This Advent has been one of preparing for Christmas by taking the road from mount Carmel to Bethlehem in the company of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross as well as Teilhard. And a very enlightening trip it has been. I am still trying to make sense of what I have learnt about preparing my heart or my stable to receive the Christ child. I think to sum up what I have learnt is that mystical writings of the Carmelite tradition have considerable relevance for us who do not live the kind of lives led by Carmelites. If we are to find Christ we have to find ourselves: we have to try and free ourselves from all the things which get in the way of becoming closer and nearer to the love of God. But we must not delude ourselves that this is easy: finding Christ in all things and in our very centre and core is an enormous challenge. We often have to look for the love of God in the darkest of dark places when we can see little light and joy. We have to find God when we fail, or when are lonely, afraid and in pain. The writings of St Teresa and St. John provide us with powerful insights and disciplines into the great task of purifying our hearts. These were evidently an inspiration to Teilhard’s own mysticism. And what all three show us is that it is that our religious life needs a mystical dimension, as fire needs oxygen. For me Teilhard is more relevant to what that can mean for me because he was someone who lived in the wide-wide world: he travelled to the most distant parts of the world, but he also travelled deep within his own ‘interior castle.’ He shows us how a mystical understanding of our world and cosmos is vital for us to grasp the profound significance of the evolution of our souls as of the cosmos. As Francis Kelly Nemeck and Theresa Coombs show in their book – despite the differences in language – Teilhard was remarkably close to what St. John has to tell us about dealing with our ‘dark nights’ and our ‘ diminishments’. And thus, I think Teilhard captures so much of what I have learnt this Advent about purifying our hearts. If we want to welcome the Child of Bethlehem in our hearts this Christmas we have to ADORE Him. That is we have to adore God and only God. As Teilhard says:
To adore …That means to lose oneself in the unfathomable, to plunge into the inexhaustible, to find peace in the incorruptible, to be absorbed in defined immensity, to offer oneself to the fire and the transparency, to annihilate oneself in proportion as one becomes more deliberately conscious of oneself, and to give of one's deepest to that whose depth has no end. Whom, then, can we adore? The more man becomes man, the more will he become prey to a need, a need that is always more explicit, more subtle and more magnificent, the need to adore. ( The Divine Milieu, p 127-8)
It is when we as individuals and as societies lose ourselves in the fathomable, exhaustible, and corruptible things of this world that we lose sight of the light of God shining out of the stable. And from this stems so much human misery. It is only when we lose ourselves in God that we really find ourselves. It is when the heart of Jesus beats within us as it did in Mary’s womb and when we are wholly receptive and open to God’s will that we become the person we are meant to be. And thus on this holy night I will sing ‘Venite Adoremus’ with a new sense of what it means. The answer to my question was there all along in the stable. We purify our hearts by adoring the baby who is Alpha and Omega.
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.