There was a distinct ‘Advent’ feel to the Mercy Concert performed at my home parish on Friday night.
I savored the moment. The music was extraordinary, a selection of songs chosen to lift our hearts even while gently encouraging our spirits to be still. Alas, all the sweet sounds we encountered were fleeting…so I have no way to share them here.
But I noticed that unusual lighting choices added to the prayerful atmosphere: The pews, dimly lit – focused all our attention on the sanctuary, where the three talented singers—including our youth music ministers—were flanked by a string quartet.
Only the right side of the sanctuary was fully illuminated, bathing the crucifix and tabernacle in a heavenly glow.
Another piece of liturgical art—the massive, three-storey Jesse Tree adorning the left side of the wall—remained in darkness. Almost as if in waiting.
We were well into the concert when I realized what I was seeing on the sanctuary wall (or more precisely, what I wasn’t seeing, but was used to seeing): the familiar Jesse Tree, now with its branches, its limbs, nearly fully obscured.
Advent lighting, indeed.
Because, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us in the first reading we hear this Sunday, it’s hard to keep a good Jesse Tree down.
On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Encountering a darkened Jesse Tree reminded me of Isaiah’s great promise…the promise we anticipate throughout this holy season of Advent. Truly an astonishing thing: God with us. God, one of us.
And just as these thoughts were taking root, my heart was touched again as the remarkably talented Lola Toben began singing a lovely hymn.
O holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
It occurred to me, gazing upon a darkened Jesse Tree, that we all receive just such invitation each Advent – for our souls to feel their worth.
At times, it may seem as though we are waiting in darkness, but here’s the radical truth of the Incarnation: The promised Sprout is already with us. We need pine no more.
Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.