Yesterday, the First Sunday of Advent, I missed Mass, something I almost never do, especially in the Season of Advent. Advent has long been my favorite liturgical season, for reasons I'll explain over the next days. This past weekend, however, I not only didn't make it to Mass; I didn't make it out of bed.
Last Wednesday afternoon, my mother & I had lunch with a small group of people she knows from an new organization she has joined. Lunch was delicious, in an excellent restaurant known for its sensitivity to dietary concerns, very aware of my gluten intolerance. We ate a typical Thanksgiving meal: Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, veges, cranberry sauce. No gravy or stuffing for me. Creme brulee for dessert. The restaurant staff assured us that everything I was served was gluten-free.
Unfortunately, something wasn't. By the time I arrived home two hours after eating, I was already in bed, asleep. I spent the next two days in bed, in near brain-freeze, unable to do anything but listen to the radio (thank heavens for NPR & the BBC). I managed to get up to do the absolute basics: Feed the cats, clean the cat litter box, get a new can of seltzer. But nothing more. By Saturday, the brain-freeze was mostly gone, but the exhaustion and lack of appetite that accompanies a gluten ingestion lingered. I could read a bit, check the web, eat a muffin. But not much more. Finally, my mother reminded me to look in my refrigerator for the above-age-50-food substitute: Ensure. Within 12 hours, I'd downed 3 cans of the stuff -- the chocolate fudge flavor is bearable -- and had managed to shower & put on clothes. Finally, this afternoon, I popped into my wheelchair & went outside in the chilly afternoon, traveling to my neighborhood Walgreens to buy 2 sixpacks of Ensure, since I'd run out. I haven't been back to bed since, and it's been nearly 3 hours.
As I lay in bed over these past few days, I found myself thinking about one of the not-often-mentioned Advent themes: Weakness & vulnerability. We Christians await the Birth of the Incarnate One, G-D Who came & comes to us as an infant, a newborn, a neonate, totally dependent upon His Mother & Foster-father for survival. The Creator of the Universe CHOSE to come among us as a weak, vulnerable baby out of love & devotion to the People He / She Created, later to serve, teach, and eventually die for these same People. How much of Christ's love for us began in those earliest hours of His life when He felt the unconditional love of Mary & Joseph? I thought, too, as I lay there, that I so often object to being weak & vulnerable, believing that my strength & steadfastness are essential -- I'm not sure for what or whom, but essential nonetheless. (Does this sound familiar? Certainly it does to those of you who know me well. Does it also sound like you???) Perhaps I fell ill over these past days so that I would learn again from Jesus as the Christ CHILD. Weakness & vulnerability visit us all, even the One we worship & name the Son of G-D.
Weakness & vulnerability have come to me especially now because we are approaching the 30th Anniversary of the murders -- the martyrdoms -- of Jean Donovan, Maura Clark, Ita Ford, and Dorothy Kazel, murdered by El Salvadoran death squads on 2 December 1980 as they returned from the airport. Jean, Maura, Ita and Dorothy served & witnessed to the weakness & vulnerability of the poor of El Salvador, those who were the most likely to be kidnapped, tortured, murdered, & disappeared by that country's Right-Wing government -- a government supported, financially & militarily, by the US government under the Reagan Administration. Jean, Maura, Ita & Dorothy chose to serve the poor, the weak, the vulnerable & thus witness to both the brutality of both governments & the love of G-D in Jesus Christ. With El Salvador's martyred Archbishop, Oscar Romero, Jean, Maura, Ita & Dorothy believed that G-D took & held a preferential option for the poor & oppressed, & they chose to live, love, & ultimately, to die with the poor. Because the preferential option for the poor is the option of love, of G-D's love for us & our love for one another. Think of Jesus telling the disciples, "'No greater love does anyone have than that she / he lay down her / his life for her / his friends.'" The anniversary of these martyrs is this coming Thursday.
I'll write more tomorrow or later in the week. I've been listening to the reports on the leaks of rafts of US diplomatic cables. I've been wondering whether any of them deal with US intervention in El Salvador & Nicaragua in the 1980's, with the murders of our sisters and / or the murders later that same decade of the six Jesuits & their 2 women co-workers. I believe we still could learn more about those two dreadful events during those years. I believe also that nothing we learn will ever take the place of these women & men, who have, with so many others, living & dead, witnessed Christ to me, making it possible for me to return to the Catholic Church & remain a Roman Catholic Christian. Thank You, G-D, for such a Cloud of Witnesses, for such a Communion of Saints!!