Saturday, December 14, 2019

Cookies of Joy

Not bad for a recipe from the 12th century!

We had an evening out with another couple last night and during supper, my friend, who is in her sixties and retired, said she was trying to figure out what to do with the next decade of her life. She realizes that nothing is guaranteed -- not the year, let alone the decade -- but she still wants to make the most of her time now.
For the past year, she's been working with a life coach, online, to change habits -- like eating habits and screen habits, like trying to spend at least 10 minutes a day in quiet, perhaps even meditating -- and she's enjoying the journey, with all its challenges.

So now, having put aside the last lingering bits of employment (some people have to ease themselves into retirement), she wants to know how to spend her precious time, and she's slowly figuring that out. This will be her journey for the coming year.

And I thought, That's joy.

Tomorrow is the third Sunday of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day that most Christian churches mark as the time of anticipation and preparation. This is my fifth Advent season leading worship services at the United Church in Oxford and I have to say -- Advent is my favourite season. I've done different themes over the past five years but I've come back this year to Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, the traditional and familiar themes for each Advent Sunday, usually focused on the Advent wreath candlelighting liturgy that begins each service.

This Sunday we light the pink candle -- for Joy.

I begin each service with a "centering moment". I like to let everyone know what the theme or point of the service is and to end with a breathing meditation that allows me to catch my breath and relax.

Tomorrow I'll share the story of my friend figuring out "the rest of her life" then say,
"I’ve said it before: JOY isn’t always cartwheeling down the centre aisle of the church or jumping up and down on the bed or twirling through sun-sparkled sprinkler spray.
JOY is quiet – perhaps real joy is soft and subtle and that’s why we don’t notice or recognize it.
Joy can be a feeling of peace. Joy can be a feeling of hope.
A “frisson” of courage or confidence.
It doesn’t have to be, and often isn’t, excitement and exuberance and loud exultation.

Sometimes JOY comes on a breath….

So inhale slowly and deeply right now … and exhale slowly.
Remember this breath – this holy breath.
Remember to breathe – to breathe in peace and breathe out worry.

Remember that with every inhale --- and every exhale – you are opening yourself up to JOY..."

When I woke up this morning, I realized I had nothing to do and nowhere to be. Such a rare treat! So I decided I'd finally make the "cookies of joy" I've known about for a few years, to give out as everyone is leaving the church. I made enough for two each, one star and one heart shape. 
The recipe originated with St. Hildegard de Bingen, a 12th century mystic, theologian, gardener, and healer. The recipe has been adapted for the 21st century.
They are spice cookies, actually - St. Hildegard believed the spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove "not only banish melancholia, but also release our innate intelligence, and keep us youthful in body and spirit." (I'm sure my congregation will appreciate the last one!)

And yes, I do believe joy can be found in a cookie. A moment of joy -- a pause, some stillness, a chance to catch the breath. The soft and subtle taste and texture of real joy. 

Definitely not 12th century packaging!

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