As I sit here in the middle of the Christmas season, looking back to the past Advent and with the new year coming quickly, I’m in a reflective mood with a simple prayer from St. Elizabeth of the Trinity running through my mind. She wrote it during a retreat in which a priest invited her to extend the mystery of the Annunciation into her own life by asking the Holy Spirit to overshadow her. She wrote, “Spirit of God, come upon me as you came upon the chaos of the world, as you came upon the Virgin Mary to create in her Our Lord.”
The Hebrew word for that “chaos” the Holy Spirit hovered over in the first chapter of Genesis is “tohu va’vohu,” or “the formless void.” We don’t have an exact word for it in English, but it has been described as meaninglessness, emptiness, confusion, and even “space where nothing can live.”
Those words seem to capture the essence of what has made this cross of infertility so heavy to carry at times. The ambiguous void, the pervasive confusion, the struggle against meaninglessness, and the sense of emptiness that can permeate everything. The feeling that my womb, my innermost being, is “a space where nothing can live.”
Yet it was over just such a space that the Holy Spirit hovered, until, at God’s Word, something came from nothing. In fact, all of creation, the whole natural world, sprang forth from that desolate, lifeless void.
After original sin poisoned the world, we fell again into a new kind of tohu va’vohu from which only God could save us. And He did. Our Mother Mary offered her empty womb and her open heart to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. At that moment the very life of Christ was formed in that hidden, dark, empty space within her.
These events of the creation of the world and the Incarnation show us that the tohu va’vohu parts of our lives are not an obstacle to be avoided at all costs. In fact, they may make for the ideal conditions for God to do His greatest work–creating something from nothing, forming Christ within us.
Is there a part of your life that feels like total tohu va’vohu right now? Perhaps it is an invitation to pray like St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, asking the Holy Spirit to overshadow those places within us where we feel empty, confused, and lifeless.
“Spirit of God, come upon me as you came upon the chaos of the world, as you came upon the Virgin Mary to create in her Our Lord.”
In the midst of all of our struggles, I pray that we will allow a little spark of joyful hope and expectation to grow within our hearts in the coming year, trusting that the Holy Spirit will indeed bring forth life from this very space within us where nothing was before.
Cassi and her husband Ian traded the rat-race of the city for the simple pleasures of their hometown in the Arizona desert. Besides enjoying great Mexican food and hiking, they love to share their passion for marriage, inner healing, and spiritual motherhood and fatherhood with anyone who will listen.