advent Catholic vibes Reflections for worship services

Advent: a time to embrace the Divine in us

“Dust, remember, thou art Splendor!”
– Sister Macrina Wiederkehr in A Tree Full of Angels

If Lent is a time to admit to our Dust –
the death that awaits us, the sin that permeates our cells,
our littleness and our frailness and our need –

perhaps Advent can be a time to embrace our Splendor:
our intimate connection to Divinity
who gave birth to us,
who calls us Good and calls us to be better,
who is the breath within our lungs and the warmth in dancing bodies.

Divinity embraces mortality;
God entered our world and fused the physical with the Divine
so inextricably that we can declare
that every cell of us pulses with Splendor, despite the infection of sin.

Now is the time to be a womb for Splendor,
nourishing it within ourselves.

Now is the time to prepare for the labor:
the teenage girl birthing God into the world.
God birthing a new world around us,
inviting us to serve as Her midwives.

About this piece: I first wrote this in Advent 2019 for Instagram.

If you’re interested in more on Sister Macrina’s concept of “splendor,” here’s the longer passage from which the pull quote was taken:

This brings me to the heart of this book, which is trusting the God who speaks to us in our experiences at every moment. No one ever gave me permission to trust my own experiences as prayerful and holy. It was something I stumbled upon, like a treasure hidden in a field. …In recent years, I seem to hear God say, ‘Put your books away. Be with me. Trust your experience. There are no experts in prayer, only people who have been faithful to the ache.’

…Why shouldn’t our experiences be filled with God? Who do we think it is who is breathing in us? Where do we think this ache has come from? And has it ever crossed our minds that God, too, has a deep yearning for us? …You are the dwelling place for the Source of All Life. You are an offspring of the One who said, ‘I Am who Am.’ If the One who gave you birth lives within you, surely you can find some resources there in your sacred Center. An expert lives within you. An expert breathes out you. Your life is entwined with the God who gave you birth. Frail dust, remember, you are splendor!”

My poetry

poem on emptying

the flower empties itself of petals
to make room for the fruit.

the pen empties itself of ink
to fuel the poem’s trek across blank paper.

the moon empties herself of light
in her gentle, gradual way
to teach us that hardest of lessons:
how to love the dark.

and i?
if i empty myself of life’s debris
God knows what might spring forth in me.

If you use this piece, please credit it to Avery Arden and link this website. I also invite you to email me at to let me know how you’re using it!

About this poem:

I wrote this poem during Lent 2020, influenced by Sister Macrina Wiederkehr’s A Tree Full of Angels.

We dread emptiness, run from emptiness, stockpile against emptiness — the barren cupboard, the silent hour, the stripped heart — and understandably so!

Yet something in me promises thus: things i wouldn’t believe await the ones who traverse desolation….for even though the One i follow beckons towards ultimate abundance — full bellies and hearts for all — his path takes him and all who dare follow him into the depths of the desert, to the heights of agony on the cross, and into the dark, quiet belly of the tomb… 

In this time, in this place, for you today, what does it look like to follow Jesus into emptiness?

My poetry

poem: tea prayer

preparing tea is its own kind of prayer –
one that heat and water pray for you.

the kettle’s keening. laughter bubbling up. the steady sigh of water
as it folds into the cup.

see the steam raise its arms to embrace
the sunlight peering in through kitchen window?

those swaying arms enact a psalm of praise
clear as voice or timbrel, or clapping trees of the field.

see how the water blushes, rich and brown,
as the sachet swirls within?

likewise are we saturated through
with Spirit when we open to Her dance.

each mundane task, each daily chore or act
overflows with blessing.

the whole world thrums with gratitude for God
Who permeates the stream, the steam, the sunbeam’s heat –

Who was with the leaves when they unfurled from the twig
to taste the pulse of the earth, its breath and light;

Who was with them when a hand reached up and plucked,
and Who is with them still, as they swirl within the cup.

If you use this piece, please credit it to Avery Arden and link this website. I also invite you to email me at to let me know how you’re using it!

Hear Avery read this poem on YouTube.

About this poem: This piece is about how tasks as mundane as preparing tea can become a prayer. I was inspired to write it by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s discussion of how Jewish law fosters mindfulness and orients a person towards God. I was also influenced by Sister Macrina Wiederkehr’s discussions on divinity within mundanity in A Tree Full of Angels.