Advent as a Time of Yielding to Transparency

Developing teaching media and working in various secretarial capacities through the years has seen me become a fairly proficient desktop publisher. (In coming posts, I might need to share other proficiencies gleaned from the pastorate – including janitorial work and chauffeuring and…)transparancey (untabled)

Through the years, I’ve learned the art of “kerning” text, adjusting wrap features, editing and manipulating images,… (These may not be the technical terms in the “real” trade but they work for me.)

When it comes to manipulating an image (especially when there’s a desire to impose some [readable] words on top of them), knowing how to adjust the transparency of a superimposed shape (see figure 1, right) is important. At 0% transparency (figure 2), nothing of the underlying images comes through. (Great for reading words… but terrible for have the words inform the picture and vice versa.) Increase the transparency (figures 3-5) and the image comes through more and more fully. (Somewhere in between, one can impose some text that stands to be readable against the faded image in the background.)

I share all of this (thank you for bearing with me for this long!) for the ways it illuminates and conveys insights from a recent reading of Henri Nouwen’s Spiritual Formation: Following the Movement of the Spirit (Harper One, 2010).

Among the early “movements” of spiritual formation that Henri defines is that of “opaqueness to transparency.” Reading, my mind invariable turned to my metaphor from desktop publishing:

Spiritual formation requires a constant discipline of prayer to move from opaqueness to transparency, a discipline by which a world of darkness is transformed into one of transcendent light. Nature no longer is a property to control but a gift to be received and shared. Time no longer is a random series of events but a constant opportunity for a change of heart. When time is converted from chronos to kairos (and from history to his-story), we can seize the present moment and be at peace. And when people are no longer interesting characters to meet or exploit for our own purpose but persons “sounding through” more than they can contain, they can be loved and protected and understood. Contemplative prayer helps us remove our blindfolds and see the world as it truly is—as sacramental—connected and constantly revealing to us the great love of God. (emphasis added) (p. 12)

jesus, core of pieIt’s akin to what Harry Wend teaches in some of his Crossways materials (cf.,—giving rise to another metaphor in the shape of a pie. Christianity and Jesus, Harry rightly teaches us, are not just one piece of the pie of life, as some imagine – sitting alongside of the other slices of family, education, work, money/stewardship, civic duty,… (figure 6, right)  NO! Jesus and the Gospel are at the heart of the pie – key ingredients that fill the whole! Nouwen’s “transparency” is a matter of seeing that – and believing it and living it out! (figure 7)

It’s among the things we celebrate at Christmas and prepare for in Advent. Not just that God becomes more clearer through his first coming in Jesus—there in Bethlehem, millennia ago. But, allowing ourselves (or being allowed by God… or both) to see Jesus and Grace and Gospel all around us with greater clarity–right here, right now!

Open my eyes, that I might see
(yielded to greater transparency)
Earth crammed with divinity.
“God is with us!,” our hearts decree.

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