Into what is this Child to be born? ‘A great light shall rise in the midst of those who walk in darkness…’ ‘For those who dwell in gloom a light has shone,’ we hear from Isaiah. A rose blooming in the midst of winter we chant from a Christmas hymn. Into the “undefended heart” writes the poet Rilke. And the Sisters of St. Clare in their Christmas message write: “The first Christmas was an open system, that is, people in their environment exchanging and sharing with one another: the Child, Mary, Joseph, shepherds and kings. Animals provided not a small amount of chaos, entertainment and warmth. The Spirit of God works in openness and confusion” (Christmas card-2013). Into what is the Word to be born? St. Jean de Chantel says that “Humility is the seat of grace”…She goes on to say that ‘the Spirit of the Lord will rest ‘on the humble of heart’. So, not outlandish piety, but a humble heart that can accept confusion, brokenness, darkness, uncertainty as part of the climate where the Word, this Child of wonder and grace will be born.
In a book titled My Bright Abyss, the author, a poet, who has terminal cancer, is describing his faith journey. Here is a taste of what he says about ‘faith’: “Inspiration is to thought what grace is to faith: intrusive, transcendent, transformative, but also evanescent, and all too often, anomalous” (Christian Wiman, p.4). What is grace to faith: first it is intrusive…it comes to us in its own way and timing, unexpected, shaking us up a bit so that we will behold God’s gentle touch of new hope and life. It is transcendent, meaning it calls us out of ourselves where we can get so stuck in our stuff, ego stuff which diminishes us and puts un in desert of hopelessness. Grace brings to faith a transformative element…it changes us and makes us long to change. It is ‘evanescent’, not a word we use too often but meaning ‘quickly passing out of sight, memory, fading, disappearing’. Finally, often grace brings to faith an anomalous dimension…the word anomalous means deviating from what is normal, expected, standard. So this is the ground of faith, the faith we need as we await this birth in our hearts and in the heart of this community.
God will be born, grace will be manifest but remember grace most often will come in an anomalous fashion, meaning not in normal, expected, standard ways….Of his fullness we will receive grace upon grace…this will happen…this birth will happen and we will realize it and go to our knees in gratitude if our faith stays connected to what grace brings to it…Mary’s faith was this…with her, we cry out from our hearts ‘but how can this be’? And with this prayer her heart opens to receive…she is overshadowed with the gift…we are overshadowed as we await this Child of grace….this “Word made flesh full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Br. Richard of Weston Priory writes: “This is Christmas! It is incarnation! Amidst the silence and darkness of night, Oh so holy, may our listening together spur our imaginations and sharpen our senses to respond with courage to say ‘yes/let it be’ to the Spirit’s overshadowing embrace. God has become one with us, embodying our humanity, gracing our earth through the gift of incarnation” (Bulletin, Fall/Winter-2013, p.3). My sisters & brother: God in the gift of his Son has become one with us, embodying our humanity with all its faults, flaws, foibles, frailties, and its creativity, goodness, intelligence, capacity to change and to love. Into what is this Child to be born? The animals know…children know. Let us indeed keep vigil with our faith-infused ‘yes’…”Let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)…even me as I accept who I am in this moment and offer my very self, the stable of my heart, just as it is right now, to the One who will become even more part of my life, our lives, part of our very being.