Advent Word: Expand

I have been holding a particular poem from St. John of the Cross in my mind today as I consider deeply what it means to expand into this advent season. Let me start by sharing his image-laden verse:

you want
the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy
and say,

“I need shelter for the night, please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close.”

Then, under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
taking birth

as she grasps your hand for help, for each of us
is the midwife of God, each of us.

Yes there, under the dome of your being does creation
come into existence externally, through your womb, dear pilgrim—
the sacred womb of your soul,

as God grasps our arms for help; for each of us is
His beloved servant

If you want, the Virgin will come walking
down the street pregnant
with Light and
sing . . .

If You Want by St. John of the Cross, translated by Daniel Ladinsky,
Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West

I hold this image of intimacy and expansion tenderly today. This image of birthing is perhaps the most intimate of human experiences. But, birth always leads to expansion, to letting go, to emergence into unknown tomorrows.

As I was waiting for an image of expansion to find me today, I was setting up the spiritual landscape of my home. Today, I brought out the small, olive wood carved crèche that I bought from a Palestinian Christian who was selling them to support a meager congregation in a war-torn area. I set it on the windowsill above my advent wreath. I added stars and light to each of the four corners of my house in preparation for solstice. Then, I set up the “Tree of Life” menorah, in preparation for the coming week’s Hanukah celebration. Before I set my menorah on the candle table my father had made me, I covered it with the delicately crocheted table doily made by my grandmother. As I smoothed its edges, I took in the way her hundreds of tiny stitches formed this magnificent piece of lace:


I treasure tradition: spiritual tradition, family tradition, religious and cultural tradition. Today, as my hands smoothed that piece of lace, I felt the expanse of time, and the re-creation of traditions and practices that allow for the birth of God’s presence in the world. I breathed deeply into that expansion, the way that one breathes into the contractions of labor instead of fighting against them. I felt the words of St. John of the Cross:

“…each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.”

Tonight, I welcome the expansion of God’s presence that fills this season with the expectancy of Light.


About harasprice

Professor of Social Work and Priest in The Episcopal Church, parent, teacher, learner, writer, advocate, and grateful traveller along this journey through life
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