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by davesandel on December 14th, 2012


Friday, December 14, 2012, 2012

Second Week of Advent

Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.

Chris, Marc and I occasionally explored the riverbank near our house in Lincoln.  Usually we drove; occasionally we rode our bikes to Lawndale, Illinois, to the River.  We carried our rods and wound our way down the path through river willows and settled under the I-55 bridge to fish.  Bear, our black lab, always came with us.

The persistence of the thin willow trees mesmorized me.  Slender and strong.  They were rooted deep and wide, and bent without breaking in every wind.  I knew they lasted through winter storms.  Near river willows, I feel rooted too.  And I want to live the life described in Psalm 1.

Thinking like this, I am happy, but I think I am also stable.  And I’m surprised to find that it’s in the stability, more than in the happiness, that I find joy.

Sister Wendy Beckett, an 82-year old nun with the Sisters of Notre Dame (their rule is similar to that of the Jesuits), is a unique art critic.  About this painting by Rubens (, she writes:

This sunlit, unreflecting sense of well-being, precious though it is, is not joy.  Joy is something deeper, and in a sense, sterner.  Although we cannot command it, we choose joy, making a deliberate commitment to happiness (essentially another word for peace).  Rubens delights in the positive: the rainbow symbolizing hope, the light glinting on the rich meadows, the benign cattle and their fruitful surroundings.  Yet there are dark elements, too, in the picture, if we want to seek them out: the sunless woods are not far away.  Rubens: chooses: he emphasizes the good things.  Joy is independent of choosing: it overwhelms and suffuses us. *

Your power in my world is like the waves of the sea, Lord.  I only want to root myself in you.

Meditations, Sister Wendy Beckett, p. 120.

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