by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM December 2, 2023
Amazing what connections come to our consciousness when we pay attention. I’d like to think I was doing exactly that when I came across a local honey display at a favorite health and wellness store. I sometimes use honey in recipes (brussels sprouts-honey-balsamic vinegar) and have recently become fond of adding a bit of sweetness to a morning cup of tea. But in the average supermarket what I find is pretty much honey. Period.
Here in this specialty market the choices were more expansive and varied. Raw and unfiltered honey. Honey with pieces of the comb clearly visible. Descriptive names of seasons and origins. Buckwheat Blossom. Cinnamon. Fall. Orange Blossom. And this one that called out to me: Wildflower.
I purchased it, hurried it home, and spooned out a drop of syrupy, concentrated wildflower magic. Bliss! I suspect this is what Mary Oliver felt “At Blackwater Pond” when she cupped cold water in her hands, took a long drink and exclaimed, “oh, what is that beautiful thing that just happened?” When I took these sweet wildflowers into my body, I tasted fields of purple aster, goldenrod, pink phlox, and wild clover. I saw them blossom under summer sun. I heard them calling out to every passing bumblebee. I imagined worker bees covered with pollen and carrying their dusty gold back to a waiting colony. I felt the tender care of a thousand beekeepers. And yes, all this I could do–take in bee-ness, blossom-ness, wild-ness, essence of wildflower and essence of bee–because I have a body, because they gave their bodies over to transformation and to service of the whole.
And since it was the beginning of Advent, my thoughts connected with this season of preparation. With Jesus, who fully inhabited our human body, taking on the wonder and the limits of our human condition. Had he perhaps, like me, enjoyed this liquid bliss? In the wanderings of his public life through the land of milk and honey (Exodus 3:8), in his trekking through fields and meditating on the natural world around him, had he also at some point dipped his finger into a dish of honey, tasted it, and exlaimed after he swallowed it, “Wow! This is really good stuff!”
The call of Advent is to prepare our hearts and our consciousness for the coming of Emmanuel, God-with-us, in our time and place. Perhaps part of that call might be to spend some time reflecting on our human condition. To whisper prayers of gratitude that we actually have a body with all its dazzling complexity and its persistent limits. To give thanks at all times for our human bodies, even when we are weary, or arthritic, or wrinkled, or slowing, or aching, or confined to a chair or a bed. To look at our human bodies as fearfully, wonderfully made, no matter that these same bodies sometimes seem to betray us and sometimes cannot take us where we want to go or do what we once did.
So when you first get up in the morning and shuffle into the bathroom, take a long look into the mirror. Notice that gazing back at you is a human body, perhaps one whose hair is disheveled and scruffy, perhaps one whose eyes are bleary and shaking off sleep. Remember then the mystery of the Incarnation and the mystery of you, with your human and holy and wondrous body. And when you do remember, say aloud for all the world to hear, “Wow! This is really good stuff!”
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Wrap your arms around yourself in a gesture of love and tenderness.
Thank your body for helping you enter into yet another Advent season.
Show compassion for any part of your body that carries pain or wounds or sadness.
Ask the Holy One for the healing you desire, and then ask for healing for our beautiful yet wounded world.
Featured Image: Dmitry Gregoriev, Unsplash
Please hold in your prayer my air travel and all who will be part of a guided retreat I’m leading:
“Advent: Pilgrimage of the Heart” for IHM Sisters and friends
Blessings of this Advent season to you. As we wait for the coming of Emmanuel, God-with-us, may the witness of our hope contribute to the healing of our beautiful yet wounded world.
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