By Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.
Each December, as the chilly north winds sweep across our resting fields and the snows come, I begin to wonder what new thing will happen this Christmas. I begin to ponder the deeper meaning of "God with us” and, to the polite weariness of my friends, wonder aloud what it means to ask for a Christmas heart.
When it is all over, will I be different? Will I be changed? Is Christmas just a commemoration of a very important something, a most welcome and glorious festival when everything in the world and everyone in it become kin, an event where the love that is always there actually shows? Or, does something new and different happen each season?
There Is A Depth After All
Although Advent is dutifully kept in a monastic setting, I find myself not really being bothered by the shopping, the Christmas carols, and the scurrying about going on elsewhere. The world, too, has its liturgy. The world, too, senses that something is happening. Something, Someone, who is always there, is now becoming more visible, is now near. There is a feeling of closeness, a sense that Christmas is already within. For a brief time, people of the earth accept and embrace their human reality and are filled not only with expectation but also with hope. They even begin to accept themselves and their neighbors. There is a depth to this life, after all. Could it be that God celebrates Christmas with the whole world?
Still, what does it mean to ask for a Christmas heart? For me, it means to ask for a radical openness and an awakening of wisdom. It means to ask for the ability to see with the heart, to experience that tears are done away with, since God has wept with them and has wiped them away from God's own face. A Christmas heart comes to know and accept its own beauty and discovers a vision of what life was meant to be. Gradually, its own yearnings become a lantern to light its path, a path marked with patience, kindness and compassion. A Christmas heart is not daunted by the knowledge that "after climbing a great hill, one finds that there are many more hills to climb."1 When this happens, we know that God has moved into our hearts just as God moved into the world at Bethlehem.
I Wish It For The World
I shall not hesitate, then, to ask for a Christmas heart, a heart that sees what new thing is happening. And, since a Christmas heart hears the cries of the world, I shall pray that the whole world be given a Christmas heart. Somehow, what happens to my own heart affects the world.
I, too, wish for everything that in this season grows, and I wish it for the world. I want to tell the world not to be afraid to be happy. I want to tell the world that God is in all their anxieties and all their disappointments, that when the totals of their plans and their life experiences do not balance, it is God who is that unsolved remainder. God is in all their needs, embraces all their nights and days, and will never let them down.
An Adventurous Journey
Let us begin, again, this "adventurous journey of the heart to God."2 Let us put down our defenses and forget what used to be. Something new is happening! Let us run to meet this God Who comes, leaping the mountains and rushing over our hills. Let us follow that kind and tender star, guarding and guiding us from above. It still shines in our skies.
1Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (New York: Little Brown, 1994) p.544.
2 Karl Rahner, The Great Church Year (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1993) pp. 105, 106.
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