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In my perception, O! is like a hiccup of Spirit: It collapses disparate images into fresh paradigms, evokes quickenings, and precipitates change.

In 1957, four days before Christmas, a memorable one befell me.

A new postulant, in formation to become a nun, I hurried with the choir, our Libers in hand, down shadowy corridors toward the community room of the professed religious as their recreation concluded. We were fulfilling another Advent tradition.

The pitchpipe sounded. With full hearts, we began chanting the sixth-century antiphon, “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death!” (Isaiah 9:1). Its strains resonated through my cells, shifted heart-heaviness, opened, anew, bleary eyes. Suddenly, homesickness, the austerities of manual work, the wintry chill, the exhaustion no longer mattered. Another world, brimming with light, engulfed my darkness; within its wake evoked surrender to this semi-cloistered life, its mysteries beckoning me.

In pursuit of the Sacred for most of my life, I continue experiencing O!s that relieve darkness and deepen my surrender to my unique path, wherever it will lead—often fraught with pain, uncertainty, and the mandate to change.

Today, my terminal illness calls for more surrender to the Unknown—all the more, with full heart, to chant O Radiant Dawn and wait in the darkness. This will eventually pass. There will be Light.

 

 

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Such was the invitation/challenge I received upon entering the directed eight-day retreat at the Jesuits’ Eastern Point Retreat Center in Gloucester, Massachusetts. For thirty years I pored over my Jerusalem Bible, cross-referencing both testaments, dating significant verses, filling pages in my journal. For thirty years I sat by the ocean, entering its moods, smelling its innards, listening to its voice. For thirty years I sat across spirited directors, sharing dreams, laughter, some tears. For thirty years I received squeaky-clean cleansing, stashed away my retreat notes, and resolved to meditate more upon returning home.

For a few months it worked until life crammed the empty spaces of my psyche, my Jerusalem Bible unopened upon my reading table. True, I did peek at times, warmed at my scribbles and highlighting, but the God of Gloucester remained hidden, until the next retreat. Funny, he always showed up.

Not since 2014, though, have I been able to travel. My Jerusalem Bible still lies upon my reading table, unopened, my psyche unwatered, crusted with flotsam and jetsam.

 

Again, I’m hearing the invitation/challenge, Be still and know that I am God. No reason to delay, even if the God of Gloucester only hangs out by the Atlantic. I still have the August 2004 photo of myself searching—I’ve been there.

I must explore further—See, afresh, what’s out there, today.

For forty years, my friend Pat and I have been enjoying succulent fare at St. Louis restaurants, as well as sharing fresh insights into relationships, trends, the geopolitical scene, and the Sacred. Life has worked its rigors upon us, left us wiser, more compassionate. The tone of our voices manifests this transformation.

And so this afternoon we stopped at Pan d’Olive Restaurant—a Bite of Mediterranean: my first time using portable oxygen. Tables of four buzzed with animation: two birthday celebrations of seniors, hearty laughter, and juicy aromas evoking appetites—a slice of vibrant living that warmed me as I took a seat next to the shaded window.

In no time, an aproned waiter with black hair brought us plates of grilled salmon served upon cabbage stew in a garlic lemon sauce with capers, reminiscent of my 1998 tour of the Greek islands.

Indeed, a bittersweet tone underscored our sharing that touched on families, wellness, aging issues, the D.C. and global scenes, and significant books. Absent was our usual repartee. Solicitude for my circumstances tensed her forehead. She had said to her family, “Just you watch—Liz’ll be around next Thanksgiving.” Yet the little blue pill, still maintaining my functioning, did relieve some of her concern.

I welcomed her hand steadying my arm as we walked to her car, the afternoon sun casting long shadows ahead of us: within the shadow, deeper acceptance of the unacceptable.

 

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