A Tender Moment

Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.

Christmas! Can anyone really explain what it means to celebrate Christmas? We are told by those who meditate often on life in general, that the great experiences of life fall mostly on those who are prepared to receive them. This means, of course, that it is always possible to miss the star that may be rising right above us, and meant for us.

Karl Rahner, S.J., picks up this theme when writing to a friend of his.* In the letter, he invites his friend to have the courage to be alone. He goes on to say that, in such a setting, one may experience what it means to have a Christmas heart, a gentle, courageous and affectionate heart. It is this kind of heart that one longs to present to those we love. Like Rahner’s friend, we are to wait and listen in quiet, and allow God to speak to us. In such an atmosphere, it could happen that we will experience the nearness of God and the light of Christmas.

While reflecting, in quiet, on the above, I found myself recalling again the story of the Fourth Magi. It is a story of Artaban, the Fourth Magi, who misses his three companions and ends up making his own journey to find the new born Child, in company with his servant. I am inclined to think that if such a story were written, today, the telling, of course, would be much more inclusive. For me, the story describes the experience of those who are honestly seeking God and who, with diligence and good faith, have studied the sources. With sincerity of heart, these seekers often follow their star, against great odds. The message remains the same. Emmanuel , God with us, has come for everyone.

His Heart Was Moved To Give

Artaban’s journey to the new born king took almost thirty years. To begin with, he sold all he had and took with him only a sapphire, a ruby and a precious pearl to bring as gifts. However, on the way, Artaban encountered various people who were in need. His heart was moved to give these cherished gifts to the needy people.

Now an old man, the story continues with Artaban arriving too late. Jesus has died. However, this is not the end. Jesus appears to him, reaches out and touches the now dying Artaban, and tells him to take comfort. What Artaban has done for others has been done to Jesus, himself. Jesus then leaves. For a moment, Artaban looks at the spot where Jesus had stood. In peace, he closes his eyes and leaves this world.

As I reflected on this story, I thought of the many times I myself have visited the crib during the Christmas season. From early on, we were told to bring gifts to lay before the Christ Child. Sometimes, I wonder about these gifts. Like Artaban, would it be better to ask Mary and Joseph if there are others in our lives who might need a gift from us, even if the gift is only a kind word of encouragement?

We Come With Burdens

Although we, ourselves, come with the attitude of gift-bearing, we know that we also come with burdens. We have worries, anxieties, health issues, money and family issues, and troubled relationships, to mention only a few. In the face of this, St. John of the Cross, in his Romance #9, speaks of a different approach, that of gift-exchange. As St. John prays before the Christ Child, he senses that someone is crying. In St. John’s presence, God is taking on the tears of the world and giving in their place an indescribable peace. In addition, the world’s tears become jewels. God, shedding tears because we are hurting: What an awesome Christmas gift! What a tender and breathtaking moment!

*Karl Rahner, Everyday Faith (Herder and Herder, New York, 1968) p.23.

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