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A significant story is still related in the village of Fleury, France, never rebuilt after the artillery and trench warfare of World War I. In the vicinity still stands the Benedictine Abbey, established in 640 A.D., and only shuttered by passing warfare over the centuries; with the withdrawal of Hitler’s menace, it was refounded in 1944 and thrives today.

This significant story, I mentioned, began in the monastery chapel, on the first day of the Christmas octave, in the early 640s. The Abbott, his advisors, and the community of monk and priests were chanting the Hour of Vespers, or evensong.

Anticipation mounted among the consecrated men. A new short prayer or antiphon of the promised Messiah would precede their chanting the Magnificat, the pregnant Mary’s song of praise and joy in her God.

Moments passed. Then, within shivered breathing exploded sacred words drawn from the prophet Isaiah:

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,

reaching from one end to the other,

mightily and sweetly ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.

As Vespers concluded, the Abbot and his assistants began distributing small gifts to his community and then returned to their Order of Day. Six new antiphons would follow in succeeding days during Vespers and quickly spread throughout European monasteries.

This is one version how The Great “O” Antiphons of Advent came into being, its author’s anonymity purposely veiled. Created in a chaotic world, they speak to ours. There is release, into the sunshine and peace.     

A night of multiple dreams from which I recorded these:

2:30 A.M.

It is a balmy night, fireworks illuminating the sky. A festival is underway filled with people of all ages and backgrounds. Their merry-making attracts me.

7:30 A.M.

It is winter, the ground frozen and ice-covered. Lethargic and dispirited, I’m visiting a home care patient in the city who resembles me, not only in appearance but also in behaviors. She does not have much to say. Readmitted to the hospital for the recurrence of her infection, she remains aloof to my offer of prayer. I again visit her upon her discharge home. This time, she asks me to drive with her to her mother’s home. We head outdoors, mindful of our steps lest we slip and fall.

 Both dreams speak from my psyche’s shadowy depths. The first dream seems to counter Minneapolis’s fifth night of rioting and looting, further demoralizing our country with senseless torching of businesses and terrorizing surrounding neighborhoods. Such evil, however vicious, passes with the emergence of daylight and the resiliency of those afflicted. Humbled, tearful, leaning upon strength not their own, they carry forward their story for everyone’s learning: there’s vibrant life despite unjust systems.

The dream also suggests fresh grace of multiple colors, alive and well in my psyche, thrilled by my home-going in the company of others.

In the second dream, my psyche is frozen, inert, stifled by irreversible symptoms and attitudes that mess with acceptance of my dying body. In this story as chaplain, I’m still in control as I sit with this lackluster patient, another image of myself, better served if left alone to find her own God. More pain and suffering will eventually break apart defense mechanisms and open her psyche to radical healing. This has been my experience in hospice, and such will accompany my last breath.

Such dreams prod deeper faith in my spiritual awakening that’s working out, one day at a time. I’m grateful.

 

 

At 2 A.M., I awoke with this dream:

It is night. Only halogen streetlights illumine my situation: alone, anxious, seated behind the steering wheel of a U-Haul 17-foot truck packed with stuff. I’m waiting to make the delivery but need directions. I check my watch. It’s already been a long time. No traffic on the nearby Interstate.

And at 4:30 A.M.:

Again, I’m seated in a box-shaped truck filled with stuff. I wait for directions. It is night.

Mulling upon the message of these dreams led to two interpretations, the first one more appropriate to last week’s stance toward my terminal illness.

Night signifies the end of daylight living, old age, death. The image of being seated behind the steering wheel suggests the need to control my ILD, even to slowing it down with exercise, nutrition, and elimination, rather than surrendering to its inevitable diminishments. I’ve chosen to be alone in this process, despite some wishing to support this critical experience with me.

My stuff speaks of bits and pieces of decades-long behaviors and attitudes deemed unacceptable, their revelation, humiliating, now locked away within the rental. Exhausted, impatient, lethargic, I await directions for the disposal of these unsavory aspects of myself—as if checking my watch would bring the needed directions to do so.

The second take on the dreams suggests the responsible handling of my affairs prior to the death of my body: consciousness of my end-time with its solitary journey into diminishment and death, sequestering my stuff from harming others, willingness to properly dispose of it, and exercising patience as I wait for directions for the next right step.

Perhaps both dreams suggest last week’s glitch that led to yesterday’s willingness to let go of my body, a critical breakthrough that reframes each twenty-four hours, granted by Creator God. I remain in good hands.

 

 

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