December 6, 2022
One day early last week I sat in my Girlfriend Chair, took a deep breath, and shuffled the Advent Perspectives, Companions for the Journey deck of cards. Discovering my companion for Advent has been one of my Advent practices for the last few years, ever since my beloved sister gave me this charming set of cards.
The set includes images of Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, the innkeeper, two shepherd cards, three Wise Men cards, the angel, the manger, the donkey, the sheep, the star. Each card describes the character’s role in the Christmas Story and also asks some reflective questions about the ways the character is present in your life and can lead you deeper into your own faith life.
I shuffled the cards and then turned them over, face down, and fanned them in my left hand. I closed my eyes, took another deep breath and moved my right hand lightly over the cards, whispering a simple desire, “Companion me. Be with me.”
My hand stopped, selected a card, and turned it over.
Oh no! MARY! It’s the Mary card!
Why couldn’t it be the sheep or the innkeeper? I know how to be those characters. Or why not another Wise Man. For the last two years I had chosen two of the Wise Men cards. Let’s complete the trio, I pleaded, and be the third Wise Man.
Or how about Elizabeth? After all, I know what it is to be old.
Mary? This is too much. I can’t be Mary. The first year I had these cards I selected the Mary card too. What didn’t I learn then? What is the reason for this card now? http://clearingthespace.blogspot.com/2018/12/mary-and-my-advent-practice-thursdays.html
I suppose I could have called a “do over,” but I’ve learned to sit with what appears in my life–the signs, the gifts, the changes, the challenges, the disappointments, the joys.
I took another deep breath and remembered that just because the Mary card chose me doesn’t mean I have to be Mary. Rather, Mary has asked to companion me on this stage of the journey.
The day before I sat with the Advent cards, I read this in Christine Valters Paintner’s daily meditation:
Mary is the gate through which Jesus enters the world and our hearts. Her consent was required for him to cross that threshold.
I should have known.
And so I sit with Mary.
And I sit with the reflection questions on the back of the Mary card:
- What experience have you had with God that altered the course of your carefully made plans? How did you respond?
- How comfortable are you in being honest with God, wrestling with God. and asking questions of God?
- How do you, as Mary did, feel like God’s favored one? How are you being asked to birth your special gifting of God’s light and love in our world?
In recent weeks the word “vessel” has hovered in and around my heart. https://wordpress.com/post/livingonlifeslabyrinth.com/1413 Mary was a vessel of love and nurturing and willingness to be and do the hard thing. And these last few days have been hard. A dear friend died, and none of us who love her were ready. My vessel has overflowed with tears.
This was not the plan. I was expecting to be fully immersed in Christmas delights, just as I expect engaged Mary was preparing for her wedding. Perhaps her girlfriends were planning a wedding shower for her, and her parents were consulting with her about wedding details? Did Mary and Joseph sit quietly and talk about their future hopes and dreams?Well, that’s not how life unfolded. Gabriel appeared.
“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and powdered what sort of greeting this might be.Luke 1: 28-29
Mary is with me as I ponder how to hold and to be in this new loss. I ponder how to be a vessel.
Some of you I will hollow out. I will make you a cave. I will carve you so deep the stars will shine in your darkness. You will be a bowl. You will be the cup in the rock collecting rain... I will do this because the world needs the hollowness of you. I will do this because you must be large. A passage. People will find their way through you. A bowl... Light will glow in your hollowing. You will be filled with light... by Christine Lore Webber
I trust that Mary is the chosen companion for me right now in this place and time, and I promise to open to the learnings and gifts she offers me–even through my tears.
When you think of the Christmas story, what characters do you most identify with and why? I would love to know.