An Advent River, 2023

Dec 11, 2023 | Field Notes

An Advent River, 2023

It is quiet; not a sound by this river bank, except for the faint whispers of a slight breeze through the tall white pines and the occasional chirps of the swallows. The river sings quietly at this time of year. Daylight will soon slip away as another winter night approaches ever so quietly and with deepening cold. I have paused from my seeking in these woods beside this constantly flowing river.

The trees don’t seem to need God; they simply grow, and die. The river doesn’t seem to need God; it simply flows. The snow doesn’t seem to need God; it simply falls from the heavens as gift. The breeze that hums through the trees doesn’t seem to need God.  And the birds of the air seemingly flit about of their own accord. Or so it all seems.

But maybe, just maybe, the trees, the river, the snow, the wind, the birds all ‘are’ because of something ‘more’ that lies hidden before me. Maybe all ‘this’ before my eyes is God in nature, the purest sighting of divinity. Maybe ‘this’ is enough.

And maybe not. The trees die sooner now; the river water is tainted with pollutants; the snow is less than it used to be; the breeze is more erratic; and the birds are fewer than before. Something has changed in my lifetime. That which was, no longer is. The once natural sighting of the divine in nature has been altered and now all that is beautiful in nature emits a precariousness that could easily entirely pass away.

This delicate precariousness is no stranger to me for I too am delicate and precarious. My years on this good earth have taught me that much. I am fragile just as all I see on the side of this river is fragile. Indeed, fragility is what connects the trees, the river, the snow, the wind, and the birds and I. We exist together in our fragility. In the fragility of our existence we seem to be waiting for More, wanting More to come with each breath we take according to our differing rhythms and times.

The natural world tells its story through the rhythm of matter without the use of words, while humans, imbued with nature, use words and plots to tell their stories. This Advent I remember a larger story than my personal story; the story passed down by a living tradition. It is a large story of waiting, in longing and in hope, to be healed and renewed by a powerful love. Not the power of empires, or totalitarian systems, or of insidious language games, but a power of love-with-and-for- others. And it is a love-with-and-for-others carried by just institutions* that allows the pristine beauty of nature to be reborn and to re-flourish and that allows humanity to be healed and restored. It is this large story of love that I remember as I stand beside this Advent river of life.

*(Paul Ricoeur, Oneself As Another)

5 Comments

  1. Bill Barrett

    Thanks for sharing Michael.

    Reply
    • Michael

      Thanks Bill. Blessings of the season to you and your family. Michael

      Reply
      • Michael

        Thanks Bill. Blessings of the season to you and your family. Michael

        Reply
  2. Sue

    I am there with you

    Reply
    • Michael

      Thanks Sue. You know the spot; you know the Story. Michael

      Reply

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