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Advent 1 Musings: O Ancient Love

Sister Doreen’s Reflections

Advent One Musings: What are we waiting for O Ancient Love?

In the new Hymn book published by the Anglican Church of Canada called “Sing a New Creation” there is a hymn called O Ancient Love (hymn #36) and each week of Advent I would like to share some musings from this hymn. There are four verses to the hymn, so each week will focus on one of the verses.

This week is verse one of the Hymn O Ancient Love

O ancient love, processing through the ages;
O hidden love, revealed in human form;
O promised love, the dream of seers and sages;
O living Love, within our hearts be born;
O living Love, within our hearts be borne.

Advent is an opportunity to do as Joan Chittister in her book “The Monastic Heart” writes: “In every beating heart is a silent undercurrent that calls each of us to the more of ourselves. Like a magnet it draws a person to a place unknown, to the vision of a wiser life, to the desire to become what I feel I must be – but cannot name. The truth is that this deeper part of everyone does not simply develop in us like wild grass. It needs to be cultivated, to be cherished, to be sustained.” Advent, a time to be still, to wait, to get in touch anew with that deep longing in our hearts for this living Love, that I so desire, to be born anew in my heart.

As we ponder that living Love, ancient, hidden and promised we long for that wisdom to teach us how to live, to know that right here, right now God has chosen to be at home, that this can be a gift that empowers us to new life, to communities of love, peace, and justice, that this living Love is born within us.

If we ponder the word Ancient, especially as it is twinned as Ancient Love, some thoughts come: it is  very old, having lived or existed for a very long time. Ancient applies to occurrences or an existence that has survived from the distant past. I am reminded from scripture how often, and in how many ways, God says to us “I have loved you with an everlasting love, you are mine”. Everlasting love – ancient love, a love that has been, is now, and will be forever mine and yours! There is a beautiful hymn in Sing a New Creation (hymn 115) that has as a refrain “long before” … and ends with “this ancient love, this aching love, rolls on.” Advent is a special time to really ponder anew this ancient love, this everlasting love, that has been with us all our life and promises to continue to be with us into the future.

If we ponder the word Hidden, especially as it is twinned as Hidden Love, some thoughts come: it is concealed, obscure, incognito When you want to do something and not be recognized, go incognito — hiding your true identity. It is funny that the words, recognize and incognito, are both related to the Latin verb, conserve, “to get to know” because when you do something incognito, you do not want to be recognized, and yet, you want to be known as present. I am reminded of Barbara brown Taylor’s word from her book “Gospel Medicine” when she writes of our invitation to be Theotokia, Mothers of God: “You can take part in a thrilling and dangerous scheme with no script and no guarantees. You can agree to smuggle God into the world inside your own body.” In a very real sense “the word was made flesh, and it dwells among us”. Hidden Love. Ronald Rolheiser in his book “Holy Longing” wrote: “God takes on flesh so that every home become a church, every child [in the world, every person next to you] … becomes the Christ-child, and all food and drink become a sacrament. God’s many faces are now everywhere, in flesh, tempered and turned down, so that our human eyes can see God. God’s many – faced face, has become as accessible, and visible, as the nearest water tap. That is the why of the incarnation.” Advent is a special time to really ponder anew this hidden love, dwelling in us and all around us.

If we ponder the word Promised, especially as it is twinned as Promised Love, some thoughts come:

It is to give one’s word, swear, pledge, vow, guarantee, assure, make a covenant with. It is this deep promise of God’s love and care for me and for all of creation that builds a trust and hope, an invitation to let go of fears, to open our hearts. Promised love takes us beyond self-reliance into new depths of faith. Living in promise, I am reminded that it was St Teresa of Avila who wrote: “Let nothing trouble you, let nothing scare you, all is fleeting, God alone is unchanging. Patience everything obtains. Who possess God nothing wants. God alone suffices.” Promised Love gives us an opportunity to deepen trust as “God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy6:17b). Promised Love assures us that God is on our side! God is always waiting for us; God desires our friendship … God yearns to take part in a mutual relationship with us. Advent is a special time to really ponder anew this promised love and to deepen our trust in the guarantee of God’s promise.

Love, ancient, hidden, promised – O living Love, within our hearts be born. It calls us and allows us to feel a part of something infinitely bigger, older, deeper, and grander. These words take us out of ourselves and place us in the Presence of the Living God. They convey us, while still very much grounded in this world God loves so much, to the experience of St Teresa of Avila’s prayer: Christ has no body now but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christs compassion must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which Christ is to bless us now.” They stir in us something at once strange and yet richly familiar as our deepest being resounds with the recognition of ‘the image of God’ as we reach out to grasp it in the God who descends to our world daily to reach out to us with infant hands.

The Advent challenge of imagining and dreaming of the reversals of all the ills that rob us of fullness of life is not wishful stargazing. It is about being bold and putting the common good of our life together as a priority as we ponder the ancient, hidden, promised Love. This is how God opts to work in us as a living Love born in our hearts.

Hoping for some exciting reversals this Advent and Christmas? Well, may pondering Ancient, Hidden, Promised Love break out into our midst, shake up, and turn upside down our complacency, privilege, and gatekeeping to make possible life-flourishing communities that are just, open, and joyful – waiting, longing, expecting a Living Love to be born anew in our hearts.