Christmas In The Heart

Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D. 


My thoughts for this reflection began at the end of October during our annual community retreat. The monastery was still surrounded by the colors of autumn and the scent and scenes of harvest. One morning, though, nature visited us with a penetrating chill telling us that the current season was not for long and that the frost and snows of winter would indeed come.


I paged through the folder of possible themes, all the while bowing to the asceticism of meditating on Christmas two months in advance. These simple and humble lines would be my gift to the world, I thought, realizing that, in the process of writing, I, myself, might end up being changed.


In the folder, I came across a conversation between David Whyte and Whyte's friend, Brother David. “Tell me about exhaustion,” Whyte said. “You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not rest,” responded Brother David. There was a pause. Brother David continued: “The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.” “That's it!” said Whyte. “That's exactly it.”*


Living Life From The Inside


This conversation set me thinking about what living wholeheartedly might mean. I agree with the poet, Rilke, who said that living wholeheartedly is letting go of the ground we cling to everyday. I found myself thinking that to live wholeheartedly is to live life from where we are inside. There is a question though. If we are realistic, is it really possible to enter wholeheartedly into something to which we are not attracted or may even find distasteful? The answer could be yes. We know of people who continue on, against odds, out of sincere love for others, or that the worthy cause of God may be furthered. We also know, from experience that, in moments of wholeheartedness, there is a sense of being in union with God, of doing something together with God and of being the person we really are. As people say, we may not know why, but it just feels right. With a deep sense of gratitude, we say: “This is really it!”


We are told that God created the world and the people in it so as to have someone to love. The climax, of course, is Christmas (some would say Easter), God becoming one of us, appearing in the cradle of a waiting world, being felt as the nearness of God in our hearts. As Karl Rahner, S.J., says, the heart belongs to the God who created it. Furthermore, the human heart, from which we live wholeheartedly, is the unifying element of our lives, the deepest place of interiority wherein we experience the God who is looking for someone to love. The heart is also the place where it is safe to be who we truly are with all our aspirations, anxieties and worries. It is the place where we keep our own personal catechism of beliefs that might be different from the outer world.


Entering God's Heart


Every Christmas, the God who is looking for someone to love, finally catches up with us. In this full and mutual wholehearted moment, we are given the invitation to enter God's Heart as well, the place where we can rest from every exhaustion, and where every need, every distress and every sorrow is taken from us, if only for a brief time.


*David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work As a Pilgrimage of Identity ( New York : Riverhead Books, 2002) p.132.


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