Enduring God’s glance

“Holiness consists in enduring God’s glance.  It may appear mere passivity to withstand the look of an eye; but everyone knows how much exertion is required when this occurs in an essential encounter.  Our glances mostly brush by each other indirectly, or they turn quickly away, or they give themselves not personally but only socially.  So too do we constantly flee from God into a distance that is theoretical, rhetorical, sentimental, aesthetic, or, most frequently, pious.  Or we flee from him to external works.  And yet, the best thing would be to surrender one’s naked heart to the fire of this all-penetrating glance. The heart would then itself have to catch fire, if it were not always artificially dispersing the rays that come to it as through a magnifying glass.  Such enduring would be the opposite of a stoic’s hardening his face: it would be yielding, declaring oneself beaten, capitulating, entrusting oneself, casting oneself into him.  It would be childlike loving, since for children the glance of the father is not painful: with wide-open eyes they look into his.  Little Thérèse—great little Thérèse—could do it.  Augustine’s formula on the essence of eternity: videntem videre—‘to look at him who is looking at you.’”  (von Balthasar)

If this quote touched you, I would encourage you to take just six minutes to listen to this homily by Fr. Pierre Ingram on how God looks at you.  You’ll be blessed.

In Dazzling Darkness

Barnstorming

newyearsice
Deep midwinter, the dark center of the year,
Wake, O earth, awake,
Out of the hills a star appears,
Here lies the way for pilgrim kings,
Three magi on an ancient path,
Black hours begin their journeyings.

Their star has risen in our hearts,
Empty thrones, abandoning fears,
Out on the hills their journey starts,
In dazzling darkness God appears.
~Judith Bingham “Epiphany”

sunset12172

…the scent of frankincense
and myrrh
arrives on the wind,
and I long
to breathe deeply,
to divine its trail.
But I know their uses
and cannot bring myself
to breathe deeply enough
to know
whether what comes
is the fragrant welcoming
of birth
or simply covers the stench of death.
These hands
coming toward me,
is it swaddling they carry
or shroud?
~Jan Richardson from Night Visions –searching the shadows of Advent and Christmas

birchgold

Unclench your fists

Hold out your hands.

Take mine.

Let us hold…

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No longer alone

Witnesses to Hope

“How is it possible to believe that God, who is considered by religions to be infinite and all-powerful, can make Himself so small?”

“The Greek Fathers called it syncatabasis, divine condescension, that is: God coming down to be with us.  It is one of God’s mysteries.  Back in 2000, in Bethlehem, John Paul II said God became a child who was entirely dependent on the care of a father and mother.  This is why Christmas gives us so much joy.  We don’t feel alone anymore; God has come down to be with us.”  (Pope Francis)

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Preparing the Heart: From Creche to Cross

Barnstorming

20120329-052504.jpg Detail from “Descent from the Cross” by Rogier van der Weyden

The whole of Christ’s life was a continual passion;
others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr.
He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified,
even in Bethlehem, where he was born;
for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after,
and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last.
His birth and his death were but one continual act,
and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but
the evening and the morning of one and the same day.
From the creche to the cross is an inseparable line.
Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter.
It can have no meaning apart from that,
where the Son of God displayed his glory by his death.

~John Donne –opening words in his sermon on Christmas…

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O Emmanuel

O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.
Malcolm Guite

“When you can’t find the Merry in your Christmas”

When You Can’t Find the Merry in Your Christmas

It’s here whether we like it or not—Christmas.

For many this season is filled with the fullness of family togetherness. The turkey with all the trimmings. It is the time for unwrapping the red-ribbon-gift we placed first on our list. It is the season of sparkly lights and the steady fragrance of evergreen. Cut trees dressed and centered in our homes displaying ornamented memories and present day mementos of our own Christmas present and pasts.

For others—like us— it will be the first without our most cherished loved one (R.I.P Dad Brown). It is the season of skipping to pay the rent in order to afford to put something under the Christmas tree. The homeless among us will seek to find a warmer cover, an even hotter cup to grip away the cruelty of the cold.

Christmas can fill you with joy and wonder and Christmas can make you feel marginalized and alone.

I’ll never forget the Christmas Mommy and I were all set and packed to visit my Grandmother Patricia in Kalamazoo, Michigan for the last time. It would be the last time because cancer… well,  cancer said so. “Gabby” had battled hard and surrendered even stronger to the fight. She was still trying to hold on for us though. Mommy and I had our tickets ready on the dining room table. We were sad but excited to have the opportunity to say our final good-bye. We were flying out of Portland bright and early the following morning, but we didn’t make it in time.

Just a few hours before “the call” I sat in our family living room, wrapped in the strong arms of my brand new fiancée. My then boyfriend of two years had popped the question and presented the ring on Christmas Eve. The same ring I was staring at when down the hall I heard my mother scream. Her daughter-griefed-weeping followed, and I knew Gabby was gone.

The sparkle of my new ring and the glare from my streaming tears were both there at that moment, right there at the same time.

Christmas can give you your most desired longing, and it can deliver your greatest heartbreak.

This season, once again I feel like I’m holding a little bit of both possibility and grief. Possibility in that this same Jewish baby Jesus who made His way through oppression, homelessness and rejection will continue to find rescue, covering and favor for me. Grief in knowing that I can’t control the timing of death, the depths and disgust of man’s broken humanity or the schemes and snares of our raging enemy.

But like my ring and my tears I will continue to hold both. This tension of both possibility and grief are calling forth a deeper vulnerability in me, a deeper desperation to both be cherished and rescued.

This Christmas I am desperate to find true meaning in both the unwrapping and the grabbing hold of our Immanuel—God with us, God with me. I’m being drawn to get closer to the Christ child and not Christmas, the holiday. You don’t have to find the “merry” in your Christmas if it’s not there. Just draw near to Him.

Jesus of our possibilities.

Jesus acquainted with our grief.

Jesus of Christmas who knows each of us—that Baby from the manger who knew just how to “be.”

Originally published here.