living a simple, prayerful, balanced lifestyle. When not coordinating marriage ministry at Our Lady of Wisdom in Lafayette, LA, she enjoys sipping bourbon with her husband Easton in their beautiful yard, teaching people about Thérèse, and making the world's best salsa + ginger snap cookies. Robin is past national president of Theresians of the U.S. and has been a member of her Theresian "Open Heart" community for thirty-three years.
Ladies! Would you like to join Miss Robin on Retreat in January?
Check out the flyer below for information!