Looking out at Christmas lights scintillating in the early morning darkness I feel the presence of angels. I know where they are by the breath they have just taken in, no doubt to trumpet something like “be not afraid” or “I bring you glad tidings.”
“Hold that thought,” I whisper to them.
They have been with me, these angels, throughout the Advent season. Early in December I prayed. I asked what my discipline ought to be this year for this time of waiting and watching, of honoring formlessness and unknowing. I was thinking it would be something serious and instructive. Instead I got sparkles, the impression of wings (blue for some reason), and a feeling of joy. It is the season, I realized, not only of darkness and anticipation, but of the visitations of Gabriel. Angels abound in Advent, as well they ought, to get us ready for what is to come.
To prepare me they showed me two mind-boggling miracles. They led me to these insights by way of the writings of Julian of Norwich, that lovely 14th Century visionary who saw all that is created as a round object no larger than a hazelnut, held in God’s love.
The first is about God, author and center of our existence, the Thou in which we live and move and have our being. It is a deeper understanding of that most basic truth: the nature of God is Love. The nature of God is Love, but it’s not just a passive, thoughtful sort of love. The love of God is ardent, passionate, forever giving and continuously sacrificing. God desires us like a lover desires the love object – with a total fixation. God desires that we be well and whole because God is invested in us completely.
The second insight is related. The forgiveness of God is absolute. God doesn’t care about our misdeeds; God only wants to be in relationship with us. When we are finally ready to turn away from whatever behaviors or cravings obsess us and turn back to God, God welcomes us without recrimination and without a tally of wrongdoing. To my understanding, it is as Julian envisioned. Sin is no thing.
Now, in the darkness, pondering these insights once again, I hold my breath. There is more to come. Once it dawns on me, there will be no going back.
“All right,” I think, and I slowly exhale. Sure enough, the angels are right there. “Behold,” they shout, ripping the fabric of creation with their elation. Etheric trumpets blast. And I see a little brown baby lying in straw. This tiny creature – blind, crying, grasping – is, indeed, the angels tell me, God most high.
From before time, God is the being who has and who will incarnate. God enfleshes God’s very self, giving up infinite awareness and understanding for the tunnel of three dimensional perception, so that God’s beloved – you – and me – can be joined with God.
And so we are joined. Irrevocably. If you wanted to do something else with your life – well, that’s just too bad.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries
“Archangel Gabriel Icon in Blue and Red” by Anonymous, Monastery of Saint Catherine – Flickr User “TheStarsInTheNightWillForeverBurnBright”