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It’s happening again: the blooming of the summer snowflake viburnum shrub outside my study window; its fresh pointed leaves give way to showy blossoms preening in the sunshine and attracting honey bees and occasional sparrows. 

From a distance, the swirls of whiteness suggest a frigid season long since passed. When we had planted the shrub, then about three feet tall, I wondered how many springs I would delight in its flowering. I would find out.

For six winters, I had shivered as drenching rains and ice storms pommeled the shrub, encrusting its lower branches within snow banks next to the house—Even found myself speaking words of encouragement to it, knowing I would have to be patient and wait. And the summer snowflake viburnum continued kept coming back, only taller, larger, and filled with more blossoms.

Like the summer snowflake viburnum, I wonder how many more growth cycles I must experience before going home. I feel ready but more winters could still lie ahead, and with them, even deeper learning.

We now begin our reflection upon the seven Great O Antiphons of Advent that begin on December 17. 

Note that each Antiphon opens with the exclamation of O! In its wake reverberate the explosion of discovery, the joy of wordlessness, and the silence of awe. Such may have been the experience of the composer of these ancient Antiphons while reflecting upon texts found in the book of Isaiah from which they were drawn.

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.

The first O Antiphon addresses the promised Messiah as Wisdom, influenced by Isaiah 11:2-3; 28-29.

Such Wisdom is identified with Spirit or the Hebrew word, ruah, meaning breath that first hovered over primeval waters in the book of Genesis. Within this breath emanates all creation, then, as well as now; its intent: harmony, communion, and bountiful joy. It’s always been that way. But sin/separateness has corroded our spiritual faculties and exiled us into one wilderness after another where nothing lives.

Bereft of ultimate meaning, we’ve everything to learn. The Antiphon concludes with a cry for help, in the imperative voice: Come teach … Only with willingness to accept ruah can begin the conversion of heart, critical to our evolving into a new creation. Ensuing dialogue with Him prompts the daily practice of Prudence or its modern equivalent, discernment.

That’s the rub: Discernment requires consciousness to use our Pause button when adhering to ruah’s direction, often contrary to our instinctual wants or demands, but we do it anyway. The desired change does occur.

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