Maybe it is true. Waiting is generative even when it seems like willful inaction or slovenly procrastination. I wanted so much to share something about my yoga with Jesus at the end of the summer, but I could not seem to put it into words. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough or maybe I wasn’t ready to write it. Now, in the arrival of Advent, I have a frame for it.
Mitch was teaching for the week at Montreat and I went along hoping to rest in a familiar place. I am not usually the one who seeks out the church when I don’t have to when I’m away on a kind of vacation. However, my hope was to meet God in these Appalachian Mountains: in the forest, the gurgling stream, and amid the majestic rock face of the mountain exposed. I also longed for the ritual of the Anglican expression of faith that I regularly participated in before we moved to Canada. I wasn’t expecting the Christs I encountered.
I met this image of Jesus when I attended the early Sunday Eucharist at St. James Episcopal Church in Black Mountain. As soon as I entered the sanctuary, I was confronted with this Jesus towering above the chancel, bringing his human presence to center stage. He was larger than life itself; Jesus with his hand outstretched toward me, beckoning me, while his other hand is open and receiving. He has a kind, compassionate gaze, easy to look toward. So intimate, I sensed the unexplainable tears about to come; I hoped they aren’t noticed. I didn’t look too intently even though I wanted desperately to look deeply into that face.
Saying the name “Jesus” makes me feel self-conscious, I will admit. I usually choose to use God or Spirit more often from the trinity of names. I remember (not fondly) my Dad often said, thank you, Jesus. My sisters and I felt some embarrassment for the trembling tone and mismatched care between my Dad’s Jesus and us. As I grew up, God seemed more dignified, godly even, a divine presence that seemed more inclusive and a safe distance away.
I know that this Jesus I encountered at St. James was, as Frederick Buechner says our unexpected tears are, “speaking to me through the mystery of where I’d come from and was summoning me to where, if my soul is to be saved, I should go to next.”
My next was a “contemplative yoga” class that met at St. James on Wednesday. I wished I had, had the courage to ask the kind Priest about the class as she greeted us as we exited. Of course, I didn’t. But I did have the courage to show up, after checking online to make sure anyone was welcome and found they even provided yoga mats.
The class was in this very sanctuary. A couple more mature than I and two other people set up their yoga mats on the floor around the communion railing. And yes, we were lying at Jesus’ feet. In fact, that is what I could see, his bare feet and the hem of his garment as I grounded myself on my mat. And that is where my eyes stayed; all I needed to do was touch the hem with my gaze.
Since that day, I repeat Come Lord, Jesus, at the beginning of each yoga class and occasionally even at church.
I didn’t remember at the time that this was an Advent mantra. I suppose I should have known that but I was literally lying at an adult Jesus’ feet. I desired the intimacy, to see and know that Adult Jesus, whose very name challenges my ego.
This is the image I am waiting for this Advent – a bigger than life Jesus, not a little baby that is to me an abstraction of hope and requires little response from an adult me.
Richard Rohr says that it is to the adult and cosmic Christ that we are saying, Come, Lord Jesus. The Advent mantra means that
.. all of Christian history has to live out of a kind of deliberate emptiness, a kind of chosen non-fulfillment. Perfect fullness is always to come, and we do not need to demand it now. This keeps the field of life wide open and especially open to grace and a future created by God rather than ourselves…
When we demand satisfaction of one another, when we demand any completion to history on our terms, when we demand that our anxiety or any dissatisfaction be taken away…we are refusing to say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” We are refusing to hold out for the full picture that is always given by God.
Come, Lord Jesus is a leap into the kind of freedom and surrender that is rightly called the virtue of hope. The theological virtue of hope is the patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution… our Satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves.
Jesus will come again, yes, this bigger than life Jesus that has been ever-present even when that presence seemed too intimate to publically acknowledge.
Come, Lord Jesus.