Today is Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent when we celebrate the hopeful cry, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.” It is an interesting proclaim as we are in the middle of Advent’s darkness, isn’t it?
How many of us, while in darkness and question and pain want to proclaim joy? For me, joy is not the go-to emotion while wandering in darkness. Joy is not what I usually ask for. I usually ask for relief or rest, but never joy. And yet, Advent reminds us- here, now, in the middle of the dark nights of the soul, joy is there. She is waiting to surprise us.
So for this Gaudete Sunday, I am sharing with you two poems that have met me while I have been in a dark place and they gave me hope, and with hope came the little surprise of joy. I am pairing these two poems with images from my Japanese Magnolia, that blooms in the middle of winter. And although I first edited these in purple, my small homage to Advent, today I give them to you in black and white, as a reminder of the darkness each soul must journey through.
First, John O’Donohue’s For a New Beginning.
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
And then Mary Oliver’s The Hermit Crab.
Once I looked inside
of a shell folded like a pastry
and there was a fancy face—
or almost a face—
it turned away
and frisked up its brawny forearms
against the light
and my looking in
I scarcely had time to see it,
under the pure white roof
of old calcium
When I set it down, it hurried
along the tideline
of the sea,
which was slashing along as usual,
shouting and hissing
toward the future,
turning its back
with every tide on the past,
leaving the shore littered
with more ornaments of death—
what a pearly rubble
from which to choose a house
like a white flower—
and what a rebellion
to leap into it
and hold on,
the past to the future—
which is of course the miracle—
which is the only argument there is
against the sea
May joy surprise you this Advent.