"Who do you think you are?" God wanted to know when King David proposed to build God a house. David was put in his place. When we try to build space to contain God in our lives we too should be put in our place because you can't fit God into a neat little box. If you think you can then you have managed to produce an idol and not a home for the living God.
It is becoming clear to me that emptiness is the sacred space within which we encounter the elusive mystery of God. Each human life is spun around an empty space which draws a person deeper into questions and into the adventure of meaning. We may try to fill this space with activity, piety and plans but the emptiness is always there challenging us to step into the unknown and let God be God. In the end faith is an acceptance of this rich mystery of emptiness that sits snugly at the centre of our lives. It was that kind of faith that allowed Mary to say "let it be done" and her emptiness was filled with a presence that gave meaning to her life.
Our own emptiness is a space where we can only wait for the rain to come or for the wind to change. Because it is empty space everything is possible again; new connections can be made, things can be discarded and everything shrinks into proportion within that empty horizon. And so emptiness becomes creative. At its own pace, in ways old and new, emptiness transforms, re-imagines and re-energises life.
We should not be surprised that emptiness is so fertile because that is the way our universe has been created- out of nothing and emptiness. It is the trademark of a creative God that creation comes from nothing and our attempts at creation are simply moving the pieces around. Emptiness is the material God uses to create. Most of our universe is empty, even solid seeming objects like wood and rocks are formed of lattices that hold empty spaces together. Our bodies too are full of space between the spinning particles that make up our bones and flesh. This emptiness is the sacred space in which we live and move and have our being.
So why do we seem to run from emptiness and why does our human nature seem to abhor this vacuum in our lives? As religious people we often want to fill the emptiness with words and fill our emptiness with our own vocational projects.Others try to keep busy and not think about it at all. Yet emptiness is the place where we are face to face with God. It is the space where nothingness itself becomes the richest space in which to be. It is that desire for nothingness that lay at the heart of St Therese's spirituality of littleness. Jesus constantly recognised as valuable what others saw as nothing- rejected stones, children and marginalised people.
So our challenge this advent might be to stop filling our minds with whatever is useful and entertaining and simply sit in emptiness and let God re-spin the meaning of our lives around the emptiness of a stable and a cradle. Then, if we can say our own fiat from within that emptiness we may find ourselves able to look at all of life's mysterious emptiness and call it Father.