The road reluctantly travelled



O Rising Dawn,
Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice:
come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
O Antiphon


About that time Emperor Augustus gave orders for the names of all the people to be listed in record books. These first records were made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  Everyone had to go to their own hometown to be listed. So Joseph had to leave Nazareth in Galilee and go to Bethlehem in Judea. Long ago Bethlehem had been King David’s hometown, and Joseph went there because he was from David’s family. Mary was engaged to Joseph and traveled with him to Bethlehem. She was soon going to have a baby. (Luke 2:1-5 CEV)

There are openings in our lives/of which we know nothing. The Envoy, Jane Hirshfield


Detail from the left panel of the    Potinari Altarpiece ,   Hugo van der Goes (c. 1440- 82)

Detail from the left panel of the Potinari Altarpiece, Hugo van der Goes (c. 1440- 82)

'Emperor Augustus gave orders', the footnote to this scripture 'so that everyone could be made to pay taxes to the Emperor', the repetition of the word 'had' in 'Everyone had to go', and 'So Joseph had to leave Nazareth' strike an uneasy chord. That's even before an awkward journey whilst heavily pregnant is considered.  I wonder what mood they carried with them as they set off?  To ensure they paid taxes and bear an uncomfortable and possibly unwelcome trip to boot?  So, the subject is journeys we don't want to make, or look forward to.  Journeys imposed on us, by our bodies, by authorities, by circumstances.

Some years ago this scripture was the focus for a contemplative imagination exercise.  I found myself taking up the part of Mary and decided I wasn't to get up on to the donkey and make that journey, thank you very much!  Political objection and physical restriction combined to produce a resolute and stubborn posture.  This continued for two weeks and reflected back to me that some part of merefused to go on, proceed in some fashion. Encouraged to stay with being stuck at this threshold I eventually became aware that a underground stream of sorts had carried me across and that the sitting with this reluctance had made this possible. As with Hirshfield's poem something had entered me and I did not know how it had come in or how it went out.  Our reluctance and resistance is as important an object of meditation as our desires, dreams and goals.  A child will be born of such respectful deep listening and openness.


I wonder if there is a journey you are facing that you are in two minds about or even wishing not to make.  Imagine yourself as Mary and see where that takes you.  

Andrew Hook