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

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Feast of the Holy Family

Today's Gospel relates:

When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”

He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee.

That great practitioner of the spiritual via moderna, Johann Tauler, observed by means of commentary:

Herod, the one who pursued the child and wanted to kill him, represents the world which clearly kills off the child, the world that we must by all means flee if we want to save the child. Yet no sooner have we fled the world exteriorly… than Archelaus rises up and reigns: there is still a world within you, a world over which you will not triumph without a great deal of effort and by God’s help.

For there are three strong and bitter enemies that you have to overcome in you and it is with difficulty that we ever win the victory. You will be attacked by spiritual pride: you would like to be seen, taken note of, listened to… The second enemy is your own flesh, assailing you through bodily and spiritual impurity… The third enemy is the one that attacks by arousing malice in you, bitter thoughts, suspiciousness, ill will, hatred and the desire for revenge… Would you become ever more dear to God? You must completely forsake all such behaviour, for all this is the wicked Archelaus in person. Fear and be on your guard; he wants to kill the child indeed…

Yep, there's that "inner Archelaus" I'm so in touch with. I can say that I've "fled the world," if by flight from the world is meant refusing to let one's exterior course of life be motivated by those idolatrous lusts which so clearly motivate "the world." Those are unashamedly on display in the media: in the news of politics, in the pornography developed to sell things, in entertainment, and especially in those forms of entertainment which pass for news. All that glorification and pursuit of money, sex, power, fame, or some combination thereof is about trying to become as god by glutting rather than emptying oneself. It's always at others' expense, especially that of the most vulnerable; and it's all vainglory. Yet it would be absurd to take pride in fleeing all that exteriorly; flight is only the beginning, not the end, of one's itinerarium in mentis Christi. The hard work commences within. The interior enemies whom Tauler knows and names are those whom I fight daily in my spiritual combat. They are closer to me than my best human friends: I see their leering faces all the time. When they gain ground on me, thanks to my own sloth and pusillanimity, I lose touch with "the child"—my true "inner child"—and so cannot show Him to others. Perhaps there is some connection between that and where I stand in relation to my own children. The outer life cannot be righted until the inner life is.

Of course the Holy Family is not about me to any greater extent than it's about anybody else. It's about you too. But I try to be honest about myself, publicly, so as to encourage you to be that with yourself, privately and today. If you take up the invitation with the Spirit's help, you will be able to see your way to Galilee a bit better. Perhaps you can then be more a help than a hindrance to making your own family—whatever form family may have in your life—a bit more like the Holy Family. At least that is my prayer for today, for me and for each of us in that family of God known as the Church.
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