The last handful of years have seen my Advents becoming an experience very unique to me, and to my mysticism.
They have become purposeful, directed, month-long visions of an intensity that is truly impossible to describe.
I remember one year actually feeling as though I were going into shock during one of the visions.
So intense. So real. So overwhelming.
But, until this year, following the path that God has laid out for me has never caused any conflict. Obedience is one of my best traits. God points – like one of Scrooge’s ghosts of Christmas – and I follow. There is no flinching. No doubt. No hesitation.
I just go.
But this year was different. I was told to let go of what I was doing, what I was feeling; and I wanted to say, No. I felt whiny, like a small child having to go to bed while the party is still going on.
I was heart-broken.
The instructions were that it was time for my Advent venture to God. It wasn’t stated in just those words, but I finally found that understanding in myself. Like the annual trip to visit Grandma. A trip. Leaving loved ones behind.
And this year I just did not want to go. Not that the going was the problem. It was the leaving.
But, then, during a contemplative prayer, it happened.
I want to say, The final piece of the puzzle was dropped into my consciousness, but that seems rather a crude way of describing it. But it’s the only way I know how to put it.
It all began over twenty years ago.
It all began one night when I consciously allowed myself to be locked inside the Washington National Cathedral.
I had the sense that “they” knew I was there. There was no real evidence, except that the cleaners, when they came near where I was, stopped their cleaning and left. As though I were being left alone to pray.
Eventually, I climbed the stairs up into the balcony that overlooks the nave. The magnificent crucifix suspended in air. In the dark.
In the cold.
The freezing cold.
And there I spent the night, locked in a vision. Wrestling emotionally with what was being revealed to me.
The overwhelming sadness.
I felt utterly defeated by it.
And so, at daybreak, my bones aching from being in a curled-up position, smashed into a corner of harsh stones – it’s where I wound up – I hobbled down the stairs, pushed the large door open, and breathed air.
The vision was over.
But the effects remained with me.
And that vision – a vision that I thought was complete, whole, accomplished – became, in its own way, a cornerstone of my work with God.
But there at the beginning of this year’s Advent venture, it came back. The explanation. That piece that allowed me to see it in a different way. To understand it.
And it was then that the silence began.
A few years ago, I think it was during an Advent, I had a week-long vision about going up a mountain to ask God a question. Every night of the vision, I watched as I wound my way up the mountain until I realized that I didn’t know what question I would ask were I to be in front of God. And so, night after night, I would stop at the same place. I would sit on a large rock. And I would watch others as they wended their way to see God.
The most I could come up with for myself was to spend some time just being there and watching God in action, as it were. Not to speak. Just to see.
But that wasn’t the assignment. The assignment was to ask God a question.
But what could I possibly ask him?
I didn’t feel competent enough to even think of one.
The other night I realized that what had happened – or failed to happen – on that trip up the mountain was that I had not gone into the presence of God.
I hadn’t noticed that at the time of the original vision. I didn’t think about what I was missing. That perhaps I could have pushed my way up to the top (or wherever God’s headquarters were in this vision) and come up with a question.
Just to be in his presence.
But here, this year, with the “piece” of the Cathedral vision, I was thrust into his presence.
And I saw that for all these years that I have been having visions, this was my first time.
It’s not just that the language of God is silence.
God is silence.
And I wasn’t just in the presence of God.
I was part of God’s presence. Part of the silence.
I remember feeling that I had entered through a “guest” door. With the door closing behind me. And wondering, Is it now locked?
But realizing that it was the door of God, and who could open it except God?
It wasn’t locked, exactly. But it was sealed.
I was sealed into the silence.
And I felt so small.
I thought of the Christmas prayer that I was praying. I found its words and I uttered them, and the prayer itself felt so small. Like a gnat flying about in the room. Insignificant, but there.
And I wondered, Is that what prayers are like for God. Minute, almost invisible?
I had no choice but to stand there.
Listening, I guess. There was nothing else to do.
Except there was no sound. So the listening was more to the movement in communication than in sound.
And I stood there.
It was as though I were being examined.
Not clinically. Not disinterestedly. Not coldly.
I remember the directness of it.
I was being seen.
And all of a sudden my sense of myself – misshapened, awkward, wrong – resolved itself. All the pieces that I experience as sticking out randomly all around me, as though I were an accumulation of parts bound together revealed itself to me.
My abstractness became me. My intensity became just me. My being was shown to me.
I wasn’t in-all-ways wrong.
I was right.
I was just right.
Who I was was who I was meant to be.
I was the ugly duckling finally being shown my parents. My future.
And the thing about me which I have felt was the most wrong thing that could be in the whole universe – something I call, my choice – was shown to me through God’s eyes.
It was my song.
A song sung by every cell in my body.
A complete coming together of everything that I am.
And my choice was right.
At least from God’s point-of-view.
I not only was right.
I had done right.
And now I have to stop writing because just having the experience come back to me stops me.
Stops me completely.