It’s been quite a year of shifts and transitions!
I would remember 2010 as a year of painful goodbyes as death shows its familiar face around the corner of my eyes. There was the death of a beloved mentor in Fr. Peter; the loss to death of my uncle Tatay Ben; and the final goodbye of my beloved father. Reality bites. Many times was I appalled, overwhelmed, stressed out. There’s not much to reason out in the face of death. Still, silence remains the best refuge in coping, and the balm of a colleague or friend’s gestures of comfort. Death and the grief that ensues is confounding to one’s mind and emotions. It did on me in between days of grieving, but at the same time, it’s handing me a gift that is as subtle as a wind’s whisper – the courage to look at the transitoriness and trivialities of life that left most hyperactive people anxious and worrisome. When I found myself anxious, there is this persistent question that the images of death would cast on my mind – is this anxiety-laden concern weightier than the loss of a father? Then the trivialities, relatively important as they are, slowly fade in its significance in the greater matrix of life and death.
The new job I have now is also a major transition and adjustment in my paradigm even if it is along the line of ministry. I’m finding out what works with excellence for me in my previous ministries may not necessarily work out in another system because the operational paradigms and people have needs unique within the system. This is where discernment comes in – trying to figure out where the formative cast of the Spirit hovers over the surface chaos and the unquenchable longing to continually serve no one but only Jesus and His body.
Advent 2010 has been quite different for me, having its own kind of waiting that swerved from last year’s mode. Advent this year spells waiting as patience in the midst of work-related stress and shortcomings confounded by grief. Purple was thematic enough. As Advent tapered off towards Christmas, I feel a different kind of joy matched by a very intense longing to help others, especially a father-in-law still fighting for his life at an ICU. Helping runs in the atoms and chemistry of my body, ingrained as early as my childhood days of staying by the hospital bedside of my ailing mother. I co-facilitated a pre-Christmas recollection among the contracted workers of the University that include a community of security guards, janitors and janitresses, and photocopy operators. In the middle of the recollection, I felt the joy of Christmas out from the simple thought of God’s offer of abundant life for everyone regardless of their status in society except that it takes faith to embrace this offer.
I would remember 2010, ending in Christmas, as a year of a very spiritual journey marked by a dream of a twin mountain – one lush, the other arid. If I have to bring in the two typologies of spirituality in the Christian tradition, both mountain could symbolize both the ascending type that is full of images and words, and the other, the descending type that invites the trekker into wordlessness, emptiness, silence.
Mountains carry their own subliminal messages; they are primordial signs of psychic and spiritual journey, charged with sacred energies. Sacramental enough, they are there like Mount Everest, in patient waiting for someone to climb. Their silence speaks volume of the Creator. The climb is mine and yours to choose.
I did a little special climb this Christmas not only through helping others, but also in solitude. I spent my pre-Christmas vigil mass reading Paul Davies’ Other worlds: space, superspace, and the quantum universe and Stephanie Kaza’s Mindfully Green: A Personal and Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking. Then I read back David Toolan’s very enlightening article “Praying in a Post-Einsteinian Universe”. Davies’ clinical treatment of quantum mechanics is hard to follow in its details but I am elated enough to “see the forest” amidst the trees. I have read Toolan’s magnificent reflection on the Incarnation or the birth of Christ a year ago. I read it again this year and it becomes more spine-tingling for whatever reason – the birth of Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise to give voice and meaning to quarks, atoms, stones, mountains, ants, cities and human beings. Yes, there is so much randomness in the world, as quantum physics would preach with uncertain electrons as the visuals. Death can randomly strike a family. But Christ’s birth was the turning centering point to make sense of every random event in our multiple universes and to “save” everything, quanta of light energy or photons included.
It’s a different Christmas in my solitude this year – more scientific and Earth-grounded even if the priest’s homily on Christmas-as-giving remains very generic.
From this Christmas on, I am envisioning a new 2011 to be more environmental in my choices and engagement.
Merry Christmas everyone!