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How is your Advent season going? Have you been able to stop and take a breath from the service planning, party going, and present planning (not to mention shopping)?

At the beginning of the season, I challenged us to spend time listening. To hear the minor key of the season and rest in the sounds that subtly, but persistently, challenge the merry-making frenzy all around us. How is that going?

I am finding it very difficult! Maybe you are as well.

I listened to an interview this week with performance artist Marina Abramović. In collaboration with pianist Igor Levit, she has created a rigorous experience to call us to be more present to our listening. When people come to the performance, they are required to place their electronic devices in a locker, and sit, in silence (with noise-cancelling headphones) for 30 minutes before the concert begins. Her rationale is brilliant:

Abramović: …If Igor has enormous discipline to learn by heart the Goldberg variations with 86 minutes, and play in the most incredible magic way, we can have discipline to honor this. And to just see, to have [a] new experience… the moment you don’t have your phone and you don’t have the watch to check if you’re sitting there for five minutes or ten, it just gives you a completely different state of mind.

Interviewer: I’m concerned that my state of mind won’t be one of calm but rather one of agitation. That it’s going to be very difficult for me.

Abramović: Well this is where you have the real problem then. That you have to address the problem in your life. That is why it is good for you.

Whether you do it because it’s “good for you,” or more fundamentally because you desire to honour the artistic expression of others, sitting in silence to centre ourselves and prepare ourselves for beauty is a process of re-orienting.

And that is the message of Advent.

Re-orienting. Changing our stance, our posture, our intention…becoming aware of what is present, but has become invisible.

As you sit with the music selections this week, I challenge you to put your electronic devices out of arm’s reach, find a quiet place, use headphones (noise-cancelling if possible) and to listen to the four pieces one after the other. I have provided direct links to the works to avoid commercials.

If you can, schedule a full half-hour for listening. Use this as your mental and spiritual-health 30 minutes this coming week.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,     and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord     more than watchmen for the morning,     more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!     For with the Lord there is steadfast love,     and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel     from all his iniquities. (Ps 130:5-8)

 

 

Ave Maria

Chanticleer

 

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

The Piano Guys

 

In the Bleak Midwinter

Steve Bell

 

Wexford Carol

John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers