My seasonal routines differ from those of most Americans. I do my best to avoid the aisles of tinsel, lights and other holiday bric-a-brac which begin popping up earlier each year. I am thankful that Fall elections occur early in November, so any campaign activities in which I may be involved are well out of the way before the first Sunday of Advent. The reason is that I want to avoid distraction from what is an important exercise for me each year. My Christmas preparations are predominantly internal, and I cannot emphasize the word preparation strongly enough. This year, it has been particularly difficult, on a very personal level.
I know that religion and faith are touchy subjects around here, and I usually avoid commenting or diarying on them at all cost. But to the extent that DKos is truly a community of which I am a part, I cannot shy away from who I really am, and what is truly important to me, especially at this time of year. So here goes.
It would be so much more convenient (and ever so much less painful) if I could neatly sort out the various aspects of my life into neat packages. There would be the political "me" who has spent most of my adult life working for candidates and causes supporting a vision of America where justice, peace and prosperity are more universally enjoyed. Those who met me in that context would have no notion of the other "me" who is pursuing (albeit imperfectly) a spiritual path, steeped in deep traditions and profound legends, which involves considerable contemplative exercise, and yes, no small amount of mysticism and even dogma.
And so it is that the month of Sundays which precede Christmas are a time for me to look deep within my heart, and make certain that I have not so filled it with meaningless clutter, longstanding regrets and selfish longings that even light of the brightest dawn is prevented from piercing its darkness. And as much as one might wince at the sound of words like "sin," I cannot but see the process of ridding myself of those things which hinder my unity with the world around me and the people which inhabit it as an ongoing one of redemption.
As a monastic and a priest, I have the luxury of spending more time on the mountaintop than those whose secular responsibilities necessarily demand more of their time and attention. But neither can I live exclusively on the peak. There are the poor to attend to, and the hungry, and the oppressed. And this year, in particular, there has been politics. As the Summer of Teabaggers stretched past autumn, the controversies kept calling me away from the essential work of self examination and personal growth. This has been exacerbated by the fact that my health has been poor, and I have been stretching myself to my limits to care for my ailing mother.
And there are personal demons challenging my ability to keep my footing. My deteriorating health required my first reducing my professional work to part-time, and then to go to a full leave of absence. I grapple with what it means to be a priest with no current flock, and struggle with my sense of personal identity absent the work on the streets with outcasts and marginalized individuals of every conceivable variety. I starve for lack of seeing the divine in their eyes, their struggles, their inherent dignity, and their triumphs. I long to witness such miracles again.
Though more difficult a task than in years past, I still turn my attention to the legends of my Faith for nurture and sustenance. I see a star rising in the sky heralding a birth which shall be accompanied by the sound of trumpets and the songs of angels bidding, "Peace on Earth, and Goodwill toward All." I pray that I have made adequate room in my heart for it to be filled to overflowing with the joy of creation, and the fellowship of all who inhabit this mortal life with me. And I am confident that there is grace sufficient to make up for any insufficiency in my efforts toward that goal.
When this great festival of my religion has past, I will return my hand to the plow, refreshed and renewed. I post this not to garner any appreciation or approval for these legends and practices from any of you who may read it. I share it only so that you might understand how precious and vital they are to me. This is who I am, and I am here to work with you to achieve equal justice and lasting peace in our land, and throughout the world.