Job’s Christmas

“And you beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,

who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow…”

There is so much suffering in the world. War, disease, starvation, abuse, murder… the heartache of billions of human beings. And we naturally question life, the universe, the powers that be, wondering why – why?????

I sit in the dark turmoil of my own brokenness and limitations with Job. Job, who not only lost his wealth, security, health and strength, but also his family – all of his loved ones dead. And, after all of that, he was supposed to still love God. But, how??? If this is what can happen to a good person who is loved by God, then what good is that supposed love?

Job questioned, too. His questions, in the divine light, were “words without knowledge”, merely obfuscating divine reason. The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom, and, so, the answer for Job’s WHY began like this:

lightning

God thunders forth marvels with his voice;

he does great things beyond our knowing.

He says to the snow, “Fall to the earth”;

likewise to his heavy, drenching rain…

Out of its chamber the tempest comes forth;

from the north winds, the cold.

With his breath God brings the frost,

and the broad waters congeal.

The clouds too are laden with moisture,

the storm-cloud scatters its light.

He it is who changes their rounds, according to his plans,

to do all that he commands them

across the inhabited world.[1]

Across the inhabited world, the Unmoved Mover has unquestionable power, unlimited might. We are but creatures, who, like the grass, may fall dead with the first breath of winter. Who are we to question God? As intelligent and imaginative as we are, human beings are dependent upon Creation and the Creator behind it all. Helplessly and hopelessly limited are we, at the mercy of the Almighty One, who makes and rules the universe and beyond.

It is only reasonable that we suffer Continue reading

In the Cloud of Glory a Portal Opens

Mary Series: Part 2 (continued from A Stranger Appears… )

        First troubled with wonder and puzzlement, then sincerely trusting and deeply curious, a young woman’s response to a strange visitor is about to change the world. Of all the human beings to be conceived in all of time, she is the single one chosen for the single most earth-shattering – and earth-redeeming – mission to be given to a creature born of woman and man. The divine message has been revealed to Mary, kneeling on the earthen floor of her childhood home, her hands lying still on her lap, bits of bread dough on her fingers, that she will conceive and bear a son whose kingdom will have no end: the Messiah, the Chosen One of God. Mary wants to know how she, as a virgin, will become pregnant – not because she is doubtful, but because she has faith in God’s word. She just wants to know, in simple and beautiful human curiosity, how it is going to happen. Mary’s angelic visitor, Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, does not punish Mary for asking such an honest and faithful question. Her innocence is rewarded with an answer.

        To Mary, the angel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Finished speaking, the angel waits for Mary’s response.

        Thoughts blow through Mary’s practical mind like clouds are borne across the May sky.  So, Joseph will not be the father – but, will he know? Will an angel tell him of the pregnancy so that he will not be alarmed and hurt when her body begins to swell with the child? Or will the origin of the child be kept as secret as it is mysterious and, so, she be accused of the adulterous betrayal of her betrothed, the punishment for which is death by stoning? …Son of God… And hear: Elizabeth’s long prayed for baby is given to her – wondrous news from Almighty God!  The thought vapors of Mary’s mind do not gather and darken in storm but, rather, are dissipated by the constant current of Mary’s will, enabling the light to shine clearly.

        For with God nothing will be impossible.

        Mary, ever faithful to first love purely given to her in the spark of her life, believes. She has been told that it is Divine Will for her to bear the Son of God, who shall be conceived in her womb by the power of God overshadowing her. Whatever human interference may try to thwart the plan of Providence, Mary is willing to place herself in God’s hands. No matter the earthly consequences, the cost or risk to her personal life, Mary wills not to be deceived. For, she knows that life itself is the gratuitous gift of Eternal Being – gift created by, with, and for, love. And she knows who she is – all that she has been and all she ever will be – the eternal servant of love. It is because of her great love that Mary will refuse God nothing. She is entirely willing to give all of herself away… to be the poorest of the poor, the lowest of the low, an empty vessel to be filled with God’s incarnate love.
Mary knows exactly who she is and she wills never to forget.

        Never has a human being been more free than Mary is in this moment. Unfettered, unchained, unbound is she by any self-centered concern that is but folly to one who experiences true freedom. Created in the divine image and likeness, Mary most perfectly reflects the divine power of freewill and intellect and imagination in the clarity of her mind, body, heart, and soul, here and now. God wills her total freedom. She must choose. All Creation, the natural and the supernatural, suspends.

        Holding back nothing, with clear eyes, light breath, tender mouth, and her palms upturned, Mary raises her heart to the messenger of Divinity, thus lifted up while still on her knees on the earthen floor. “Behold,” she says simply and wholeheartedly, spreading her arms open wide, “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

        Thus, in pure, free abandonment, Mary completely gives over her person and her life to God, so that God may do with her whatsoever He wills. At the sounding of her last syllables, your word, the angel of the Lord bows down low before Mary and then departs from her, as a lamp light departs with the rising of the sun.

        In the sleepy village of Nazareth, a mist is forming, laden with the fragrance of lilies and roses. Some see it merely as steam rising from cooking pots and others as smoke from the trash burning fire. The mist is rolling sweetly and with greater intensity around the home of the virgin named Mary. Within, Mary quietly, with the utmost peace in all her mind, heart, and body, every limb, continues the making of the day’s bread. As the mist enters like a cloud through the open door, the woman presses her small hands deeply into the dough and exhales, hushed, consumed by love.

* * *

        All cruelty cease in this moment, all pride vanish on earth, for what has begun with the free assent of a human being to God – Restoration to Paradise begins its rush into the world! A modest child thinks not of herself, but only of the Holy Other and, purely giving herself away, allows a portal to be opened through which God Godself enters mortality by assuming human nature.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters “…the Power of the Most High will overshadow you…” “There I will meet with you… I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat” …the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. … And the Word became flesh… in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily….

        Glory to God in the Highest! Thy Shekinah glory…

        Yes, let there be, in this fraction of a moment in the Eternal Now, not one act of tyranny nor deception nor apathy among mortals – for Truth Itself, Love Itself, is willingly taking on human flesh in utter humility, and thereby sanctifying us all. Oh, glorious heartbeat across the blue and green earth that, in this moment when time was pierced and space was torn, beat with remembered purity and freedom, when human will was married with the will of the Divine and Divine Incarnate fruit takes form! …Yet… only for that gleam of a moment, only for one quick beat of the heart, and then, humans, unaware of the actual living presence of their Savior in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, unaware of the Kingdom of God quickening, return to their forgetfulness, neglectfulness, resuming their fallen, self-centered ways, all…

        …But for Mary…

   Christina Chase

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 Scripture quotes in italics  taken from John 1:1, Genesis 1:2, Luke 1:35, Exodus 25:22, Leviticus 16:2, Exodus 40:34, John 1:14, Philippians 2:7-8

Written Not with Ink

I am meant to be an epistle, written not with ink, but with the Spirit in the fleshly table of my heart… (From my other blog where I have a piece of Scripture randomly selected for me and then write and edit for one hour.  Because of the suddenness of the source and the time limit, this post, like most of them, is a bit rambling and mostly unedited.)

Written Not with Ink.

Child of the Poor

–Lyrics by Scott Soper, 1994

Helpless and hungry, lowly, afraid,

wrapped in the chill of midwinter,

comes now among us, born into poverty’s embrace:

new life for the world.

Who is this who lives with the lowly,

sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?

This is Christ

revealed to the world in the eyes of a child,

a child of the poor.

Who is the stranger, here in our midst,

looking for shelter among us?

Who is the outcast?

Who do we see amid the poor, the children of God?

Who is this

who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows,

knowing their hunger?

This is Christ revealed

to the world in the eyes of a child,

a child of the poor.

Bring all the thirsty, all who seek peace;

bring those with nothing to offer;

strengthen the feeble, say to the frightened heart,

“Fear not:

here is your God.”

a child of the poor.

 

And he is among us now.  Do we ignore him?  Do we pass him by?  The stranger… the outcast… the hungry… Who are we dismissing?  Christ.

Let us also remember that the Christ child was born into what we would consider miserable circumstances – but he was not miserable because he was loved.  Divine love doesn’t make life easier, doesn’t make all the hardships go away – Divine love makes life joyful.   There is nothing undignified about being poor or homeless.  God Himself chose to be born into such a state so that He could show us the power and richness of love.  If, however, we laud the Christ child, the baby in the manger and all the delights of Christmas, and then forget that the manger was a feeding trough in which the poor child slept – and if we then ignore the plight of impoverished children and their families everywhere in the world… or down the street… then we have no right to have celebrated Christmas.   If we do not see Christ among us, then we have not love.  And if we have not love, then we will never know true joy.

The Word of My Heart

Consecrated to the Heart of the Incarnate Word, I reflect upon the lectionary readings for the Second Sunday of Advent (see link below) desiring to prepare the way of the Lord in my own heart…

Everyone knows that words have power – we can either encourage or discourage people by what we say.  But, what is the power behind the voice of the universe?  What is the power of the Divine Word?

In the Scripture passages chosen by the Catholic Church for the Second Sunday of Advent, we hear the psalmist proclaim that the ruthless are struck down “with the rod of his mouth” and the wicked are slayed “with the breath of his lips”.  Lest these sayings make me think that God’s voice is harsh, destroying the ruthless and the wicked with His words, it’s good to remember what the true power of God’s Word is.  For – “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”  (Matthew 4:4.)  God’s words are life-giving.  God’s Word is Life Itself.  The biblical unfolding of Creation has God speak the whole universe into existence – “God said: Let there be light, and there was light.”  God called everything forth into being through the divine Word “and found it very good.”  (Genesis 1:3, 31.)  In this way, God speaks every human being into existence.  And every person who is fully alive, in true, divinely intended life, has his or her being in the Word of God – which is true life.  When I strive to be who God created me to be, then I am neither ruthless nor wicked.  I am not struck down, laid low or shriveled up on hearing God’s words.  Instead, if I have true life within me, I am nourished and sustained by them.

Christ is the Word of God made flesh – “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.…  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.…  And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  (John 1:1-3, 14.)  In preparing the way for the coming of Christ, we hear St. John the Baptist say of him, “He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  Sometimes, can make Christ sound punishing to me– unless I understand that he is the divine Word Incarnate.  As such, he is the touchstone for true life.  Held up to Christ, my heart is revealed.  God does not destroy, but I can destroy myself by the life I choose to live.  Am I the wheat that receives and gives life or am I just on the surface, like the chaff?  If I delight myself in self-centeredness, then I have turned in on myself and away from God’s life-giving Word.  I will wallow in the surface of things, living a selfish life that will only end in death – and thus bring about my own destruction.  If, however, I have generously loved God and neighbor, seeking the light of goodness and truth, giving of myself to others, then I am nourished by God’s Word and sustained in life that, like love, never ends.

Christmas is coming soon, when we celebrate the birth of Christ into the world.  May we “with one voice glorify… the God of encouragement”.  In Christ, the fullness of divinity is pleased to dwell – all goodness, all wisdom, all strength, filled with the spirit of counsel and reverence.  The Divine Incarnation is the greatest gift given to us, because God’s Word made flesh shows us how to be as God created us to be, how to live life fully – by loving and giving selflessly.

So I ask myself, How am I living my life?  Have I prepared the way for the Word of God in my heart?  Do I seek first the Kingdom?  Do I let Christ show me the way?

Practical question: When was the last time I read from the Bible – that is, the word of God?  It’s easy enough to be distracted today by the world with its shiny and brassy things.  But, how can I ever hope to enter into the ways of selfless love, the ways of truly good things, if I don’t bother to know God’s Word?  If I don’t like what Sacred Scripture tells me, if I feel myself shriveling as I listen or read – then am I as God created me to be?  God hears my secret voice speaking.  God knows what’s in my heart… Do I?

Readings for the Second Sunday of Advent:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120813.cfm