Sunday, December 25, 2005
Merry Christmas And Happy Hanukkah
It seems so appropriate that this year Hanukkah starts today. This coincidence is the perfect Judeo-Christian metaphor - the rededication of the temple to its proper purpose begins as God enters the world. Man does not have what he needs to have to accomplish the rededication, but the deficit is made up by God's power, grace and mercy.
I'm sorry if I'm offending anyone, but I have never been able to understand Judaism and Christianity as separate religions. It's sort of like declaring that your heart has a separate existence from the rest of your body. I think of Jesus as coming to open a new door into the Kingdom rather than closing the old one.
I hope you and your family and friends are having a wonderful time as well. Last night Chief No-Nag and I went to the 8 o'clock mass, and it was wonderful. The Anchoress has been writing that she thought the Catholic church was experiencing a renewal and strengthening, and I kept thinking that I had not noticed that the Catholic church needed this sort of renaissance. Well, after last night I might have changed my mind. There was a different sense to it in some way that I can't describe. It was very grave and solemn and serious, like joy distilled into purpose.
I don't know if you have ever been to a Quaker meeting, but that is the only way I can describe it. We prayed the liturgy in the unity of the Holy Spirit. There is great strength in a liturgy, but of course it does offer the opportunity to go through the motions and say the words without reflecting on them. Well, last night there was none of that.
We prayed for the troops and we prayed for all those suffering, ill, bereaved or alone. We prayed for the world. This time of year is joyous, but being with your family and friends makes you more aware of all those who are suffering or alone. There is such a vast dichotomy between the experiences of those on each end of that continuum. This sense can oppress us into a willful turning away from those who suffer, or it can draw us into a more intensely dedicated effort to reach out to them. Last night we joined the ends of the continuum into a circle in prayer (Sigmund, Carl and Alfred have been writing very strongly and very well about prayer lately). God's coming into the world has purpose, and that purpose is to relieve suffering and to offer hope, consolation, wisdom and guidance through our sorrows and into joy. Salvation is not an empty word.
May the strength and consolation of the Lord be with you today. May the unity of the Holy Spirit be open to you.
And what do I mean by the unity of the Holy Spirit? Last night a strange thing happened. I don't take Communion in the Catholic church because I am not Catholic; during Communion I pray. I had just raised my head and was getting up when a woman in the pew in front of me got up, turned around, and opened her arms with the most radiant smile. She embraced me and said "I hope you will be better soon". I told her that I believed I would be.
I had just been praying for enough healing to do something that I have been asked to do and which I am not presently capable of doing. Chief No-Nag asked me on the way home how I knew her, and he was a bit shaken up when I explained that I had never met her. I am not visibly impaired, and even though I was a bit creaky last night she could not have noticed anything since she was in front of me.
Merry Christmas and have a Happy and Healthy New Year.
The coming year will be a good- and deserved- one.
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