Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Second Sunday of Advent~The Reed of God


That virginal quality which, for want of a better word, I call emptiness is the beginning of this contemplation.

It is not a formless emptiness, a void without meaning; on the contrary it has a shape, a form given to it by the purpose for which it is intended.

It is emptiness like the hollow in the reed, the narrow riftless emptiness which can have only one destiny: to receive the piper's breath and to utter the song that is in his heart.

It is emptiness like the hollow in the cup, shaped to receive water or wine.

It is emptiness like that of the bird's nest, built in a round warm ring to receive the little bird.

The pre-Advent emptiness of Our Lady's purposeful virginity was indeed like those three things.

She was a reed through which the Eternal Love was to be piped as a shepherd's song.          

She was the flowerlike chalice into which the purest water of humanity was to be poured, mingled with wine, changed to the crimson blood of love, and lifted up in sacrifice.

She was the warm nest rounded to the shape of humanity to receive the Divine Little Bird.
Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God

For the past seven months I had planned to write something about this passage on the first Sunday of Advent. When I took off all of Thanksgiving week, I thought surely I would find time to do it then, but I never did. Last Sunday came and went, and I just did not have time to sit down and write. Also, I wanted to take these pictures, but I just couldn't find the things I needed. So now it's past my bedtime on the second Sunday, and I have just barely begun. 

My week has been so very un-empty. I've only been home two nights out of the past eight. This is just not what I envisioned or wanted, and yet I think that all the things I've been doing have been important. It's really making me think and pray about just what is going on. And, as I mentioned briefly before, I'm wondering if what I'm supposed to be doing is learning something different about emptiness, about prayer and about Advent. I don't really think I've learned much yet, but I think I'm getting to the point where I can surrender my ideas about what is supposed to be happening. 

While I'm trying to wrap my mind around all this, I'm thinking that I might spread out what I planned to say about this passage in one post over a longer period of time. Of course, at this point I have no idea whether or not this is going to work out, but one way or another, you will find out in the next week or so.

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I want to thank my husband Bill for really going beyond the call of duty to make these pictures possible. When the only bird nest I could find (Why I don't have an empty bird nest on my 10 acres, I don't know.) was in a tall crêpe myrtle at Walgreen's, he and the very tall, very kind manager retrieved it for me. Also, Bill went and chopped down some bamboo, which, unfortunately abounds on our 10 acres, and made the reed pipe.



  1. You're kidding right? about Bill and the bamboo? Wow. What a good man. Every Advent I have in my heart plans to make quiet, prayerful preparation, but it rarely turns out that way. (sigh) Perhaps "emptiness" is letting go of our perfect plans.

  2. No, he's a pretty good husband!

    I don't think I ever succeeded at all in doing anything quiet and prayerful when my kids were the age of yours. If I got up early to pray, someone else would wake up early. I think you are on to something in your last sentence. Also, I've heard you mention letting your work be your prayer, and that sounds right, my spiritual director says that often, but, you know, it's not what I want. ;-)


  3. Bravo for Bill, most definitely! And the Walgreen's guy.

    "I think I'm getting to the point where I can surrender my ideas about what is supposed to be happening"

    That's a pretty hard point to get to, I think, or at least to stay at. Excellent post.

    I read a very similar thought about Mary within the past week or so, but can't remember where now, and I'm wondering if maybe it also was Houselander. It emphasized the same things, and with the same feeling.

  4. Well, I'm not at that point yet, but hopefully closer, or hopefully I'm able to do it more often.

    It wouldn't surprise me if she had been quoted in Magnificat or someone else's blog. She's so good on Mary.