. . . a wind from God swept over the waters . . .
In his book, Returning from Camino, Alexander Shaia explains that the advertised destination of any given pilgrimage is not the end but the turning around point, and it is only through the long process of returning to walk the ways of the mundane and usual that the work of pilgrimage is brought to fruition.
One might call it a long obedience in the looping shuffle of the labyrinth.
John Wesley called it the work of sanctifying grace.
The frustrating thing about pilgrimage and sanctification is that I thought it would be more . . . terrifying, agonizing, exciting?
Less maintenance and more fireworks. Less wandering and more striding. Less a gentle breeze and more a hurricane.
Here at the end of our journey we are introduced to a breath of wind which is supposed to change everything. Our own personal Pentecost.
Advent is a pilgrimage, and Christmas is the destination. Christmas is the maturation of this prelude into the fullness and complexity of a fugue: a working out of themes. A snippet of this tied to a braid of that, all sounding impossibly complex, yet, at the level of the beat, just three or four pitches walking together. A working out of salvation—complete with fear and trembling.
Advent, this season of darkness and preparation, and pilgrimage, a journey of purpose and sacred intent, are supposed to leave you utterly, profoundly transformed. A pilgrim who will never be the same.
But that isn’t the way of it, is it? Advent hustles into Christmas where we were hoping to catch our breath by the crackling hearth and instead do so by the never-ending sink: a holy day marked out in meals and dishes. And onto the new year, heads barely raised enough to notice that this breath of wind, too subtle to charm a kite, has changed the shape of the Sahara and carried the maple seed just far enough to take root in an entirely new place.
No, the work of this wind is a subtle thing, done through the medium of the mundane. The actuality of this journey is tinged with the blue of melancholy, but, since our eyes have adjusted to the darkness, we can see that the stars do not stand above us, but whirl in a dizziness of dance. Since we have walked into the silence of darkness, we are better able to listen to the heartbeat beneath all things. Since we have embraced the stillness of darkness, we can pause beneath the spreading sky, breathing in this moment.
Even if your hands are wet and soapy. Even if your inbox is full. Even if nothing feels different at all. We know a secret. A secret taught to us by the darkness.
Joy is found not in beauty or purpose or success.
Joy is found in love which asks of you only to be, for this moment, in whatever balance between light and dark, open and closed, full and empty, pouring and filling, seeding and growing, revealing and searching you find yourself.
So, be blessed this Christmastide with eyes that have adjusted to the darkness and a heart that has adjusted to being so deeply, thoroughly loved.