By Sister Sue Scharfenberger, OSU

Advent Reflections from Peru

Probably every year they appear in Advent. But this time I noticed them more, or I paid better attention.

I refer to the number of times the biblical texts invite us to go up to a high mountain, a holy mountain (Isaiah 11:9), where sadness and mourning will be taken away (Isaiah 25:7), and from where justice and peace will flow (Psalm 71). A high mountain or hill is where we find streams of water (Isaiah 30:25), and from where the Good News is proclaimed (Isaiah 40:9) And there are more.

Early in Advent, reflecting on some of these passages and some memories, I recalled two incidents of going up to a high mountain. The first was in Cajabamba when, on horseback, I accompanied catechists to a village two days away. In the latter part of the journey we climbed through clusters and clusters of trees and you could feel the upward pull on the horse. We could see nothing but the trees, and I was sure we were reaching the highest point of the Andes. But when we reached the top of this hill, the view opened to another, and yet another valley and more hills and more villages in this very forsaken part of the province. Looking to the left, then to the right, the view was breathtaking. Stunning. Awesome. Magnificent. And when we arrived at the village where we were to celebrate their patron saint, I was, well, unbelieving. It was the chapel of Saint Ursula. A woman not forgotten here!

During the second experience, I was with Betty in the province of San Miguel. Again we were travelling by horse to a very distant village. When we had climbed to a high altitude, the climb opened into a level plain-like plateau. And the horse I was riding took off running toward a direction obviously he knew as home and which for me was adventure. Like no other experience, I enjoyed that brisk galloping through this high but open space. A sense of freedom, of adventure, of surprise, of daring, all wrapped into one.

The two experiences were clearly distinct. But they both had something in common: they opened my vision to an entirely new perspective of the “campo” and of life. As I pondered the high hills and mountains of the scriptures these days, my heart and my spirit returned to those two experiences. A new perspective is what I needed at this time. It is what I long for and pray for.

I am a little weary of hearing “this birthday, (school year, Thanksgiving,  graduation, baptism, Christmas, Fourth of July…) is like no other.” I yearn for a new perspective, a dreaming of who we can become: women, immigrants, LGBTQ, people of color, Latinx, Democrats, Republicans, Muslims, Christians, religious, and non-religious.

As in Isaiah 25, where a banquet is being prepared for all peoples, and as Carrie Newcomer sings: There’s room at the table for everyone. I long for this.

So let’s don’t waste time thinking of what was, (because that was not normal either), but of the new thing that is happening, and can we not see it? (Isaiah 43:18-19)  Because it is within our vision, a new perspective! A new horizon! So if the Advent journey is to climb the mountain, go up the hill, where the view is changed and likewise the perspective on the “down below, “ from which we have journeyed, I’m ready for the climb.

Go up onto a high mountain,

Zion, herald of good news!*

Cry out at the top of your voice,

Jerusalem, herald of good news!

Cry out, do not fear!

Say to the cities of Judah:

Here is your God!

Isaiah 40:9