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Advent Day 8: Journey

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Editor’s note: Sabrina Porter, FMS missioner serving in Bolivia, reflects on the word journey with a song she discovered throughout her time in formation to serve abroad. 

When I was in formation last year Megeen, who was part of the first mission class for FMS and a past director, gave us a few sessions on the spirituality of mission and popular education. During one of those sessions she presented the song Holy Now by Peter Mayer which I connected with a year ago because of my great devotion to the Eucharist. I used this song in a memorial video for my Grandma who died November 12th, 2018 while I was in formation. She is an incredible woman of faith who I strongly believe is walking with me step by step on my journey here on this sacred earth. On the anniversary of her death I watched the video I had made about her once again and realized that this song resonates with my faith journey more profoundly now a year and many experiences later. 

Holy Now 

By Peter Mayer

When I was a boy, each week

On Sunday, we would go to church

And pay attention to the priest

He would read the holy word

And consecrate the holy bread

And everyone would kneel and bow

Today the only difference is

Everything is holy now

Everything, everything

Everything is holy now

Growing up a devout Catholic I firmly believed that the Eucharist was the body and blood of Christ. I felt closest to God receiving the Eucharist during mass. This drove my devotion to daily mass as well as regular Sunday mass. Then I moved to Bolivia. My idea of God before was so small. So inaccessible. God was found in magnificent churches, during extravagant rituals.  Mass has slowly become no longer the cornerstone of my faith. I most definitely believe that Christ is the Eucharist but that limiting image was keeping me from being present to Christ in all of God’s creation. Everything is holy now. My “church” now involves opening my eyes to the presence of Christ in my daily interactions with his creation, from moment to moment. There are so many experiences out there; so many different from my own small town, conservative american experience. Each and every one of these experiences, these journeys are holy. They hold truth and they point to God. To deny that fact would be to deny the ever-present presence of Christ in this universe which reaches beyond religion. This is why I view my dance parties as holy in a very serious way. To honor God with the beauty and ingenuity of our bodies is essential to me and my journey of trying to be ever present to Christ. Watching bubbles rise to the surface of the water in the bowl of yeast coming alive that will later be turned into bread, this is holy. Frankly, I don’t need a priest to tell me, that the experience I am having is holy anymore. 

When I was in Sunday school

We would learn about the time

Moses split the sea in two

Jesus made the water wine

And I remember feeling sad

That miracles don’t happen still

But now I can’t keep track

Cause everything’s a miracle

Everything, Everything

Everything’s a miracle

Everything is a miracle. The way dust storms from Africa fertilize the amazon rainforest, watching Jaime learn how to read, the moon influencing ocean tides, the great intelligence of the Tiwanaku people constructing aqueducts and megaphones in the shape of the human ear 1500 years ago, the way our hands interlock while holding hands, the way we communicate with only facial expressions and touch in a matter of seconds, and the very fact that I am here in Bolivia. 

Wine from water is not so small

But an even better magic trick

Is that anything is here at all

So the challenging thing becomes

Not to look for miracles

But finding where there isn’t one

Like I said, I firmly believe in the miracle of the Eucharist and the real presence of Christ, but the greater miracle for me is the universal Christ; the fact “that anything is here at all.” Science and religion are in no way separate. They both are leading us to a greater truth. They are both guiding us on this journey of a greater realized connection with all the particulars of this universe.

When holy water was rare at best

It barely wet my fingertips

But now I have to hold my breath

Like I’m swimming in a sea of it

It used to be a world half there

Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down

But I walk it with a reverent air

Cause everything is holy now

Everything, everything

Everything is holy now

My religion taught me the world was bad. It was like going to mass would give us the strength needed to swim through the awfulness of the world during the week until we could get to mass again. It was like there was nothing to be gained, nothing to be learned from the outside world. I really felt this was true as if my faith could only be cultivated when I was literally praying directly to God, talking about God, studying my catholic faith, or I was in mass. As if this world which God says is good in Genesis (something we seem to forget all to easy) could not bless me with it’s wisdom and inherent holiness. The change in the way I know and interact with the world has dramatically increased my sense of the presence of Christ. I can now fully delve into the messiness of each week and not feel like I need to come up for air by way of attending mass. Albeit a routine prayer life sustains this delve into the messiness. My prayer life includes centering prayer, meditation, occasional sacred text reading but most importantly the journey is focused on cultivating a life of prayer instead of a prayer life. Finding the messiness of this life as holy means I no longer limit who I can be “good” friends with to those who hold similar beliefs as me. It means I don’t classify people as being faith-filled based on their mass attendance. It means listening to stories of the boys’ childhood abuse is a sacrament. It means my noisy, crowded commute to San Martin is an opportunity for reflection. Like the song says, “It used to be a world half there, Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down,” I too thought everything I did on this journey of life was just a stepping stone trying to get me to heaven. Like this earth here is good and all but not really worth savoring. What a sad way to walk through this reverent, blessed, wise world which God chose to participate in as the beautiful human of Jesus. Now, I believe that heaven is the here and now. Some days it’s hard to believe the very things I write here, with all the horrible attacks on life we witness in so many ways everyday. But the world, faith, humanity, heaven, are not black and white. One of our greatest challenges, I think, is to realize the journey is about learning to sit with this in between, this greyness, this non-duality and learn to call it holy too. Wherever this path might take me, may “I walk it with a reverent air cause everything is holy now.”

Read a questioning child’s face

And say it’s not a testament

That’d be very hard to say

See another new morning come

And say it’s not a sacrament

I tell you that it can’t be done

This morning, outside I stood

And saw a little red-winged bird

Shining like a burning bush

Singing like a scripture verse

It made me want to bow my head

I remember when church let out

How things have changed since then

Everything is holy now

It used to be a world half-there

Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down

But I walk it with a reverent air

Cause everything is holy now. 

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