Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Benedictine Christmas

Benedict doesn’t mention Christmas anywhere in the Rule. However, Christmas suffuses Benedictine life for all who follow it, monastic or oblate. Christmas is about the Incarnation. We celebrate the amazing, radical, profound mystery that the creator of the universe would deign to enter our messy, difficult, hurting world and share our human condition with us. In Christmas we see that God not only becomes human but enters into the world in the most vulnerable way, as a baby born to an unwed mother in a marginal land to an oppressed people. In Christ God takes the risk of ultimate vulnerability.

So what does the vulnerability of God have to do with Benedictine life? To be Benedictine means to be the presence of Christ for one another. In all our communities: our families, work places, churches, oblate groups, the monastery, we see Christ in one another. Benedict talked especially about seeing Christ in the sick and the visitors. I have always wondered why he singled out those two groups. Maybe it is because they are the ones who are most likely to interrupt our comfortable routines, to demand our time and attention without being able to give back. Perhaps it is the difficult, disruptive people who are the vulnerable presence of God in our midst. The people we don’t like, don’t have time for, who get on our very last nerve, the ones we feel justified in ignoring, these are the people who need our special attention. They ask that we recognize God in the form of the vulnerable and marginalized. The Incarnation we celebrate means that divinity is enclosed in unattractive as well as beautiful packages.

We also have to remember that we, too, are the vulnerable presence of God. Each of us is the image of God. Our human condition in all its messiness is what God chose to share. In Jesus God takes the risk of entering into all that is human. In his humanity Jesus knew love, betrayal, pain, fellowship. To celebrate the Incarnation we have to be open to risk. In our communities we share of our deepest selves and risk betrayal and hurt because that is part of the witness of Christ. The Incarnation says that we don’t refuse to love just because that love might not be reciprocated.

When we celebrate Christmas with integrity we enter fully into life. We open our hearts, our homes, our minds, our wallets, to the earth-shattering mystery that God is here among us sharing our humanity. God challenges us to be vulnerable with one another as he was. God challenges us to see the divinity in the most broken people. God challenges us to rejoice and see the absolute wonder and joy that is our human life in the flesh. May we celebrate this season of Incarnation with joy!

Blessings to all of your during this joyous season,

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