I sit with my own handspan wool in my hands, knitting it into an Elder Tree Shawl. There is frost on the ground and a crocheted afghan on my lap. All is quiet in the monastery. I am the only one up this day after Thanksgiving. We are full to the brim here with oldest daughter and her husband, middle son and his girlfriend from Texas and our dear youngest girl. We have feasted on food and laughter, family, games and a puzzle. Today we might just get a tree and decorate it.
But in these quiet moments I’m filled with something that can only be called joy, though it is dressed not in gaiety, though that is certainly part of it. There is also an ache. A fullness so full to overflowing it verges on overwhelm. I cannot contain it all. All. That is a huge word. For it contains all the memories of Thanksgivings throughout the years, of how life is changing, of where we have been, all that has happened in our little family, and even thoughts of what might be to come. I cannot hold all this. It hurts. And yet it is beautiful.
I have long been familiar with this kind of ache. The ache of longing and Beauty. I feel it when I spin wool and knit. I feel it when I put paint to paper. And at various times thoughout the days, sometimes hitting me with such force I name it “sadness” or “depression”. But really there’s joy behind it all, underneath it all, beribboned throughout it all. Joy has an element of ache…don’t you think so?
I believe this is what Mary was experiencing when she “treasured all these things in her heart.” She could not contain all the memories even of her young life, of her encounter with the Angel, of carrying a baby for 9 months even though she had not been with Joseph or any other man, of enduring the scorn of that, of the travel to Bethlehem, the pain of childbirth and now this…this wonder of wonders…a baby King, the Messiah whom she nursed and swaddled. Indeed I felt this aching beauty after the births of my own dear children who are now sleeping upstairs. The hopes and fears of all the years…yes, so many moments. So many fears. So many hopes.
It occurs to me as I write these words that help is contained in this beloved Christmas carol-
“the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”
When I struggle to hold it all, to contain the memories, the hopes and fears, I can remember that I have One who can and does hold it all. That wee Christ child, God come to earth, carries all my, all our, hopes and fears. In Him, they are met and knitted into something exquisite, breathtaking.
I’m beginning to hear stirrings upstairs. Not the pitter patter of little feet as in days gone by. But the thumpity thump of teen/adult feet slowly starting to move. I shall sit here for as long as I can knitting my shawl with this achingly beautiful yarn. Joy in it all. Letting Christ hold it all!
These letters are written to my knitting and crochet Sisters in the monastery of Life, where we long to live out the call of Christ to love others, live quiet lives and work with our hands. 1 Thessalonians 4:11.
Read here for the very first post & Letter.