Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Terrible Beauty

Advent is "a terrible beauty," to use Butler Yeats' immortal description of Ireland, a land racked with so much pain yet overwhelming beauty. This season invites us to open ourselves to the humbling mystery of the Incarnation with its awesome ramifications, yet, intense pain,

for this child will be the falling and rising of many
in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so
that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed,
and a sword will pierce your own soul too (Lk 2:34-35). 

So many want "Happy Birthday, Jesus" and a blond boy with blue eyes blissfully looking over his adulating fans.  Funny scripture doesn't support this. Some, more than many think, in fact want to coo over this baby and keep him right where he is, in the manger. Such as these accumulate their own thirty pieces of silver to betray their Lord when the time comes, and it ALWAYS comes.

The prophet, Simeon, speaks to those of us who walk with Christ as much as to Maryam, his mother. The signs of the present time speak ominously. Many talk nice. Those who do seem to rise to the heights as a result, but if we listen beyond the rhetoric, we hear what they really say: and it is evil, for evil uses the language of it's enemy, but is a cheap imitation. Many who act like Jesus, on the other hand, well, they look around, go to the low places, and see what's what.

The late archbishop, Dom Helder Camara, laments that when he feeds the poor, he's called a saint. When he asks why they are poor, he's called a communist.

Contemplatives stand on the margins and look with the eyes of the Ancient of Days--not a political party or economic theory--and ask why things are they way they are. They do this out of self-emptying love. Compassion pierces one's very being. Grace may be offered freely, but it is never cheap.


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