"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Monday, December 26, 2005

The power of vulnerability

As per my theme of yesterday, I want to focus on something the Pope said during his Midnight Mass homily. Like all great and abiding truths, they seem obvious once clearly stated, as below. But even as such, they are not generally appreciated even by those who would profess their "obviousness."

In Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God himself became man. To him the Father says: "You are my son." God's everlasting "today" has come down into the fleeting today of the world and lifted our momentary today into God's eternal today. God is so great that he can become small. God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenseless child, so that we can love him. God is so good that he can give up his divine splendor and come down to a stable, so that we might find him, so that his goodness might touch us, give itself to us and continue to work through us. This is Christmas: "You are my son, this day I have begotten you."

God has become one of us, so that we can be with him and become like him. As a sign, he chose the Child lying in the manger. This is how God is. This is how we come to know him. And on every child shines something of the splendor of that "today," of that closeness of God which we ought to love and to which we must yield -- it shines on every child, even on those still unborn.
I can think of no pithier way to explain why we ought to marvel, during this Christmas season, at the reality of the Incarnation of God and of the gift of life—even in the unborn, even in those too disabled or otherwise "useless" to do much that seems beneficial to society. But one cannot marvel simply because one "ought" to: such attitudes come spontaneously or not at all. One can only marvel if one really believes, accepts, and ponders the mystery. Since so few believers marvel at all, and even those who do marvel do it so rarely, I can only conclude that it is all of us whom Jesus addressed when he said to his disciples: "O ye of little faith!"

Sometimes poems help: by memorization, they burrow into our subsconcious and shape our conscious life. Thus I offer what Madeleine L'Engle once wrote in a Christmas poem: (hat tip to the Pontificator):

Like every newborn, he has come from very far.
His eyes are closed against the brilliance of the star.
So glorious is he, he goes to this immoderate length
To show his love for us, discarding power and strength.
Girded for war, humility his mighty dress,
He moves into the battle wholly weaponless.

The message in that is the same as the Pope's. Let us ponder it and marvel accordingly. We might even be moved to emulate it.
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