Thursday, December 20, 2012

GOLD, FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH



Last night I retired at 10:20, woke at 4: 10, prayed part of a Rosary and went back to sleep again till ten of 7! (That is LATE for me). I woke to a pulsing realization of the unbelievable sadness, the it-can’t-be-ness of abortion. Oh! A tiny being that God in his infinite love has seen fit to create out of nothing, or almost nothing—and just now, I’m thinking—the miracle of the loaves and the fishes! We offer up an egg and a spermatozoa (which He gave us in the first place) and He gives us a human being. A rare, rare uniquely precious…a being! A human being

This is what we feel, if we’re lucky, when we get really quiet. I wake early and sit in the dark with my breviary, incense and Lux Perpetua candle and listen to the fountain in the courtyard, and the birds. I’ve taken my daily walk almost always toward dusk or even in full-on dark and the lights of the city have been especially vivid in the cool, sharp black night. I have slept with my Christmas lights on each night, and had a huge vase of pepper tree branches with their red berries in my room since December 1st, and have missed Mass only once (St.  John of the Cross, December 14, which pained me, especially because I allowed the fact that I couldn’t get online with my new laptop to suck my day dry…). I’m surrounded by paintings, icons, old calendars and cards of the Virgin and Child, and of course the Gospel readings this week are all about the coming of Jesus.

I can hardly remember a more beautiful Advent, though they are all beautiful, and though this one, as always, has had its share of snafus, challenges, and conflicts.


How fragile we are.


How easily we rely on things that can’t much help us.


How alone we often feel.


With the Christmases of my native New Hampshire in my heart, Christmas in L.A. has always felt like a particular kind of poverty and exile. This year, with my mother gone (the three-month anniversary of her death is Christmas Day), I feel the exile especially keenly. But all that means is I get to look extra hard for a stab of beauty, for a moment of connection, for the light that shines in the darkness.

And when I do—gold, frankincense and myrrh [cf. Matthew 2:11] is my life. Tuesday night I got to tell my story to a large group of fellow alkies. Wednesday night I motored down to the women’s jail in Watts and got to share my story of sobriety with the gals who will spend Christmas in “detention.” Yesterday I was supposed to Caz (we have met so often at the Casbah Café that we have made Caz into a verb) with my dear friend Julia, but she had a cold/fever so instead my friend Brian came over and we had coffee and gabbed and he showed me pix of his family's 1200-acre farm in northern Minnesota. Tonight I’ll have dinner with other dear friends Donald and Alan and their guests/our mutual friends Tensie, Dennis, Rozella and Thomas from the Guadalupe (California) Catholic Worker. Saturday night I’ll be at a potluck open house in the Hollywood Hills hosted by music-lover piano-playing carol-singing friends Jamie and Karl. And Monday morning, December 24th, I’ll drive through the Angeles Crest Highway to the Angeles Forest Highway to the tiny town of Valyermo and St. Andrew’s Abbey for a retreat until the morning of the 26th.

How grateful I am for all of you. My work requires a constant process of discernment: to want to give and to know my limitations;, to be accessible and to make appropriate boundaries; to have the courage to speak and to know silence is often the better part of obedience and humility. Maybe the most difficult thing of all is to receive.

As St. John of the Cross said, "Where there is no love, put love--and you will find love."
Love to you all this Christmas, and beyond--

21 comments:

  1. This is just beautiful. I am sorry you missed Mass on the ?feast day? of St. John of the Cross andhow lovely that quote is. Thank you thank you.

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  2. Thank you Heather for sharing your gifts. Discovering your blog has been a true blessing for me this past year. Wishes for a holy Christmas and retreat to you!

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  3. Thank you for sharing the gift of your talent with us. It is truly a year-round gift. May your silent night truly be a holy night. Merry Christmas.

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  4. A blessed tale end of Advent and Retreat-time and a merry Merry Christmastide to you, Dear Heather.

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  5. A very merry Christmas to you, Heather! Thank you for the gift of your writing!

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  6. A very merry Christmas to you, Heather!

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  8. I wonder how creatures can read something like this and think we just evolved. God bless you Heather - my heart was in my throat. Remember the last verse of the the Little Drummer Boy? "Then He smiled at me, Pa rum pum pum pum. Me and my drum." Merry Christmas! Jesus is smiling at you.

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  9. Dearest Heather: Yes, indeed, a wonderful Advent. This year I have been very sad and missing my mama too. Her anniversary also is the 25th and she will be gone a year and a half. So after Thanksgiving I began really talking to her and it helped a lot. I'm not one prone to depression, but this has really been a tough one for me for various reasons. Just days before our blessed sweet Baby comes, I find myself emerged in the Word, hardly able to pull myself away. What a blessing!! Far beyond any tree or song, far beyond even good friends and food. I lector on Christmas morning and can hardly wait. Isn't it wonderful that Baby Jesus can make us soooo happy!! If only we allow Him to be the reason for the season. Thanks for your wonderful comments. The myrrh is easier to take when the Gold is Jesus!! Have a wonderful retreat.

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    1. Michelle, I so love your post, your words are poetry. Thank you.

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    2. Michelle, I so love your post, your words are poetry. Thank you.

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  10. You are a gift to many, Heather. Merry Christmas. Blessings in the solitude of retreat - write on!

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  11. You are a gift to many, Heather. Merry Christmas. Blessings in the solitude of retreat - write on!

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  12. Thank you for all you give to us - for your courage to constantly discern how to live fully. It is such a blessing! What a great example you are. Blessings to you as Advent draws to a close and for this Christmastide. Enjoy your retreat! Thank you again for all you are and all you do.

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  13. Bless you Heather and thank you for such depth and tenderness in your writing - as well as the ... everything else that your writing is to so many. You connect everything to the reality of Christ and it is never hard to find Him in your thoughts. Have a wonderful retreat. Not just you, but your many respondents, make me feel I am in company too good for me! Thank you and merry Christmas to all.

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  14. I love reading your posts! Thank you so much! And a Blessed Christmas to you!

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  15. Here's to hoping your Christmas was glorious - That your retreat was fulfilling - That your time alone in the desert was just what you needed in sweeping out the debris which keeps you from fully encountering your Savior - One day at a time is the only way to go. Christmas peace and joy be yours!

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  16. Here's to hoping your Christmas was glorious - That your retreat was fulfilling - That your time alone in the desert was just what you needed in sweeping out the debris which keeps you from fully encountering your Savior - One day at a time is the only way to go. Christmas peace and joy be yours!

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  17. "...all that means is I get to look extra hard for a stab of beauty, for a moment of connection, for the light that shines in the darkness." Thank you for those words, Heather.
    In looking especially hard for that beauty, connection, and light I went to Mass twice on Christmas Eve and once on Christmas Day (and I'm not even Catholic! I'm perhaps, just a little lost right now!) where I sat beside an elderly man. My spirit, both disturbed and being touched, led me to tears. The elderly man beside me, without having turned to see my tearful face, grabbed my hand at the moment tears rolled down my cheeks. The gift that man gave to me was, to me, the most important gift I'd yet received - it was the beauty, connection, and light you write of.

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  18. Thank you for sharing your gifts--and yourself--with us. Merry Christmas! I'm looking forward to meeting you when you come to Texas!

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  19. Thanks so much, everyone--this is MORE gold, frankincense, and myrrh...Terri, I so look forward to my trip to College Station!--Lauren and I are just firming up the date, but looks like April 6th very possibly...

    Wishing you all a beautiful weekend as the holidays, or these particular holidays, wind down...

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I WELCOME your comments!!!