In the last few days I have been decorating our tree and house to make it festive and exciting for our grandchildren with lots of Santa Bears, mangers that can be explored and played with, stockings hung on the mantle and placing all the angel ornaments on our special tree of remembrance for our daughter, Kristen, all while trying to be present to the gifts of Advent. Christmas present will be different this year because we can gather with our immediate family and grandchildren as long as all are well. The greater challenge is Being Present in the day to day of life in the midst of the holidays and the days and months that will follow.
Being Present means being focused and engaged in the here and now, not being distracted or emotionally or mentally absent. It means looking around you, wherever you are, and actually noticing what you see, hear, smell, sense, taste or touch. I was not being present when decorating and when I stopped to notice it was all done. What had I missed and what did I not pay attention to? I missed noticing the prickly sensation of tree needles, I missed stopping to reflect on all of our Christmases as I hung the stockings that are part of our family’s history, and I missed stopping to remember the curiosity and the how our adult children still ask how did the presents get under the tree every year while we were at church on Christmas Eve. Being Present is a true gift if we are willing to accept it and say yes.
St Ignatius asks us to use our imagination in prayer, when reading scripture, or in our relationship with God. Imagine Jesus, sitting on a bench next to you and as you gaze into his eyes you imagine how present he is in this moment. What is it like for you to have that undivided and not distracted attention? Notice how your body responds to the depth of this moment of acknowledgement? What do you notice? Is your first response to look down or away to avoid his gaze? Or perhaps Being Present is resting in the silence of noticing, leaning into God’s heart. As you gaze into the eyes of Jesus, what color are they? Is Jesus’ gaze soft and inviting? Allow yourself to be fully present in this moment. Accept the “giving the present of presence”.
Joyce Rupp in her book “Out of the Ordinary” offers suggestions for
“Giving the Present of Presence” and I will share them with you.
- Be with someone who needs you
- Be with a person who gives you hope
- Be with those who live in terror or fear
- Be with an older person
- Be with someone who has helped you to grow
- Be with someone who is in pain
- Be with a war-torn country
- Be with yourself
- Be with someone who has written to you
- Be with a child
- Be with a refugee who is fleeing harm
- Be with someone you dislike
- Be with a farmer losing her or his land
- Be with someone who has a terminal illness
- Be with the homeless
- Be with those who suffer from substance abuse
- Be with hungry children
- Be with a coworker
- Be with those whose hope is faint
- Be with someone working for justice
You get the idea, so what might you add for yourself to this list to Be Present today and in the days ahead. Perhaps write each one on a card and chose one each day. Joyce Rupp’s prayer is beautiful and reminds us that Being Present is not done on our own. What we pray for God has already placed within our heart so don’t be surprised with what comes to you.
“God of love, you were so generous, sending the presence of your Beloved to dwell among us and to tell us who we are. Encourage me during this Advent season to continue in the sharing of this loving presence through my attentiveness, given in prayer and in deeds. You who dwell within me, remind me often to let go of my busyness and hurriedness so that I can be with others in a loving way. Convince me that “being” is as important as doing. Thank you for your strengthening presence. Thank you for being with me. Amen” (Joyce Rupp)
Have you had a hot chocolate, tea or a candy cane or a piece of rich dark chocolate recently? Or lit a candle to just sit with it? Being Present is an unexpected moment, a gift in the present. I hope you will say yes to this invitation to taste, smell, touch and sense. Advent Blessings to each of you.