2nd Sunday of Advent 2011 B
Today I take the core of my homily from some great reflections of Fr. Ron Rolheiser regarding Advent. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once suggested that peace and justice will come to us when we reach a high enough psychic temperature so as to burn away the things that still hold us apart. In saying this, he was drawing upon a principle in chemistry: Sometimes two elements will simply lie side by side inside a test-tube and not unite until sufficient heat is applied so as to bring them to a high enough temperature where unity can take place.
That’s wonderful metaphor for advent. What is advent?
Advent is about getting in touch with our longing. It’s about letting our yearnings raise our psychic temperatures so that we are pushed to eventually let down our guard, the walls that divide, to hope in new ways, and risk love.
John of the Cross has a similar image: Intimacy with God and with each other will only take place, he says, when we reach a certain kindling temperature. For too much of our lives, he suggests, we lie around as damp, green logs inside the fire of love, waiting to come to flame but never bursting into flame because of our dampness. Before we can burst into flame, we must first dry out and come to kindling temperature. We do that, as does a damp log inside a fire, by first sizzling for a long time in the flames so as to dry out.
How do we sizzle psychologically and spiritually? For John of the Cross, we do that through the pain of loneliness, restlessness, disquiet, anxiety, frustration, of waiting. In the torment of incompleteness our psychic temperature rises so that eventually we come to kindling temperature and, there, we open ourselves to love.
Advent is all about loneliness, but loneliness is a complex thing. It might lead us to quiet solitary rocking or push us to roam. The roaming kind of loneliness makes us, all too often, too restless to sleep at night and too uncomfortable to be inside our own skins during the day.
What we learn from loneliness is that we are more than any moment in our lives, more than any situation we are in, more than any humiliation we have experienced, more than any rejection we have endured, and more than all the limits within which we find ourselves. Longing takes us beyond ourselves. How? Through desire.
Thomas Aquinas once taught that we can attain something in one of two ways: through possession or through desire. We like to possess or even cling to what we love, but that isn’t often possible and it has an underside. Possession is limited, desire is infinite. Possession sets up fences, desire takes down fences. The insufficiency of everything attainable torments us: we are dissatisfied with the limits of our bodies, our present relationships, our jobs, our achievements. We long for more! That which will truly satisfy.
Longing lets us touch, through desire, God’s ultimate design for us. In our longing, the mystics tell us, we glimpse the
Scripture tells us that the
In the Province this week, the paper publicized a blog of several evangelical Christian women from Abbotsford who speak of the merits of virginity prior to marriage. The editorial the following day strongly states that “While no one should judge them for their personal choices, their advocacy of virginity until marriage is a dangerous, out-dated and anti-sex philosophy that most people have rejected. The last thing anyone needs, particularly young people, is anything that promotes shame or quilt about sexual desire. The idea that only sex within marriage is healthy is absurd.” I agree there should be no shame about sexual desire. It is a gift from God. But the presumption is : One must satisfy the desire so as not to remain in longing! You want desire an i-pad and obtain it. Yes, but can cannot desire a friend and buy one.
Why did these young women begin their blog? They were tired of being stereotyped as defective for being virgins. One declares herself to be a born-again virgin who wants to start over. Why? Another expresses that she is “just a young woman on a quest to find what true love, true beauty, and true intimacy really are.” They long for something more.
Are the two sides that far apart in the desire of the heart? We may long for sex, revenge, fame, power, glory, pleasure. But the why is important. Are not those caught up in this crass pursuit in fact longing for life? Are they not dissatisfied with the limits of their bodies, their present relationships, their jobs, their achievements? We all long for more! That which will truly satisfy.
Coming back to the question of chastity, I think that one would be wrong to judge that those, both men and women, engaging in pre-marital sexual intercourse are seeking only bodily pleasure. That would be over-simplistic. I would imagine that almost always, there is present a deeper desire; for happiness, for friendship, for justice, for peace, for joy, for oneness. It is a question of being fooled by a counterfeit.
Why does the one young woman want to start again? Because she was lied to. She was sold counterfeit intimacy. Sexual activity did not lead to true unity of spirit or deep friendship. Physical sexual expression is a language deeper than verbal communication. It is not just activity. Ultimately, it is meant to speak the truth that the individuals have in fact become one and are commited to one another for life. When that commitment to unity is not yet matured the logs need to sizzle a while longer. Waiting is necessary for the proper conditions to be realized.
Advent is about longing, about getting in touch with it, about heightening it. Longing lets us touch, through desire, God’s ultimate design for us. We do glimpse the