He begins by pondering something which has also been pummeling me: the wonder of God as an infant, cradled and nurtured in the arms of His human mother Mary. As anyone who has fallen in love with their baby can attest, the mother's adoration is mixed with awe, and also demands/compels her to respond to the infant. Likewise, the infant gazes at the mother, clinging to her with trust and vulnerability that his love will not be lost on her or render Him abandoned. Just imagine that that is how God wants to be with us.
Again and again the beauty of this Gospel touches our hearts: a beauty that is the splendour of truth. Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me.I mentioned this in a status update on Facebook yesterday also.
Our family spent Advent in the Byzantine tradition of the Phillip's Fast and I experienced in a new way the joys of surrendering to God and witnessing how He reveals Himself, especially in my work setting. Then, right at the very end of Advent--indeed, on Christmas Eve--I blew it, big time.
As ever, with these somewhat vague posts about confession, I won't be specific about what this sin entailed. (This is my blog, after all, not the confessional.) But I knew I needed to get to confession, and thankfully, our priest agreed to hear my confession even in the last hours prior to the late night Liturgy on Christmas Eve.
As soon as I confessed to him, he responded with: "Oh--It's been a long time since you've had to confess this."
To convey the unassuming beauty of that statement, I should tell you honestly that I had despair about this particular situation and didn't want to voice aloud to anyone, especially my beloved priest, the truth of my failings. I was feeling simultaneously proud and embarrassed, while knowing that these stupid emotions would not do one thing to change the situation. Deep down I trusted and believed that, once I had the chance to confess, the benefits to my soul would be real and my communion with God would be restored. My Lord's mercy is never-failing.
But getting over those stumbling blocks of my ego and pride required grace and love conquering fear--a fear which comes directly from Satan. Also, perhaps you can relate to that frantic search for any number of ways to get out of the confession. Then, I imagined Father refusing me absolution and then me getting killed in a car accident. (okay, this is slightly irrational but, as Scripture teaches, there are sins which lead to death, as stated in 1 John 5:16). Thankfully, He extended this grace as I swung through these many irrational thought processes.
When Father responded in that way: "It's been a long time--" I marveled in retrospect at the mercy of that sentiment. It simultaneously conveyed to me that 1) the Lord's grace has been effective in my life since the last time I dealt with this sin, and 2) I'm not telling him some new and terrible and shocking thing. Father knows me, just as my Lord knows me. He knows me better than anybody. And so I fell into the arms of his mercy, and His Mercy, and received the grace of the Mystery of Penance. Praise the Lord.
But backing up, how to overcome those stumbling blocks long enough to drive the car to Father and unload this embarrassing issue before him?
Come, Baby Jesus. During this Christmas season, I couldn't help but ponder the implications and reality of God entering into the human experience as an infant.
Seriously, the human infant is among the most captivating yet vulnerable and non-threatening creatures in existence. In my heart, I crawled toward His crib and experienced firsthand the grace of God Who condescended in such a way that we can approach Him without fear. I imagined Him hearing my sins and loving me anyway. I imagined this all the way along the highway and through downtown, until safely pulling into the Church.
Welcome, Baby Jesus. We are so glad, so deeply glad, that You are here.
|Click on this link for an explanation of the icon and a contemplation on the subject|