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For most of the day, splishy-droplets scrimmed winter grasses, plank fences, and specter shrubs hugging my study, a subtle drenching sorely needed.

I pulled a chair next to the window, rather than collapse within grey’s moroseness: its palette revealed pewter skies, foggy mists, smoking chimneys, charcoal streets, sidewalks slickened like the hides of hippos. More belly rains threatened in the sudden splats whipping off my windowpane, then retreating as if scolded for intruding. Moments passed. Then, breezes lulled overhanging tree branches, slate-colored, and caught in its lethargic play a mussed piece of wrapping paper until lodged within hoar-covered ivy near the fence.

Then change occurred, slow at first: the droplets, icyfying. Plink! Plink! They caromed off my windowsill, sheened the piles of leaves resembling discarded gunboats in my backyard. Even silence felt like sagebrush with its healing aroma. The show continued. There was much to learn.

For an interval, all the greys surrendered to lighter hues releasing imprisoned outlines of my backyard. Rosy-greyness infused what appeared dormant. My spirit breathed deeply into the metamorphosis until swallowed by darker greys and night.  

But I had been visited as many others who had been colored, anew, by this experience. Grey does have substance.

December’s dormancy nurtures bulbs and seeds and roots, until summoned to sing. We, too, must wait and imagine: creating sylvan colors where there are none. Relationships depend upon such willingness.

Every morning at 5:30, the overhead lights and the heavy metal hand bell ripped me from sleep and seared my eyes. I tore off the blankets, slid onto my knees, kissed the cold dormitory floor while responding in Latin: ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum saeculi. Never since have I been so rudely roused. That was in the postulantship, December 1957.

Yet its abrasive memory comes around on the eve of the First Sundays of Advent; in Mark’s eschatological discourse, Jesus describes the chilling conditions of global collapse, then urges, Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. That time refers to the Parousia or Second Coming of Christ.

And in First Corinthians we read, he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day of our Lord Jesus Christ—directives replete with mystery and offered for our reflection, during these uncertain times.

Multiple life changes have already made many heavy-lidded, disoriented, and dispirited. In vain, do we petition leaderless leaders, wherever we find them.

Even further does Covid’s darkness compound this malaise—all the more critical to continue seeking hope’s flickering within our psyches. To fan it into fuller light requires time off, alone, listening to silence and learning from it, not partying around the protective edges of the virus, until numb.

From such inner work, more of our shadow surfaces for which we cry, “Mercy!”—an austere yet paradoxically enriching life-path to observe during the next four weeks of Advent.  

We’re still preparing, with help …

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