Monday, December 1, 2014

Sean Glenn: My Meditation for World AIDS Day

Although I have often commented on the subtle nuances of World AIDS Day's placement in close proximity to the first Sunday in Advent, this year I was confronted––perhaps more than ever––by the jarring and peculiar ways that both of these days resonate with and read each other.

PHOTO CREDIT: Christian Paolino
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
A strange and marvelous thing happened to me yesterday morning. While singing the final hymn for the Eucharist at Christ Church, Cambridge, Mass.  ("Lo! he comes with clouds descending"), these peculiarities caught me off-guard. While I always appreciate the ways a sophisticated Advent hymn will prefigure the crucifixion and resurrection, I had seldom read this kind of imagery in the context of my own status as an HIV-positive person. The incarnational reality of my life with HIV––a new life-long embodied Advent of patient waiting and longing for the redemptive release of a cure or, at the very least, the dismantling of unjust and uninformed social stigma––washed over me in waves as verse three began:

"Those dear tokens of his passion still his dazzling body bears..."

Those dear tokens––those wounds inflicted by a brutal imperial hegemony––remain a core feature of the Body of Christ, in both his resurrected visage, as well as us, his Body in the world.

Yet despite my own on-going sense of daily death and resurrection, I still find myself (as I am sure do so many others) walking the path of (im-)patient expectation. Much in the same way Jesus' own wounds reflect a certain degree of choice, so too I begin to feel the sense that the wounds we experience as HIV-positive people also reflect a degree of choice. This is, by no means, an indictment of the manner by which we become HIV-positive; the wound there is in no way something self-inflicted. Rather, at least in my own meditation on the matter, the "dear tokens" which confront me daily are a matter of my own choice around disclosure. I am wounded no matter my choice: I can hide, attempt to pass through the world untouched by this peculiar bodily companion, or I can do what I have done and give the thing a face in the world. If I hide, I am crushed by the closet of shame and fear. If I disclose, I am rendered and read as many things, none of which I truly believe I am: a victim, one inflicted, something to be pitied, a body to be feared and avoided, the manifestation of one of our epoch's great and terrible specters, dirty.

We are none of these things, though. We walk our path of living Advent, but we do so knowing that "what God has made clean, [no one can] call dirty."

To the sero-negative, ponder this during Advent. Be a light for those you know (or may not know) are sero-positive. Lay down the banner of fear.

To my fellow sero-positive, resist the labels that others might want to apply to us. Wear these wounds with pride, knowing that God has transformed them––just as peculiarly as on Easter––and, as a result has transformed us by them and through them. Show your pierced hands and open sides to the world; give birth to a new reality.


Sean Glenn is Integrity's Diocesan Organizer for Massachusetts. He is a composer and conductor of sacred choral music, and holds a Masters in Theological Studies from Boston University and a Master of Arts in Music from the Aaron Copland School at Queens College. His home on the web is

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