Tag Archives: Advent

The Marrow Road

[I just got around to asking Sojourners’ blog editor if I can reprint here blogs I post there… here’s something I wrote last December. In the meantime, I found out that my bone marrow donor *will* have to have the donation taken out of her hipbone–turns out that’s how they roll with haplo transplants at Hopkins, at least in my case. So I was wrong there.]

Photo: Jesus healing, © V. J. Matthew / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Jesus healing, © V. J. Matthew / Shutterstock.com

I’ve been thinking, as Advent goes on, what it meant for God to lay aside infinity and put on a body that was not just tiny, inarticulate, and helpless, but also already marked, to the marrow of its little bones, with the seeds of death.

He must have felt in his own flesh this dramatic comedown — from omnipotence and omnipresence to a being that had about threescore and 10, max, even if it hadn’t going to be cut off halfway by self-sacrifice and Roman capital punishment. And that must have given Jesus infinite tenderness and patience towards the waves and waves of people who, during his short ministry, were always coming up to him and asking, directly or just by their presence, for him to heal their bodies. In Luke, the Gospel focus of the new liturgical year, there are more than 20 healings by my count, compared to two times when someone asks Christ how to get eternal life (and only one of them actually wanted to know).

Those healings of all those bodies matter, millennia later. One big reason they matter is because healing matters. Another is because, by showing God’s power over death as well as by going through death ahead of us, Christ teaches us not to be dominated by fear of it.

All this is very personal for me. Nearly seven years ago, in April 2006, doctors gave me super-intense chemotherapy to cure my Hodgkin’s lymphoma. To help me survive the process, first they froze some of my stem cells (essentially, bone marrow, except that they filtered them out of my blood — actually drilling into bones is so 1990). Then, after the chemo and three days after Easter, they re-infused those cells back into my body to restart my bone marrow. I remember watching the tiny pink bag dripping through the IV, through which the seeds of survival would swim back into my veins, and then into my bones. Day by day, those cells moved invisibly inside my body, to grow and thrive.

Thanks be to God and to a lot of great nurses and doctors, they did cure my lymphoma. But now, as a late-breaking side effect, I have a different kind of cancer. (Yes, this sucks, but I’m still better off than if I’d died of the original cancer several years ago). So now, if all goes well, next year I might be spending another Easter in the hospital getting my own personal immunological rebirth. This time the point is to give me stem cells from a relative — cells that, Lord willing, will have an immune response that kills my cancer.

In my case, I have two siblings and a parent who are close enough to be stem cell donors — but there are many people in my shoes who don’t. That’s why, this Advent, I encourage everyone between the ages of 18 and 44 to consider joining the national bone marrow donor registry. It only takes an online survey and mail-in cheek swab to join. (Notwithstanding the name, in the unlikely event you’re matched and get the opportunity to donate, there’s usually no bone-drilling or anesthesia — just a series of shots to make your marrow overproduce into your blood, and then sitting next to a machine for a few hours while it filters out those lifesaving extra cells. I did this for myself back in 2006, and my main symptom was boredom).

As we prepare to celebrate God’s arrival in human flesh, as we start the liturgical year’s journey through a ministry in which Christ heals people’s bodies as well as their souls, there’s no better time to sign up to offer others the gift of life.

Reprinted with permission from http://www.sojo.net.

Handwashing to the O Antiphons: Key of David

Monday I started putting up the O Antiphons, in their “O Come O Come Emmanuel” version–today’s Messianic title is “Key of David”:

O come Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery. [Protestants rinse]
Rejoice! Rejoice! [plainsong users rinse]
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

This random Catholic website I found gives an antiphon version that clarifies what locks the key opens:

“Key of David, O royal Power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.”

All blog content copyright © 2012 E. Palmberg. Guaranteed 100% brave and freaking noble.

Handwashing to the O Antiphons: Wisdom

Today is the first day of the “O Antiphons,” which, during the last seven days of Advent, are traditionally said or sung before the Magnificat in vespers (evening prayer). Growing up Protestant, I learned them in the form of the great Christmas hymn “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” which is a paraphrase.

So, because Advent is for the immunocompromised too, I’ll be posting the verses relevant to each day, along with a note of where the 20-second mark is (for those of us who need to wash our hands for 20 seconds each and every time, and are sick of singing “Happy Birthday”).

However, the 20-second mark varies a bit based not only on how fast you sing it, but whether you are using, as I usually have, the tune’s Protestant version, which has a longer note at the end of each line (i.e. at “high,” “mightily,” “show,” and “go” in this verse). Catholics, I’ve noticed, tend to use what I presume is the original full-strength plainsong where you just plain sing every single note the exact same length, except maybe the very end of the chorus.

O come thou Wisdom from on high
Who orderest all things mightily
To us the path of knowledge show
And teach us in her ways to go. [Protestants rinse]
Rejoice! Rejoice! [Catholics rinse]
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Whichever side of the Tiber you’re on, happy last week of Advent!

All blog content copyright © 2012 E. Palmberg. Guaranteed 100% brave and freaking noble.