/ 11 December 2006

Yesterday I went to church at our local parish, IHM, the one we’ve been a member of since we came to St. Paul, and also the one which we’ve been struggling to hang in with the last year in the midst of not very helpful leadership.

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much. Indeed, Eric and the kids didn’t come with me in part because we so often get frustrated that it’s hard to pray. But yesterday was a wonderful surprise! Fr. Phil, a local Jesuit, gave a wonderful sermon. And the mass setting we were using (the “Missa Emmanuel”) had a mournful, haunting quality to it that perfectly matched my prayer.

This whole Advent so far I've been steeping myself in the waiting, the anticipation... particularly the kind of waiting when one waits with hushed breath not knowing how it will come out. I've got Sarah McLachlan's newest album playing in my car whenever I'm driving. It's a beautiful set of Christmas songs sung in her ethereal, sad-toned voice. I particularly like the ways in which she's taken very familiar Christmas carols and added elements -- like a children's chorus singing over one of the verses "war is over, if you want it"-- that deepens and connects the carols to this moment in time.

Anyway, yesterday we sang a hymn I've never encountered before, and I loved the words and music so much that I'm putting the lyrics here. I wish I could find more of the music online, but at least I found this snippet. Here are the words, my prayer for this Advent:

Each winter as the year grows older
we each grow older, too.
The chill sets in a little colder;
the verities we knew seem shaken and untrue.

When race and class cry out for treason,
when sirens call for war,
they overshout the voice of reason
and scream til we ignore all we held dear before.

Yet I believe beyond beliving
that life can spring from death,
that growth can flower from our grieving,
that we can catch our breath and turn transfixed by faith.

So even as the sun is turning
to journey to the north,
the living flame, in secret burning,
can kindle on the earth and bring God's love to birth.

O Child of ecstasy and sorrows,
O Prince of peace and pain,
brighten today's world by tomorrow's,
renew our lives again; Lord Jesus come and reign!