I have been working, thinking, walking, praying, reading, cooking, cleaning, preparing, and planning REALLY HARD.

Advent is here: my absolute favorite liturgical season. A secret, hallowed, magical time. I have many candles, Christmas bulbs, and string lights: all must be lit each morning in the dark, along with a stick of incense, for the opening of that day’s “door” on the TWO Advent calendars.

The dark blue Advent breviary has taken its place beside the December Magnficat, Al-Anon’s Courage to Change, Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, Robert Ellsberg’s All Saints (a new addition), and the Rule of St. Benedict.

Is that too much for morning prayer? Then I like to do 10 or so minutes of lectio, write in my journal, and then just sit quietly, BASKING IN WONDER AND GRATITUDE.

After that I get my lunch together, shower, haul the two buckets of graywater I save each morning out to the garden, along with the compost, make my bed, wash the dishes, pack up my work, books, laptop (for at 9 I’ll go to my writing studio), make sure I have my mask, phone, keys, lipstick, sunglasses, and credit card, and drive down the street to Mass.

We’re having it outdoors and boy, am I grateful that we are having it anywhere. Yesterday during his homily, Father bashed the lukewarm laggards who have fallen by the wayside, who have stopped attending Mass just because it’s COLD OUT, a little harangue that thereby encouraged us, among other things, to spy on, rat out, and judge our neighbors.

WE are the members of the faithful. WE will be admitted to heaven when we say “Lord, Lord.”

Behind my mask, I snorted. No disrespect to Father (who has stalwartly brought us Mass throughout COVID and is freezing his own tail off up there, and also knows tons of hymns by heart, and sings beautifully, and generally prepares a solid, sometimes thought-provoking homily, and is always on time, and runs, basically to our benefit, a very tight ship), but I wanted to say, Are you kidding me? Personally, I’ve never been able to believe the Church lets the likes of me in.

I keep thinking of Fr. Walter Ciszek, who said clandestine Masses in the woods, under penalty of death, as a prisoner in Siberia. “[T]hese men would actually fast all day long and do exhausting physical labor without a bite to eat since dinner the evening before, just to be able to receive the Holy Eucharist—that was how much the Sacrament meant to them in this otherwise God-forsaken place.”

I ponder the mystery of why the poor seem to complain so little while we, who live like pashas, bitch and moan over every tiny thing. This morning at Mass this old homeless guy in no hat and a thin overcoat was sitting beside me. I’d seen him shuffling laboriously down the street, dragging his dingy frayed suitcase, the day before. After the dismissal, Father launched into “How Great Thou Art” and the guy chimed in, singing harmony in the richest, most beatific voice.

That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art…

Indeed. This guy with broken-down shoes and a flimsy coat who can barely walk singing like an angel, that I should be present, counted worthy to be in his presence. NO need to congratulate me for coming to Mass.

“Basically the mystery of the cross isn’t a mystery of strength but a mystery of helplessness. It is a victory to be sure, but a victory hidden even form the eyes of the victor, a victory having every appearance and all the taste of defeat, and experienced as a defeat.

The cross isn’t the mystery of bravery but a mystery of love. It doesn’t consist in suffering courageously, nor merely in suffering, full stop, but in being afraid of suffering; it doesn’t consist in overcoming an obstacle but in being crushed by it; not in being strong and noble hearted but in being small and absurd in one’s own eyes; not in deploying virtue but in seeing all one’s virtues routed and pulverised; and in accepting all this lovingly. And in accepting lovingly to be strengthless; strength is no use, love is what’s needed.

So we shan’t reach the goal by gritting our teeth since, if we are capable of gritting our teeth, this means that we are strong, and all the while we are strong- with this kind of strength- we still don’t know what the cross is all about. Christ didn’t grit his teeth to go to his Passion, he didn’t pluck up his courage, he knew very well that he couldn’t. He merely said: Father, your will be done, not mine, which is something of a different order, of a different world, the world of love. And not merely the love of the human sort, but a love commensurate with God, of God’s sort, that is to say, love of a sort we can never produce of ourselves. This sort of love isn’t ours to give. God has to breathe it into us, he has to come into us to love himself.”

–Father Bernard Bro, OP, from The Little Way: The Spirituality of Thérèse of Lisieux, trans. Alan Neume, Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd, London


12 Replies to “NOT GRITTING MY TEETH!”

  1. Eileen Oconnor says: Reply

    Thanks for reminding me, Heather, of the beauty and awe of this season. I am an online teacher and right now I feel bogged down with end-of-semester grading and projects. I need to step back and remember the world “in sin and error pining” and remember who is coming to save us all. I have to make a sacred space as you have. Thanks for sharing. Eileen

  2. Fr. Rich Jasper says: Reply

    Love this reflection! May your Advent journey be filled with such lovely moments of Light that it continues to flow through you to the world around you.

  3. Mary McCaskill says: Reply

    You outdid yourself in this blog today. Thank you.

  4. Oh Dear Heather! There isn’t much about other I can say except thank you for expressing in words what I can’t.
    Happy Advent. Peace, wisdom, love,
    Molly W

  5. beautifully offered! dear heather!

  6. Such good food for thought. Your thoughts are so often the highlight of my day. Thanks Heather and Happy Advent.

  7. Philippe Garmy says: Reply

    Blessed be your journey, Heather! That was sheer punch and poetry delivered to we starving saints and sinners…O come, O come Emmanuel and render captive Israel!

  8. Mary Beth Paul says: Reply

    Here’s to the wonders of the Advent season, Heather, with your latest offering reinforces why it’s my favorite Liturgical season as well. Hearing your daily aspirations and then what you end up managing sounds, um, familiar! Keeping you and my companion readers of yours in prayer for a fruitful, spiritually and physically healthy, preparation time for the Lord. Walk on!!! XXOO Mary Beth

  9. HEATHER KING says: Reply

    Thank you all so much for these beautiful reflections and good wishes…they helped make my weekend…Advent is continuing apace….We had our Desire Lines workshop over the weekend and it was mysterious, sublime, for me a challenge and some strange kind of sign. I’m processing…Blessed Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception tomorrow and yes, we will walk on!!

  10. May I share our graywater story? Your post inspired me to gather my grays on Mothers Day with no plan to get it out of the tub. The tiny pile of recyclables and an old watering ‘can’ became the bucket brigade. An aloe plant in the front thanked me for the drink, and in the back was the desert. So I gray-washed the patio furniture. Harvested water became a habit and the aloe multiplied and a a bee pollinates the potato plant… thank you Heather

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Fantastic, Marge! Yes, the plants love the graywater, and what a great idea to use it to wash the patio furniture as well. I’m a renter and the landlord wouldn’t go for graywater for the washing machine which is a bummer as the garden would really be in business with recycled water then! Anyway, every little bit helps–thanks for sharing!

  11. maria SORENSEN says: Reply

    Thank you. I needed that


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