BY LAURALYN SOLANO
DAY 2: Lord, Let Us See Your Face | Saturday of the 2nd Week of Advent | 12.16.17
- Sirach 48: 1-11. In those days, like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace.
- Psalm 80: 2-19. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
- Matthew 17:9-13. The Coming of Elijah
It was November of 1997, and I was a mess. I was fresh out of my teens having just turned twenty years old. I was also a single, unemployed, depressed mother of a brand new baby girl. It was also a time of great mercy, however, it seems like every power was working against me to receive it.
Alexandria was born in April earlier that year. She wasn’t my first baby, but she was the first one to be born. Her father was my high school sweetheart, although I don’t think I was his. Alex said he didn’t really believe in “love”, but there were times that he would break that machismo front and reveal a soft heart – that was what kept me around. I was addicted to the good that would occasionally escape from the cold, angry, sinful man that kept it captive.
My little girl was my light in the dark night, even though I knew I was not worthy of such a blessing. I still remember Advent that year. I would look at the nativity set under the tree at my parents’ house (where I was still living), and hope that God would care for me the way he did for the Holy Family. They were homeless, jobless, and had no real means to provide for the baby Jesus. But then again, I was no Virgin Mary and we definitely weren’t the Holy Family.
When Christmas day arrived the only thing on my list was formula and diapers. No one really knew that though. I’m not sure what my family thought I was going through, although I recall the whispers of relatives judging me. “Does that baby even have her shots up to date?” they would say. “Who’s going to take care of her?”
The judgment from my family, the lack of presence from her father, the looks of disappointment from my parents weren’t foreign. All these things existed before Alexandria was brought into this world. Depression haunted me long before. Not too many people knew that I tried to kill myself while she was in my womb.
There was a constant battle between the demons of dark and despair and the hope and light that illuminated from my little girl. The thoughts of having no money to provide even basic needs like formula and baby food were countered by the innocent smile that would appear when she saw me. The hurtful words of her father were combated by the sweet sound of “mama” she would express. God was talking — He always was. But this time I could hear him amongst the pain of life, coming from the mouth of a babe.
As Alexandria grew, I did the best I could to protect the bright light I saw in her. It was life-giving to me, as I myself was in a sea of darkness. It wasn’t a calm sea either – it was ravaging, burning yet so cold, chaotic yet silent. I felt like my light was extinguished long ago, yet there was something deep inside of me, burning so strong it was boiling the waters in my ocean of pain. I didn’t know what it was, all I knew was that I had to keep a lid on it. I had to make sure it didn’t boil over.
It seems as if every Advent since Alexandria’s first carried the same hope and anticipation. I prayed for a Christmas miracle, that God would see me. That in his coming to us as the baby Jesus, his innocence would have mercy on me. I prayed for the Holy Family to be my family. I prayed her father would tire of all of the temptations of the world and dedicate himself to us like St. Joseph did for Mary and Jesus. I desperately searched for the bright light that guided their way. Unfortunately, the only thing that likened me to them was that I had no place to go – and everywhere I knocked looking for help, I was turned away.
Advent of 2003 was different. The ocean of despair inside of me brewed into something greater. I didn’t realize that all the pain, all the struggle, all the pressures in life were actually coming from the love of God. Like today’s Psalm, I longed to see God’s face, I prayed I could turn to him. The mounting pressure of my situation and the internal pain from my sinful choices were burning within me. God was working, He was making me turn to him. The pain was my resistance to his work. That year he granted me the grace to turn to him, he granted me that grace and I saw his face.
That Christmas I made a decision to let go of my idea of making a “Holy Family” and instead, asked God to bring me into his. I was granted the grace to surrender, and when I did, I found that the shining star whose light I followed was dwelling within me. The manger was within me. I received the gift of his presence as a child but never knew. Like St. Augustine, I searched about the broad ways of the world seeking – but all along he was within me.
My relationship with Jesus grew as I visited the manger often. That doesn’t mean life got easier. In fact, I did not know that it was going to get a lot more difficult. Advent of 2004, my little family resembled the Holy Family’s even less. Alex was killed that summer. God was merciful in allowing me to detach from the troubled relationship; but that did not lessen the sting of his death.
After 20 years, he is still making me turn towards him every day. He is constantly revealing his face. The difference is, now I know it is him making me turn and it is easier for me to let his will be done. I can see. He has turned me to himself and I can see him not only in the Holy Spirit in my soul, but also in my husband Jason, who has loved and provided for me – who is my St. Joseph. I see his face in my beautiful baby girl who is no longer a baby, but a beautiful woman. I see his face in three loving children that God has added to my life. In my family who once blessed me with closed doors to guide me to Christ, whose doors are now open where we can share Christ amongst each other. In my beautiful friend and godsister Jessica, who has blessed me with this gift- this opportunity to reflect and see the great things God has done for me.
I once heard that you can pray for yourself in the past. Since there is no beginning or end with God, there is no constriction of time. I honestly don’t know if this is theologically correct, but I really liked the idea of it. My heart still hurts for my 19 year old self, on the floor of her bedroom, pregnant, alone, and crying for God to offer a mustard seed of mercy. I can still feel the depth of that pain, the depth of that desperate, helpless cry drowning in her own sin and brokenness, longing to see God’s face. When I pray, I hold her, I tell her “Turn your face, turn to him. He has more than a mustard seed – he has an endless ocean of mercy, just for you. Just go to him.”
As we gather all over the world for this second night of Simbang Gabi, know that I pray with you as you proclaim the words of Psalm 80: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” May your Advent be one of wondrous anticipation, and your Christmas full of peace and presence! May these words written in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians become a reality:
For [God] says: “In an acceptable time* I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.”
Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2).
Lauralyn Formentera Solano is 40 years old and resides in Northern California. She believes she is a candidate for future sainthood due to the purgative efforts of her wonderful husband Jason and four children ages 20, 11, 7, and 5. She is currently working on her Master’s in Theology and Leadership at Gonzaga University and works full time as a Coordinator of Lay Ministry Formation and Support with the Diocese of Sacramento.