The German poet, Goethe speaks of something he calls “holy longing”. He defines it as “a desire for higher love-making”, a longing to embrace the world and make love to it as God does this.

Ron Rolheiser, OMI

Such a desire, if correctly fostered, Goethe assures us, will wreak a painful but wonderful spiritual havoc (he calls it “magic”) within us; it will is make us “insane for the light”, wild with the desire to transmute ourselves, grow wings like the butterfly, and fly off, not to escape the world, but to die to all the things that prevent us from, here and now, already making love to the whole world. Longing is meant to be a transforming mysticism within our lives. It creates the energy for metamorphosis.

John of the Cross identified this with “putting on the motivation of Christ.” For him, the desire for higher love making was the spirit that burned inside of Jesus, the energy that motivated him and consumed, as by fire, all the more limited desires within him. He was insane for the light, on fire with God’s eros, willing to die so as to be transformed and so offer the world the widest love of all, God’s embrace. In Jesus, we see what it means to be redeemed from fire by fire.

Advent celebrates human longing. It asks us not to deny our longings but to enter them, deepen them, and widen them until we become insane enough for the light so that, like the butterfly, we open ourselves to undergo a metamorphosis.

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