Fragrant Advent

I am at our Provincial Chapter this weekend, where we are preparing for the Society's General Chapter next summer, whose theme is Life Unfolding: mission for the emerging future. In a world in which there is so much hatred, brutality and brokenness, and yet so many signs of hope and promise, what are the calls for us, as women of a Heart which is only love, tenderness and mercy?

And today, in the midst of all this, Advent has begun: a time of hope and promise, of light in darkness; a good time to ponder the calls we have been identifying, and to be transformative, restorative love in our pain-filled world. And I feel that for once in my life I will be ready for Advent! Not only have I written over half my Christmas cards, but I have, more importantly, prepared what promises to be a rather fragrant Advent wreath.

I hadn't intended it to be scented, but that's what the shops and my foraging presented me with, and so a fragrant wreath is what I now have. While I was on retreat at Llannerchwen I gathered pine branches which had fallen in the strong winds, and a few leaves and acorn cups. When I get home I will pick and add some rosemary and lavender from the bushes in our garden. Three of the candles are lavender-scented, and on Gaudete Sunday the scent of "lily bloom" will be added to them. My central candle was a gift some years ago, which I had kept in what is now a well-perfumed drawer: it is a heady mix of several scents - including frankincense, cedar, sandalwood and jasmine - and its label promised peace and harmony, so it seems an especially good candle for celebrating the coming of the Prince of Peace into our world. I like the way it swirls from deep purple to pink to white - a gathering of Advent waiting into the immense yet simple event that is Christmas.

So this wreath is at home, waiting to be lit after I return from the Chapter, and no doubt already filling the place with its mingled scents. It rests on gold foil (hiding the functional tray beneath), which, when the candles are lit will hopefully glow with reflected light. All that's needed are those tiny flames...

May this Advent, whether fragrant or not, be a blessed time of waiting in joyful, expectant hope for all of us.