Rorate Caeli

The First Sunday in Advent: Forgetting the Divine Wormhole

    I knew that morning that I had forgotten something important. I had the idea that I misplaced something.  I checked my iPhone, my iPad, no, they were there, I who insisted that I would never have these devices, now wedded to them as if they contained my life.  My car keys, house keys, all there.  But there was this stubborn thought, this feeling that I had misplaced something important.  If I could remember what it was I needed to remember I could look for it.  But I have done this before: I have gone to the pantry to get something to add to what I was cooking and then forgot what it was I had to get.  But it always came back. 

   But this was something deeper.  I had been distracted lately because I had so much to do, juggling those parts of my life that needed to be sorted out.  So I wandered around the house, and then came the question: “What are you looking for?”  My answer: “I don’t know.”  “What does that mean?” “ I don’t know, but my mind and stomach tell me that I have lost something important and I have to find it.” 

    The day was waning, darkness falling, winter coming.  I went outside into the cold air, now agitated, also feeling foolish, a grown man wandering around like this trying to find something he lost and not knowing what it was.  I looked up and saw the stars.  They glistened in the clear and dark sky.  What is tomorrow, what is the schedule?  I knew tomorrow was Sunday, and it was the first Sunday in Advent.  Early Mass, then work on the talk for Monday’s big Skype conference with clients, then bring the kids to practice, which practice? what season is it? Hockey?, I guess hockey, then a few conference calls, then dinner with some people, then back home to get ready for tomorrow.  I shivered as I thought of all this this.  But this made me feel better, because I knew what I had to do tomorrow and the next day, I felt better knowing that my life was filled up with things I had to do.  I concentrated on these things, and even Christmas coming and all that had to be done to prepare, the lists, the places, the people, the family, the vacation to Antigua, my calendar spinning out in front of me, driving away that feeling that I had lost something.  And then, and then,  I looked up again-- and there were the stars blinking in the dark sky, reminding me, reminding me of something I forgot, something I lost. 

    And out of that space a voice came:  “He will strengthen you to the end.”  The end. The end.  Is that what I forgot, that this will all end?  Yes. That must be it.  I forgot the end, I forgot that there would be an end.  And suddenly I was afraid, the cold of the night burrowed deep into my body and into the bowels of my mind: the end. The end. By forgetting I had assumed that the lists that made my life were my life and would never end.  Is that what I forgot? If so I forgot it on purpose, for the lists and plans that make up my life assume that this will go on, for this is who I am, how I define myself.  And then a voice on the wind:  “We have all withered like leaves and our guilt carries us away like the wind. “ “The night is passed and the day is at hand.” No. It is still night, and I am cold, and staring into starry space I remember what I have forgotten: I have forgotten—eternity!  I have forgotten the touchstone, I have forgotten the ultimate dimension that can alone make sense of my life.  I have forgotten that only eternity  can make sense of the moments and lists and plans and disappointments and failures and anxieties, and my parading around as if I am the master of the universe, the master of my destiny, talking myself into believing that this life defines me and is all that there is.  I have become so used to looking into the mirror of myself that I have forgotten, I have forgotten the divine wormhole that breaks out into the eternal, that breaking out, “Lo he comes with clouds descending, robed in dreadful majesty!”  Who am I? I have forgotten who I am, confining myself to this world, a worm and no man.  The night is passed. The day is at hand. 

    Shivering I went back inside my house, into the warmth, the known-ness, the light, the comfort of knowing that tomorrow will be another day and things to do and things to plan and soon, all too soon,  I forgot what I had forgotten and remembered. And I locked up eternity in a place where it could not bother me.

My Soul, there is a country
       Afar beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentry
       All skillful in the wars;
There, above noise and danger
       Sweet Peace sits, crown’d with smiles,
And One born in a manger
       Commands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious friend
       And (O my Soul awake!)
Did in pure love descend,
       To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
       There grows the flow’r of peace,
The rose that cannot wither,
       Thy fortress, and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges,
       For none can thee secure,
But One, who never changes,
       Thy God, thy life, thy cure.

Henry Vaughan