Christmas 2004We have seen His star in the East.

When Will I Know?

      I paid no attention to it. I was on a mission to buy shoes, and furthermore, just the right kind of shoes. However, in the midst of my engrossment, and encased in the shoe department, I felt a little tug from behind, from another reality. I continued with my research, however. Finally, the little tug carried with it a wee little voice. “Grandma, Grandma,” it said. I turned and saw behind me a beautiful little girl about three or four years old. She kept on tugging, a “Grandma, Grandma, “ with each tug. There was no accompanying adult near. I found myself saying, “O Honey, do you need a grandma? I’ll be your grandma.” However, within a few rather long minutes the child’s mother did emerge. “She calls everybody grandma,” the mother said. I knew better, of course. The child did feel that I would be a good grandma. The very thought of this was better than new shoes.

      I feel that everyone needs a grandma, or at least a great aunt, or maybe just some kindly teacher who has gone ahead and blazed a trail. Way back, before Carmel became an established Order, there were townspeople who went to the desert thinking that they could get closer to God in that setting, away from the rush of the city. Not long after that, other townspeople came after them and knocked at the doors of their huts. “Tell us what you have learned about God,” they said. I thought of this, recently, when I had the opportunity to visit with my grandnephews one quiet evening. These are fine young men, who are now given the task to lead others to goodness, and who are just beginning to blaze a trail for others. Their questions are always so unique and special.

      This particular evening, I was reminded of a Hasidic tale in which the rabbi and his students were having a discussion as to when they would be able to tell when dawn had come. In usual style, the first two responses were not correct. “Is it dawn when I am able to distinguish between the sheep and the shepherd on the hill?” one said. “No,” said the rabbi. “Is it dawn when everything becomes quiet and there is a faint glow in the east?” asked the other. “No,” said the rabbi. The story closes with a word of wisdom from the rabbi, shedding light on one of the deeply hidden mysteries of life.

      At this time of year, a modern version of this tale would go something like this:

      The teacher asks: “When will you know it is Christmas?” The first student queries, “Will I know it is Christmas when I see a bright star in the sky and a candle in the window?” “No,” says the teacher. “Will I know it is Christmas when I awake and see the countryside covered with snow?” asks the second. “No,” says the teacher. Using the words of the rabbi, the teacher goes on to say, “You will know it is Christmas when you can look into the face of other human beings and you have enough light within yourself to recognize them as your brothers and sisters.” As Catherine McAuley so beautifully said, “In great mercy and love, God has given us one and another.”

Sister Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D. 

contents page