Monday, December 12, 2016

Advent, Day 16: Kyrie

I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.
- Isaiah 8:17

Lately my prayer life has consisted of sitting in silence and inviting God to love me. That's it. No special words, no complicated requests, no tortured demands. I haven't been hanging my faith on God's willingness to prevent pain and suffering, or to make my path smooth, or to heal people I love.

I mean, I could lay out a long list. As a priest I hear so many stories of people's deep, deep pain. Other people's situations I just pick up hints about or rumors of. And then there are the many people I know who have simply unplugged from the church; maybe they expected something different from what they found there. Maybe they thought that being in a church would solve their problems, and then they were let down. Maybe people weren't any more morally correct there. Maybe they were just as impatient or intolerant as everyone else.

In addition to all this, there are the broken relationships in my life. There are people I've let down, and there are people who just didn't find me to be worth their time. There are people who I'm certain are obstinately in the wrong, and my certainty about this sure hasn't helped keep us in relationship.

Meanwhile, in the world all around us, there is pain. It seems like the BBC is constantly sending me notifications of a bombing or shooting somewhere in the world, not to mention natural disasters. And there is fear: fear that our constitutional democracy is slipping away, fear that my friends' human rights will not be respected, fear that those with all the money and power and influence are using it primarily for evil. Every day in the news I read that all of these fears are well founded.

I could get all worked up about this. I could get angry with God for not being like the authoritarian leader our country elected last month, swooping in and promising to fix the pain (whether sincerely or not). But I've learned a thing or two about God over the years. And if nothing else, I know that God is patient.

Is God hiding the divine face from us? That was Isaiah's perception. It's a common biblical idea -- God stepping aside and letting us stew in our own juices for a while. It's not a pleasant thought.

But if God created us and said "it is very good," and if God is merciful and loving and just and faithful, then what I need is a little of God's patience. Today especially, during the season of Advent, I need to wait. When I look at the world and find that I can do nothing about a given situation, I can pray, "Lord, have mercy ... kyrie eleison." And then I can simply invite God to love me and to love all of us.

This song is a bit of a cheesy throwback. It's hard now to relate just how exciting it was for me, at the age of 13, to hear that prayer, "kyrie eleison," on the radio every day.

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