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

Monday, December 24, 2007

Back to the heart

At heart, most everybody wants to be "home for Christmas, if only in my dreams." But along with much else about Christmas, that song has been cheapened by sentimentality and consumerism. And of course there are all those of us who can go home for Christmas only in a spiritual sense of "home." Some have no family; others are estranged from their families, with blame enough to go round; still others, such as soldiers in war zones, just can't get there. And even for those who do go home for Christmas, nothing can truly assuage the ache of a joy once intimated yet so very elusive. As Richard John Neuhaus writes:

It is not a matter of revving ourselves up to experience again the wonder of the Christ Mass. There is no point in trying to recapitulate Christmas as you knew it when you were, say, seven years old. That way lies sentimentalities unbounded.

The alternative is the way of contemplation, of demanding of oneself the disciplined quiet to explore, and be explored by, the astonishment of God become one of us that we may become one with God. He embraced the whole of our experience, beginning as an embryo, as we began as an embryo. In his abject helplessness is our only help.

This what I pray for as I prepare for Midnight Mass: that meditating on the true nature of "our only help," I can become for others, especially those closest to my heart, a little more like what we truly need to find at home for Christmas. The infant Jesus reminds us that it lies in all our hearts, if we have the courage to travel there.
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