Hope beyond hope

Trish StefanikA Benedictine Sojourner's View, Living in Community, Monastic Life Leave a Comment

festival_of_lights_450 sm w cThis is the season of deep yearning. Longing for a savior, home, justice and peace. Tears have welled up in my eyes more than once as I listen to this month’s scripture readings at community daily prayer and at Sunday Assembly, our ecumenical liturgy.

The prophet Isaiah paints such a vivid and vibrant vision of a world redeemed, a divine promise realized: healing and wholeness, forgiveness and reconciliation, a dispirited people gladdened, a way made clear through the wilderness, nations putting down weapons, persecution no more. A great light appears in the darkness, all the earth rejoices; a spirit of wisdom, sound knowledge and wonderful counsel is with us. “Be strong, do not fear. Here is your God.”

Such irrepressible, contagious hope. That is one of the gifts ignited by the candles we burn during Advent — fuel for the fire of God’s love to be kindled anew in our hearts. I also experience it with the music of the season.

The Benedictine Sojourners received the gift of attending a couple festive concerts this month. One was the annual December concert of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by the combined voices of its large chorus and youth choirs along with the Mt. Zion gospel choir. At the concert’s end all of us were invited to sing the familiar Christmas carols of old. A spirit of delight and joy filled the house.

At another gathering in Green Lake, Wisconsin, we heard a beautiful rendition of “O Holy Night.” Memory took me back to one of the most precious Christmas gifts I ever received. A friend with the zeal of Isaiah stood before me and sang all three verses of the hymn. His voice was filled with the love of God and the urgency of the prophet when he sang, “Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in His name all oppression shall cease.” I think I was moved to tears then too. I saw hope before me and felt it leap in my belly.

It is difficult to be strong and not fear, confronted with the breadth and depth of human cruelty and anguish, waves of natural disaster and one’s own limitations. Hope can seem elusive, but I believe we were born with it. I experience hope as we give ourselves over to God in prayer. I also see how a company of people holding each other in love calls forth the Christ-light in every one of us. We together can help manifest God’s vision.

These last couple months, the community of communities that make up Holy Wisdom Monastery have come together to affirm its part in God’s dream throughout the history of the Benedictine Women of Madison and to name its vision for the future. As I looked around and listened to the faith, creative energy and diversity of gifts willing to be shared, I was so humbly grateful — and inspired to push the boundaries of impossibility.

God’s gift

O God you bless me
with life, such love,
I do not know what
you have in mind
but I pray –
for a heart kindled
so that I can say yes
when you propose
in the moment
I least expect.


Follow this link to read more of Trish’s blog posts: Living in Community – A Benedictine Sojourner’s View


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