The last month has been an interesting one. I've had a number of incredible blessings. One very prominent one is that of community: upon returning from Thanksgiving, things got taken up a notch. This is not to say that what was there before wasn't good, because it certainly was. However, I knew there was and know that there definitely still is a long way to go, and to feel the intensity and closeness grow a bit was and is...well, lovely. Definitely made the last weeks of school far easier to manage in terms of motivation (or lack thereof and countering said affliction), enjoyment, and more fun to celebrate after the fact.
Then came home: plenty busy and crazy, but still such a blessing. From the basic and silly things like seeing familiar landmarks, idiotic driving, hills and greenery I'd missed, etc. to the deeper things like a brief reunion with loved ones and the chance to talk to people who've been in my program and finished up. There were plenty of challenges, too. For one, I was negligent in my Christmas shopping, which resulted in my being in the mall on Christmas Eve (or maybe it was the 23rd...can't remember). The reason why I mention this is because I was not prudent nor exercising self-knowledge in an efficient way, because I HATE malls, especially with lots of people. From the silly things like having Christian charity and human decency challenged by the tunnel vision or preoccupation or whatever goes on in others' minds in the parking lot to deeper things like the onslaught of people and things and messages making insane promises about my mortal and dire need for 4G plans, bras for a nonexistent girlfriend, AXE body spray, etc. being sated (the deeper problem being what comes just short of...if not synonymous with...an idolatrous market). Maybe this is melodramatic, but doing that was a great challenge for me to dig deep into what Christmas means for me; without that knowledge and conviction, or if I didn't dig deep, I would just become hateful and cynical.
In spite of the downer that was my poor planning, I emerged with gifts in hand, only slightly perturbed.
Time at home was too short, as it always is, but even more so due to heading back to the Bend even earlier than the academic year required. Of course, I wouldn't leave time at home for anything arbitrary; I went back to see my classmate and his (then) fiancée get married...and, of course, help them celebrate. The wedding itself was beautiful. The prelude included the song "Bless the Lord, My Soul", a Taizé chant that I happen to enjoy immensely. The readings were well-chosen, the bride and groom administered the chalice to the rest of the congregation, and there was a meditation song sung by a musician whose earlier works were instrumental in my coming into the faith. The reception was equally lovely. I could gush good things about this couple and the folks in my program for a long time...but instead I'll just gush a little bit about a more general theme that encompasses all of them.
You know how earnestness can just shine out of a person? Like, when love earnestly shines through somebody or between two people? I noticed it from the get-go with these two getting married, but even speaking more generally, the love that is so obvious and sweet, transparent and obvious but onlookers' participation (not just witnessing, but a distant participation) is not violently grasped for but beautifully extended as invitation. I heard it and hear it every time I hear the aforementioned artist singing. I can see it in my classmates. More foundational than earnest love of significant others or spouses or even family members or friends is the love of God. That's the love that shines the most beautifully, abundantly, and which is the guiding principle for the other loves. It's the symphony; the other loves, the individual sections' music. Each part goes a certain way based on the overall plan for the composition both in that moment and overall.
I think that's the only resolution I'm going to treat with severity, and I feel better that I stumbled upon it in the beginning of the Advent season rather than January 1st (because I feel better formulating these things at the beginning of a new liturgical year...love me?)...deepening that love, rediscovering and forever discovering anew the Fount of Every Blessing. It's the one thing that I know matters, the one thing I know I'm "supposed" to do...and from that, everything else will flow. I'm grateful for the opportunity that my classmates and this program have given me to delve deeper into that aspect of me. It's been a while since I've felt so clearly (and occasionally explicitly) invited!