Empty and Open | A Reflection on Spiritual Poverty
Thin layers of ice have begun to appear in the morning and spindly branches are shivering in their new, leaf-less freedom. As November draws to a close, winter is making itself known. Though I usually resent this thief of precious daylight, I’ve been praying for the grace to welcome winter with joy. And as I reflect on the coming season, I’ve begun to see something beautiful about winter’s austerity.
Winter lays things bare in a way that no other season can. It strips the earth of her verdant coverings, freezes buds and blooms, and chases the creeping things into hibernation. And, it reminds me of my poverty. Without God I’m lifeless, desolate, and devoid of all creativity. Just as winter scrapes away all the lovely things of summer, it scrapes away every notion that I can be good or beautiful on my own. This recognition is not one of despair or self-deprecation, but rather, it’s an acknowledgement of a liberating reality.
The Lord says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Blessed are those who go to the depths of their poverty and see their desperate need. Blessed are those humble ones who know their gnawing hunger can’t be satisfied by the working of their own hands.
I’m still learning how to face my own poverty, and there are many ways in which I continue to blind myself to my utter dependency on God. But the more I think about the silent starkness of winter, the more I long to embrace my emptiness. Because being poor in spirit is being free. Free to come, empty as we are, to the One who can fill us entirely. The frozen ground is infertile without the sun, but its surrender to the seasons makes it gloriously fruitful when the time for melting and cultivating comes. When we accept our desperate need for a savior and realize our incapacity to love on our own, we can kneel before the Lord with open hands and ask him for everything, confident that he will give it to us.
After the fall and before the Fiat, divine grace hovered above the barren womb of the world, poised to save her. And at the fullness of time, He did save her, filling her with light and redeeming every dead winter that would come afterwards. We, too, can be filled, if only we are first emptied. Let’s shirk our illusory independence, peel away our facades of self-sufficiency, and empty our lives of the distractions that numb us to our poverty. During this season of Advent, let’s prepare ourselves for the coming of that Divine Grace which melts what is frozen and plants life in our willing souls.
Lord, let me be empty and open so that you can fill me with yourself. Then, like Saint Paul, I may say that it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.