|Nativity, St Beunos, January 2015|
Somehow, maybe partly due to the place where I was spiritually and emotionally , maybe because of the different season; that time apart took on a special, never -to- be forgotten quality. On autumn retreats, I'm accustomed to spend time peering anxiously into the empty tomb. (the '30 Dayers' are often into the Third Week of the Spiritual Exercises about then). For me, the familiar Nativity figures took on a new significance, speaking into my struggles and longings in a new way. The year just finished hadn't been easy and, however hard I tried to leave my 'baggage' behind at home, some of it was bound to come into the retreat time. During that eight days away, I learned a lot about waiting, and self-acceptance. In many ways I identified with the woman lurking about on the outskirts of the scene; like me, looking and longing ...for what? Who was she? I never worked that one out. Yet there was something that impelled me to be with her, to be her and to travel alongside her as she made her journey to the centre of the scene. (in reality, she didn't, but in my prayer and imagination, she - and I - were drawn further and further towards the Christ child).
I can still remember panicking one day when I thought that the latter had vanished, only to realise that he was there, on the ground hidden under the straw. I still, too, remember the sense of joy when I later discovered him in Mary's arms. A miracle? It seemed that way to me at first, although to find out that in fact my retreat guide had been responsible didn't diminish the sense of wonder and awe. Well, God does need a helping hand sometimes!