Updated: Mar 22
My advent was yoga waiting to be invited into my spiritual path. I spent years listening to how others meet God, more particularly how I was supposed to meet God. They would say, “sing this song with all your might. Repeat these prayers until you know them by heart. Speak this message with anyone you see.” They enforced, “that is God. No, no this is God.”
My advent went on and on like a perpetual treadmill. My feet meeting new ground but never quite getting anywhere. Suddenly, like the first star that appears in the sky, Christmas had arrived. God was incarnate. Not just in any human but within me. Not just in any human but in a little baby born with dark skin and a head full of dark hair.
Though we have consistently associated the Advent season with waiting, the word actually means “arrival.” Maybe we qualify Advent as a longing of arrival or an arrival that takes a long time. Regardless, we are always participating in some kind of advent. As for this season, we are not only symbolically waiting for the birth of Jesus, but we also remember Mary’s waiting for the birth of her baby.
Mary said to the angel Gabriel “let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV). She then humbly proclaimed her Magnificat, “my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:47, ESV). Without the essence of a woman, God could not be incarnate. Without the persistence of a woman, Jesus’s first miracle may not have taken place. Without the nurturing of a divine feminine presence within Jesus’s life, he could not be fully human and fully divine.
Women have long existed in this liminal space. A place of the shadows and the stars, a place of the sweet and the unsavory. We are reminded of this in the gnostic text The Thunder: Perfect Mind:
"I am the first and the last
I am she who is honored and she who is mocked
I am the whore and the holy woman
I am the wife and the virgin
I am he the mother and the daughter
I am the limbs of my mother
I am a sterile woman and she has many children"
- Translation by Hal Taussig, Jared Calaway, Maia Kotrosits, Celene Lillie, and Justin Lasser
Yoga allowed me to sink into this duality of holding two truths. I found the parts of myself that were astonishingly divine and irreconcilably human. With yoga, I could move in powerful poses and sit still with nothing left. I felt the rawness of being the whore and the holy woman at the exact same time. That reality began with other people telling me: “you can’t practice yoga as a Christian.”
I re-started my yoga practice because I need something to fill a void. I did not realize the true void came from the one part of my life that should have been filling me up. I had a solid faith community within Christianity but more importantly, I had a faith label. That’s the funny thing I find about labels, they make you think you are secure when really you are subconsciously falling apart.
While in a spiritual direction session with Father Thomas Ryan, I expressed my qualms around the label of God as the masculine “Abba.” He simply said, “God is both Abba and Amma. Use what makes sense to you.” God surpasses labels altogether. With yoga, my faith became larger than a label and smaller than a worldwide community. My faith could be found nowhere except right here in this body that moved.
I realized how large my God actually is. I realized this one label of “Christian” was used to assimilate too many different experiences. My God easily meanders a similar duality of being I had felt reclaiming my spirituality through yoga. My God is as small as a snowflake and as large as a blizzard. My God appears in the wide, diverse, timeless waiting, the perpetual treadmill of Advent. My God is the vast togetherness of love and the tiny form of an infant with dark skin and a head full of dark hair.
Art titled Madonna + Child by The Modern Saints by Gracie. Translation of poetry located in The Thunder: Perfect Mind A New Translation and Introduction by Hal Taussig, Jared Calaway, Maia Kotrosits, Celene Lillie, and Justin Lasser.
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