Advent One: Thursday
As we look at crossroads this winter season and listen for ancient guides, I was gifted a quotation by Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century religious mystic who lived toward the end of the medieval period, a remarkable woman who was a German abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, mathematician, and visionary. In telling a story about a feather, she wrote, “The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God.”
Two images strike me during this long season of pandemic and our journey toward the Light this Advent. The first, of course, is the feather. In many ways, we humans tend to think we are in control. We make our plans, we carry them out, we say our prayers, we meditate, we pay our dues, we take our vitamins, and then, when the unexpected happens, we tend to sink into a depression or we rail against the fact that life is unfair, that ultimately there is very little over which we do have control. If anything has taught us about how little control we have in our lives, surely it is this pandemic.
But what if we thought of ourselves more as a feather, something that the wind (Spirit) moves, directs, and upholds? Or like a leaf on a stream? What if we were more open to making our plans and saying our prayers and beginning each day not so much with rigid expectations that everything must turn out the way we want it to, but with anticipation—even curiosity–trusting that whatever happens, we are not alone? For most of us, that flexibility and trust would require a major makeover. But a very wise woman, Hildegard of Bingen, saw such a journey is possible when we release ourselves to the breath of God.
The Creator blew over creation and the earth was born. The Hebrew word used for breath in the story of Genesis is ruach, which also means Spirit. We are Spirit-breathed creations. The Creator blew breath into dirt and brought humanity to life. The Christ blew breath over a group of terrified individuals “locked down” in a room and brought them peace. When we look back at the ancient figures in the Bethlehem story—a blue collar carpenter, a teenage girl, a middle-aged woman—we witness how powerful resting like a feather on the breath of God can be. Imagine how their life plans were shattered, yet nowhere do we see them pouting or rising up in angry frustration. Instead, they let go, they released their grip, and they allowed God to carry them forward to births that changed the world.
It is never easy to let go of anything, not our power, not our control, not our worries, not our plans and routines, and especially not those we love. Much of life is a freefall, and instead of resisting it, we can ask to float, to hover, to drift on the very breath that breathed life into each one of us. Blessings to you.