The Heart Remembers
Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.
It has been said that, at Christmas time, all the world is kin. Each year, as we witness the many Christmas greetings finding a home on our monastery mail table, we become more convinced of this kinship. The Madonna and Child pictured above the table continue to bring heaven’s blessings on our friends, all the year round, but most especially at Christmas time.
One of my favorite cards, among the many displayed, is the one bearing the Nativity scene with Mary and Joseph and the Child, together with the shepherds and angels nearby. The thing that is special about this card is the fact that light seems to be emanating from the Child in the manger. The setting being that of semi-darkness, this light illuminates the faces of the figures, who are caught up in awe at what is happening. At first, there is a movement within me that wants to hold the Child in embrace. But, quickly I realize that this Child is for the whole world.
God With Us
If I were to name the Baby, what would I call him? Of course, “Emmanuel” (God with us) keeps coming back. Maybe I would call him “The Compassion (or Comfort) of God,” or “Haven of Our Deepest Trust”. And then there is the single word, “Peace”, the kind of quiet peace of mind and heart we sometimes experience inside ourselves, the peace that banishes all our worries, (at least for the moment), and seems to flow out to the universe. If I am at peace, there is peace in the world.
Recently, we were listening to a tape by a well-known author and speaker, who addressed the topic of our image of God, and the image of ourselves, together with the whole concept of Transformation of Consciousness. Unfortunately, for too many years, we have seen God as an exacting God, and as a God who insists on our keeping the rule. Together with this, we think that somehow we earn heaven. It has taken us too long to grasp the message that God simply wants to be with us and to love us, the accent being on the words “love” and “with”.
Julian of Norwich, in her meditation on the smallness and fragility of the hazelnut, came to understand that we stay in existence simply because God loves us. “The hazelnut exists,” God told Julian, “because I love it. You exist because I love you.” It is in this love that we find our hope and are able to accept and embrace our own fragility. Again and again, we need to hear this promise.
At this time of year, my thoughts also turn to the stars. Out here in the country, away from city lights, we are able to be caught up in the stars. For many years now, on Christmas Eve, I have had my own private ritual. Before “Midnight Mass,” if the weather permits, I bundle up and go outside into the silence of the darkness, and look up at the stars. I am always struck by the fact that all over the world, it is Christmas. The experience is breathtaking.
A New Star Appeared
As mentioned before, in one of our other reflections in Journey and the Joy, there is the belief that a new star appeared the day, or night, each of us was born. Wordsworth, the poet, reflects on this star.* He refers to this star as being “our life’s star”. He states that this star comes from elsewhere, from afar. “Trailing clouds of glory, we come from God, who is our home”. We forget this, though. Deep thoughts such as these seem “to fade into the light of common day.” Nevertheless, the soul remembers, “thanks to the human heart by which we live, and thanks to the heart’s tenderness, its joys and fears”. The humblest of God’s creation, even a small star, can put “thoughts within us that often lie too deep for human tears”. The ancients of old believed that we also have a star inside of us that is a reflection of our own star in the sky. It is this star that gives direction to our life when the weather is stormy or we feel lost. Quietly, it whispers: “This is the way. Walk in it.” (Isaiah 30: 21)
When Christmas Comes
When I return to the Child in the manger, who brings light to where there is darkness and tenderness and comfort to our days, I believe more deeply that when Christmas comes this year, it will bring something new. It always has. I want to remember that any event, even though it may be small and seemingly of little glory, is capable of activating a vision and a dream in our own lives. I hunger for that vision and dream, and I thank the heart for remembering.
*William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood
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