For quite a few years now I have been using the spiritual practice of choosing a word for the year. The practice was introduced to me by Christine Valters Paintner from Abbey of the Arts.
One of the things about the practice that has become more and more enlightening to me is how the word actually ends up choosing you vs you choosing the word. This year that seemed particularly evident.
During the first part of December, I begin to find myself mulling over or trying out different words to see if they might hold some wisdom for me. Right now, I do not really remember what any of those were for me this year. But, I believe my word has found me.
About a week ago, a friend introduced a few of us who met for bible study to a group called The Liturgists. For our gathering we listened to two recordings inspired by the Ignatian or Jesuit practice of prayer, which uses imagination and reflection. The first recording we listened to was Nazereth to Bethlehem from The Liturgists album titled O Light. (You can find the album on itunes.)
It was a cold night and I had run errands that afternoon including grocery shopping. After I went home and put the groceries away, I really struggled with just staying home. I even left my coat on to motivate me to go out again. So, when we gathered that evening for bible study, I left my down coat on my shoulders to keep myself warm.
As I found a comfortable corner on the sofa and readied myself to listen to the recording from The Liturgists about the birth of Christ, I decided to put my coat over the top of me and snuggle in. I also found myself bracing my arms and hands lightly over my stomach in a sort of embrace. The recording asked us to imagine ourselves on the journey from Nazareth and right there in Bethlehem. With my arms circling my stomach, the mental and physical feelings of what Mary might have felt carrying Jesus became very real.
We enjoyed the first recording so much that we decided to listen to another one from the album. This one was titled Cosmic Christmas.
Right away I knew this recording was going to be more challenging than the first. Instead of the warmth and comfort I found in the first one, I right away felt a tinge of fear rise up within me as we were asked to take the Light’s hand while we “accelerated” and “zoomed away” from earth. Still in my same position with my coat over me and my arms encircled lightly around my middle, I decided that I need more than just a hand for this journey.
The visualizations the recording brought to mind of the “kindness and cruelty” of our human history and existence was not a comforting feeling either. Yet, as a listened a warmth seemed to stay with me–a circle of light embracing me around my middle, not too loose that I would fall, but not so tight to feel confining.
I do not remember if it was in the first or second recording that they said something about being chased by love, or if they even said that at all. But I had a vivid image of being chased by a parent figure. In it I am running away and resisting being caught. Then, when I am finally caught, I kick and struggle a bit before I finally surrender. I let myself be embraced.
I had let my word for 2018 find me. It is embraced.