An Advent With All Our Senses…

An Advent Reflection
from Kirkridge Retreat Center
December 6, 2009

A reflection for the second week of advent by Peter Pearson

Advent is my favorite season! That may sound odd but it’s true. For me Advent, my prayerful experience of Advent, is richer and deeper than any other season of the church year. Could it be that I just like the music or the readings from the prophets or the sense of wonder in the waiting or the glow of the sunsets that happen at this time of year?

Maybe it’s all of these and more. It’s tied to my memories of a child’s anticipation before Christmas and that same child’s terror of the readings that are offered this time of year which sound like pages from science fiction. It makes me remember the time when the kids on my block were sitting around one summer’s day singing all the songs we could think of and that “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was one of our favorites. It helps me return to the time of the young seminarian whose community prepared for an evening of carols and lessons in the cathedral in mid-December and the prayerful calm of that night or of all the other Advent nights spent praying with the monks at the monastery that once was my home and of the rose incense we burned only at this time of year. It brings me to times, more recent and the prayers and the song and the silence and the waiting. And above all, the profound sense of wonder.

There is also the memory, or should I say the memories of icons of the Virgin and Child wrapped in a tender embrace before which a small candle burns. Sweetly intimate and yet filled with transcendent power, often this image is the only visible thing in a church or chapel or cell in the darkness of these nights. It is a gentle glow illuminating a gentle image. Soft, warm, inviting.

Somewhere in the midst of this embrace is expressed one of the foundational truths of our faith: God is not distant, God is with us. Advent is a time that is rich in experience for all of my senses. It anticipates the fullness of the incarnation that we will celebrate in just a little while. It is the longing of the human heart for more even as it already tastes what it hungers for. God is with us and has entered into the material world, sanctifying it and giving it the ability to point to the One who first created.

Take the time this Advent to listen to the silence,
to smell the echoes of heaven,
to see the invitation all around you,
to laugh at the playful paradox,
to immerse yourself in the richness
of this barren time of joyful anticipation.
Just as things seem darkest and most hopeless,
a light dawns among us.
How marvelous!

Peter Pearson

Many thanks to Peter Pearson for this week’s advent message!

Peter will lead an icon painting retreat at Kirkridge Jan. 28-31, 2010.

Program: A Brush with God: Icon Painting Retreat
During this retreat experience we will paint, pray and study together the ancient art of Byzantine Iconography but using the medium of acrylic paints. There is no artistic ability or prior experience required and each participant will go home with their own icon that will be created during this retreat following step by step instructions.

Friday 6:30 dinner thru Sunday lunch
Cost: $540

Peter Pearson has been painting icons for forty years and teaching for twenty. He is the rector of Saint Philip’s Episcopal Church in New Hope, PA, a member of an ecumenical monastic community (Community of Solitude), and the author of the popular text on icon painting, A Brush with God.

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