Advent approaches. We await the coming of the Christ child. We celebrate religiously the advent of something, someone, new in the world. Even materially, commercially, it is what the season is about. Light. Gifting. An energized season where for a time we are more hospitable, generous, more open in spirit and friendship. Paul too is writing about something, Someone new coming into the world. The coming of the reality of Christ, who he was and what faith in him meant. So this is another opportunity to spend forty days (more or less) with St. Paul. To continue the Christ-self discourses begun here. To look at the Christ life, not as a concept or doctrine, but as a lived, personal reality with its potential to transform, challenge and accompany our lives. A Real Presence. Born in a stable two thousand years ago, it is this same Jesus born in Bethlehem who is the Christ that Paul and the season celebrate.
This can be a difficult time for many when the darkness and deprivation, stresses and losses, loneliness and lacking, come in stark relief against all the holiday hustle and bustle. But it is here too in the telling of the infancy narratives we see the true meaning of the holiday, apart from the glitter and glitz, of a Savior come in the cold, darkness of winter, to poor and humble beginnings, who would remain marginal and excluded, but was seen to bring hope to the poor, the oppressed, those much in need of his saving presence and love in their lives. And at heart this too is where we live. Perhaps not materially impoverished, but certainly we all have within us some darkness, something needy and some part that is impoverished, alone, limping along through life, needing to reach out to touch even the hem of someone who can heal and save us. Someone who cares and loves us no matter in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.
All theology is anthropology. To speak of the divine is to speak of the human person. If you look at the human person in his/her depth you will find the sacred center that is at the heart of all life. Whether we realize the sacredness of humanity, within each of us, as a religious phenomenon or not, it is there−a sacred Self within each us whose advent begins to impinge on our lives as we grow in our ability to apprehend and embrace this as our most essential Self. St. Paul calls this our ‘hidden self’, the Christ-self. The Christ who lives in our heart by faith. (Eph. 3:14-19).
This religious/sacred venture is not something that occurs outside our selves. The Christ-self is our lived experience of the sacred, of God, by whatever name we call our God. We can talk about our very beings as the kingdom of the Self. The birth of the Word in the Soul then is told as the birth of the infant, Jesus of Nazareth, the Word become flesh. This is how the Christ-self within us begins. Coming as a child, small, vulnerable, dependent, apart from the traps and trappings of the world. And yet, the symbols of the nativity are powerful stars charting our way to what the coming of Christ within us signifies. It is a gift to us, it requires shepherding, it brings what is lowest and highest together in the paradox we call living.
The Christ-self is the becoming thing in us. In Jesus the Christ we are ever in the nativity of the nearness of God. And all the shining symbols of the season say this to us.