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The subversive work of religion (of the Spirit, if you prefer),
is always to undermine the idolatrous structures of power.
This is why faithing is such a profound act of hope and liberation
in every age, in every place, in times of trial and war and lock-down,
at the margins, and bubbling up in the center.
(And, of course, it is why people like Jesus get crucified,
and people like Servetus get burned at the stake,
and people like ‘activist nuns’ get silenced.)
In this time of attentive waiting (Advent) and dormancy (Samhain),
I invite you to take the time to go to the margins of your own deepest faithing;
I invite you to go as far outside your comfort zone as you can manage…
…and then one more step,
and breathe deeply of the pure, clear air you find.
I invite you to choose to see what is
rather than the illusion that Power wants us to see.
I invite you to ask provocative questions rather than seek rigid answers.
And I invite you to find welcome among
the iconoclasts and wild ones, the wise elders and the idealists,
the heretics and the artists you find there.
That liminal space is where miracles unfold.
Nicholas of Myra (in Turkey) was an historical person,
a Bishop who attended the First Council of Nicaea
where he was so incensed by his fellow Bishop, Arius (of unitarian ‘heresy’ fame),
that he struck him – and apparently suffered no remorse whatsoever.
Nicholas is also revered as a man of generous humility,
a miracle-worker, the patron of sailors and children,
and, later, a (capital “S”) Saint.
Which goes to show
that saints are just like the rest of us,
only more so.
Or to put it slightly differently:
we are all saints –
it’s just that most of us haven’t yet found our focus.
So, in honor of the feast day of St Nicholas,
I invite you to consider for what you would like to be so revered
that you might actually become a capital “S” Saint.
Generosity? Peace-making? Solidarity with the marginalized?
Healing? Justice? Witness?
What is the passion that is so consuming that ego steps aside
and you become an open conduit for divine power in this world?
Some of us (both American and Japanese)
are mourning today, mourning someone who died at Pearl Harbor.
Some of us are remembering today, remembering parents or grandparents
telling the story of newsboys calling “Extra! Extra!”
as the special editions of the papers hit the streets,
or telling about the radio interrupting its programs
to bring the horror into homes.
Some of us don’t know where Pearl Harbor is,
who bombed it and why, and don’t care to know…
What does it have to do with us and our lives, after all?
Physicists tell us that time is not a line; it is more like a branching tree.
In our daily life – if we choose to be aware – we are brushing
against moments from centuries ago as well as centuries hence.
We can never know fully what impact a specific event or person
may be having on us and our lives.
(What children were not born from the men who died December 7, 1941?
What life-saving inventions didn’t get discovered?
What laws were not passed? What books or art were not created?)
We must bother to wonder; we must bother to care.
We can bother to hold people and events in memory,
to honor people and events beyond our immediate lifetime,
beyond our culture experience,
even beyond our imagination or understanding….
because this day we may be called to do something that will
transform a life already lived or one seven generations in the future.
Because it matters; our choices matter; our lives matter.
William Faulkner noted,
“And sure enough,
even waiting will end…
if you can just wait long enough.”
Sound and Silence
A second common theme as a coping mechanism is music.
“I have reset my default radio station from CPR to CPR Classical.”
“Gregorian chant! Totally calming, like a mantra.”
“Going through every Mozart CD I own.”
“Joan Baez and Peter, Paul, and Mary.”
“I’ve listened to ‘We Shall Overcome’ at least once a day
since the election.”
Of all people, Nietzsche said,
Without music, life would be a mistake.
…but then, he lived and died before
‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’.
(I thought I could avoid it in the hardware store –
which is also my local post office –
but the line was so long that I got to hear it twice!)
So, definitely consider music, but be selective.
Veterans answered the call from the Native protesters
at Standing Rock to join them in solidarity.
Having been trained in winter camping,
veterans arrived with their own supplies,
to join the camp and help build winter-proof shelters.
They did something else.
On 5 December, led by Wes Clark, Jr.,
the veterans knelt before tribal elders and asked for forgiveness
for the genocide of native peoples by the U S military.
The elders then asked for forgiveness for
the defeat of the 7th Calvary by the Sioux in 1876.
We have a lot about which to be fearful as 2017 looms.
But something profound is happening in hearts
with the protest at Standing Rock,
with safety pins on sweaters and jackets and hats.
We are building relationships across former lines of alienation.
We are daring to speak face-to-face.
We are risking vulnerability in the face of power.
We are stronger and wiser for the daring and the risking.
No, it won’t be a walk in the park,
but we have good companions with whom to ally.
This is a bright blessing.
Two people, who were alike in the fact
that they broke barriers put in place by powerful inner circles,
share a common focus on the common good.
Barbara Jordan said this about the United States:
A nation is formed
by the willingness of each of us
to share in the responsibility
for upholding the common good.
And Pope Francis spoke more globally when he said,
It is now, more than ever,
necessary that political leaders
be outstanding for honesty, integrity,
and commitment to the common good.
With such companions (both living and gone before)
we should not lack in courage to
be the leaders who will insure that the common good remains viable –
because without it we will no longer have a viable democracy.
Text © 2016, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016 Immram Chara, LLC