Embodying Advent

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM December 3, 2022

Christians are a week into the season of Advent, a time when we’re called to reflect on the Incarnation, the coming of Jesus into history. We remember how Emmanuel, God with us, took on our human condition and fully inhabited his body, his time, his place. We remember that God in this human form knew what it was to feel hunger, to know fatigue, to long for a quiet space, to suffer rejection, to cry out in pain. We remember and stand in awe before God’s extravagant love for us.

Perhaps that’s why, after living through so many Advents, I’ve been taken by the phrase, “embodying Advent.” To embody means “to give tangible and visible form to an idea, reality, or feeling.” So how, in my body, am I witnessing to the Incarnation? How can I make that awareness my practice for Advent 2022? After some discernment, I decided to let my body and its wisdom lead me. Here’s a bit of what it suggested.

Minnie Zhou, Unsplash

Lingering for a few quiet moments as I wake at dawn in this very form, this body. Breathing my morning sigh: “Thank you for another day of loving and being loved by you.” Slowly climbing out of bed and standing in place, assessing my readiness to move (my body has not forgotten the wounds of surgeries and fractures and urges me to take notice of whatever is not fully healed. I do). Stretching and noting both the wonder and the limits of this body I inhabit. Praying for the bodies who are unable to move at all or who struggle with unrelieved pain this day. Asking the Holy One to move with me as I take my first few tentative steps. Savoring my steaming cup of tea and entering the stillness of contemplative listening.

Later, opening up my datebook or phone calendar to review what the day holds and where I’m being called to a deeper presence. Booting up my laptop as the sun streams into my office. Begging to be blessed with words, with something meaningful to say. Greeting my jungle of green neighbors and telling them my gratitude for their company in this space. Gazing with appreciation at the slow but steady blossoming of my tribe of African violets and the astonishing (almost creepy) growth spurt of my amaryllis bulb.

Realizing with appreciation that it is through my body that I express the presence of God to others. Praying to recognize the Holy One who greets me in the person at the other end of the phone or email or text, or the face that appears on Zoom, or the body that arrives for spiritual guidance, or the bodies I gather with for a meeting or a retreat session.

Later, uttering thanks as I take into my body a serving of mashed potatoes (with butter, of course), or a spread of avocado on Wegman’s 7 Grain bread, or a bite of Ina Garten’s raspberry crumble bars. So grateful to inhabit a body that delights in food. And yes, I never fail to thank the Holy One for that!

Kornelia Kusiowska, Unsplash

These are a few of the ways I’m trying to embody Advent this season. And what about you? What wisdom of the body do you have to share? What does Emmanuel, God with us, look like in your life?

Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Linger with your body. Listen to its wisdom.
What might you hear about being tender with yourself? about offering a loving presence to those who will come into your life today?
Give your body an embrazo, a hug, a gesture of gratitude.

Featured Image:  Kira auf der Heide, Unsplash

Please hold in your prayer the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart and all who are part of a guided retreat in Philadelphia this weekend. Special thanks to Sisters Eileen Spanier and Mary Elizabeth Looby and their team for tending to all the details and creating the space where we can best listen to the Holy at work in our lives.

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2 thoughts on “Embodying Advent”

  1. Thanks Chris for sharing your Advent practices! I am focusing on living in the moment and reflecting on the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem at Caesar’s command just as people all over the world are trudging from their homes because of conflict and the effects of the climate crisis. I will also pray for you and my Grey Sister cousins!

  2. Thank you, Chris, for a very beautiful, Grace filled meditation. I had a total knee replacement done over a year ago and my body continually speaks to me. I think I’ll have to be more gentle in my responses! I hope you are having a wonderful Advent…always has been my favorite season. Love, Peggy B.

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