The Christ Becoming

Tonight is the coming of Love into the world. The Word become flesh. The birth of the Word in the Soul. He was a gift to Judaism and now he is their gift to those who call themselves Christians. We that follow in his way. The Way of Love and of Peace.  St. Paul calls him the hidden self that he prays will grow strong in each of us. The Christ-self. His name was Jesus. He is called the Christ.  The messiah, the savior. With each Christ-coming season we begin him again. We attend to the manger of our selves so that his Spirit might be born, grow and strengthen within us. And so tonight and tomorrow he becomes who he was as the man Jesus again in us. He came as a child, small, vulnerable, dependent, apart from the traps and trappings of the world. He is the star charting our way out of the darkness, away from the cold. The only thing, the only person whose Spirit and Life can save. This is saving is simply that we come to the absolute awareness of ourselves as something sacred. Because we are image and likeness.   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.

May this season and the year to come bring Love and Peace in your life and the Blessings of his Spirit be with you now and always.

Advertisements

The Gift of Light

                                                          menorah

By this nightfall the menorah has five lights burning. When the first lamp was lit in the Temple as the people returned to it for its rededication, there was only enough oil for one night’s light. But that one small amount of oil, sufficient it seemed for just one day, continued to burn, for eight more days.  And Hanukah began. This light was a gift; a gift that continues to burn in the hearts of the faithful. They came with many prayers, hopes and even fears, weary from war, from exile and ready to be home again.

Light the lights of Hanukah and Christmas pray and praying continue to be gifts to us beyond a week or the season, but as the light burning in our hearts, that is the unceasing prayer of the Spirit that prays within us, with ‘sights too deep for words’ as Paul says in Romans (8:26-27). It is the Spirit of the holy days and holidays that light our ways now. The prayer of praise for the light, for the return home, for a light that came into the darkened heart of winter, to a remnant that awaited his coming because they believed the scriptures promised he could come. Come and become the promise himself. The Jerusalem Temple lives on in the hearts and imaginations of all who at one time or another called it holy and their home. Jesus of Nazareth called it his home too, Yahweh’s home (the gypsy-god no longer dwelling with his people in tents; Jesus said it was his Father’s home, a place of prayer. When Jesus left the world, he sent the gift of his Spirit so that he could remain and by his Spirit lead us back, back to the true home and temple of the heart.

Paul’s injunction to pray at all times was to take this Spirit to ourselves and carry it with us like a Light. A Light that was a miracle. A Light that is God-with-us. The gift of the Spirit is this gift of Light. And the gift of prayer.

For prayer, in this Light, is not just something we do. It is a way of being.

Christmas lights

The Coming of Light and Love

menorah

Winter is fast approaching. The days are longer and darker. Christians are in the second week of Advent. Waiting for the light. It is also the first night of Hanukkah. The Festival of Lights. The reclaiming and rededication of the Jerusalem Temple. We are all together attending to the season, recalling miracles of light. Light coming into the world. A light that when lit, did not go out. We Christians carry this idea of the Light of the World in the person of Yeshua of Nazareth.  Even materially, commercially, it is what the season is about. Light. The gift of birth and rebirth. An energized season where for a time we are more hospitable, generous, more open in spirit and friendship. More light hearted.

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. The light our darkness and take us back into the Temple. For some of us that Temple remains in the Christ that we follow. The Temple of stone has crumbled and given way to the Temple of the heart. The place where we attend to the light, to keep it burning, burning in a light that will spread throughout the world, like the stars in the sky, the promise that the children of Abraham would take that faith and spread it to all the  nations of the world. And in many way, if you think about it, we have. Because we are all children of Father Abraham. Even though this promise has taken different forms and rituals. We have put different words to the same music.

Today we are the ones crying in the wilderness. What light can we light that will not go out? What can we birth within ourselves that can remain alive throughout the dark days and the horrific events that are taking place before our very eyes. Perhaps it is the light of Love. The only light that will last. That can unit. That can heal. That can take us back into the holy of holies and there to find an old couple holding a baby in their arms, while the light continues to burn at his dedication.

 

Birth of the Word in the Soul Part II

angel to Zechariah  John the Baptist stands at the confluence of the two testaments. The Hebrew Bible ends with the Book of Malachi. In Malachi, Yahweh is speaking. His are the first words of Genesis and his will be the last words in the final chapter of the recorded history of Israel. In Malachi we hear the Lord God’s last lament over his people, an impassioned reminder of what he has done for them, who he is for them and what he expects of them. He tells them he will send an Elijah-like prophet to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. These enjoinders echo in the angel’s announcement of John’s birth to Zechariah at the opening of Luke’s gospel.  Through Gabriel, Yahweh voice reverberates in his Temple, across two testaments, charging John even before he is in the world with the task of preparing the path and the people for the next emissary of Israel’s fierce, possessive, loving God.

As the second testament begins, Yahweh sets himself squarely in the midst of Israel again, making himself the architect of these two unlikely births. The Spirit of Yahweh inhabiting Luke’s gospel will overtake John, from the outset setting him apart. John will not follow in his father’s footsteps as a Temple priest. The Temple priests were hand-picked by Yahweh to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem after David took the holy city for his people. Rather, John has been chosen to carry the covenant back into the imagination of Israel, to grow in the wilderness, raving like a mad man on the margins of society, a fiery prophet challenging, cajoling the Hebrew people. His words ring out much like Yahweh at the end of Malachi. Between the two testaments comes a yawning silence. But before his voice goes silent, Yahweh Sabbaoth entreats the tribes of Israel, who have strayed from the covenant, to repent and return to him so that he can return to them.

The prophets are gone. A remnant awaits. A child is born. A child who comes into the ordinariness of life, into the midst of a faithful remnant waiting for a messiah to deliver them from their Roman oppressors and reclaim the vision of the covenant, now imaged in the birth of a child. This child, Jesus.

From the moment of his conception, Jesus’ life is marked by many journeys. The first he makes inside his mother, when she goes to visit Elizabeth to share her good tidings. At the end of Mary’s half-day’s walk to Zechariah’s house, it is John in his mother’s womb who first acknowledges by his leap of joy the cousin for whom he will pave the path made of the expectant hopes of the Jewish people. The next journey Jesus makes is to Bethlehem, still safely ensconced within his mother, his father Joseph leading her mount across the rocky wilderness to a census taking and his birth. Throughout his life Jesus journeys toward each new horizon of being before him. But the journey that was his long before he came into the world, is the journey the Hebrew nation made as they crossed the wilderness, on their way to becoming the people of God.

© 2014 Cathie Horrell. All Rights Reserved.

Birth of the Word in the Soul Part 1

During this Christmas week I want to post an article I have previously written. It is a commentary on the Infancy Narrative in Luke’s Gospel. You will find in the following series of postings of this article many of the themes that appear in this blog, connected as they are to St. Paul’s invocation of the hidden-self, the Christ-self. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Holidays.

© 2014 Cathie Horrell. All Rights Reserved.

     night sky I will speak to you in poetry,

to unfold the mysteries of the past.

what we have heard and know,

what our ancestors have told us.

We shall not conceal

from their descendants, but

will tell to a generation still to come.

                                                                                                                                      Psalm 78: 2-4

And this will be a sign for you; You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.                                                                                                                    Luke 2:12

At the heart of Luke’s infancy narrative, surrounded by songs of praise and joy, the hope of Israel is found lying in a manger. When the infant Jesus comes into the world he is set in the only place his mother has to lay him in their stable sanctuary, a wood-hewn trough. This trough, where animals have feed, becomes a manger, a sign for the shepherds who go in search of him. It is to this sign of the manger that we too, more shepherd than scholar, might look as we search for him as well.

Luke’s infancy narrative is a wonderful mix of people and emotions. There is belief and disbelief, surprise and bewilderment, questioning and assent, blindness and recognition, silence and song. Through the chorus and cacophony, two children come, one a prophet, wild and free, who will splash in the waters of the Jordan River, turning the hearts and sights of the people to the other. There the other will come, confident, striding across the rocky landscape of Judea, intent on his destination, carrying with him the hopes of his people, bound at birth to free them in his one great act of dedication, living his life.

With poetry, puzzlement and wonder, Luke crafts his narrative to give us the story of Jesus’ coming. It is a story that turns on prophecy and praise, promise and fulfillment. It is the story of Yahweh. Yahweh, the gypsy-god who journeyed with the Israelites, pitching his tent among them as he led them through the wilderness. It is the story of the transformation of a nation. It is the story of the transformation of their God. Their God is the Lord God of Israel as both author and protagonist, who reveals himself through his Spirit in the births of John the Baptizer and Yeshua of Nazareth to bring new life to Israel, calling the people back to him. In the events surrounding Jesus’ coming, the tent-dwelling Yahweh breaks through the laws of nature in order to take his future forward once more.

The Art of Advent

Pentecost red ribbons   St. Paul can rightly be called the first voice for the coming of Christ. We speak of the Christ child, but it was the person of Jesus who was born at Bethlehem. Jesus as the Christ came to be call or known at or after his resurrection. Jesus was proclaimed ‘messiah’ after his resurrection, when his disciples realized that this is who their leader was and finally got what he had been saying to them. [Or now believing who he was, infused their gospel accounts of his life with the words and sayings that would tell the world what they saw and now believed.]

It is no stretch of the imagination then to say that Paul is an artisan of Advent, an artisan for the coming of Christ. For to each community that he founded and preached to his was the message that brought the Christ-life to those people.

To speak of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the co-creator with the Spirit of God, is to acknowledge her own art, the art of the spirit’s fidelity to the sacred that she would, before all else, make manifest to the world.

Mary’s let it be is the creative and life affirming response that marks all of sacred scripture, including the letters of St. Paul. From a woman who calls herself a handmaiden, by her let it be she becomes co-creator with the Lord of Life, open, responsive and receptive to the sacred spirit that overarches our finitude to bring about that which is no longer bound by time. At the moment of Jesus’ conception eternity entered the world and became available to all. For Paul to  live  in Christ is now our ever available opening to infinity and beyond. Today and every day, with the fidelity of each new sunrise, is the echoing fidelity of the Lord of Life who brought life out of a manger, beyond a cross, and into the gardens of our lives.

Be it child or image, painting or poem or the life lived authentically in response to the sacred spirit hovering over the waters of this world, we, like Mary, give faithful worship to that same spirit in each new day, in each new creation we bring forth, ever open and attendant to its advent. With each new day we have within us the enduring capability to fashion and give form to the Word become flesh.

We are the Manger

winter_scene  Out of the infinite blue vastness we call God, the Word was breathed forth into the reality we call time. The stuff of God came to be, a small brown seed planted in the universe of matter and humankind.  I   am the stuff of God, God is the stuff of me. And it would seem that Paul, once so intent on destroying that seed, would experience the fullness of it possibility that came to us in a manger in Bethlehem, on a road as out of the way, dirty and dusty, as the stable in which Jesus was born.

The infancy narratives of Jesus are stories fraught with the symbols and the message of faith, in order to bring others to the belief in the Word become flesh. The image of Jesus as an infant is the image of what all babies are: infinite possibilities. Each child comes fresh from its mother, bringing with it all that it might be and become in the world. This Christ child represents for us the Christ-self that is present as all possibility planted in us at conception and coming to be in the world at our births.

It is this hidden self that is the Christ-self within each of us that Paul prays will be strong – come to its full potential and realization within us. Our lives and our very being, ourselves, are the manger in which Christ comes. Surrounded by angel songs and the lowest of shepherds and most notable kings, come the stories of the improbable advent of life, the hope of Israel, lying in a manger.  A manger – a feeding trough for animals. The infinite possibility of the God-life is housed incarnate in a plain, wood-hewn manger, a sign for celestial beings, the simple and the greatly adorned. Into the ordinariness of life he came.

As I watched the television last evening, I wanted to turn it off at one point. Numb finally to what seems like the ultimate rejection and devaluing of human life. I kept saying over and over: No. Why? Please? We are in the hard ground of winter. These days are truly dark. Herod is about for destruction. At some point I just had to let it all go. I had to become an empty manger. Even as I watched the gospels making a path through the world, I had to wait. Helpless, dependent, just as the Christ-self chose to come into the world and remained…this is hard. This is another kind of fear and trembling.

Yet. We are the manger into which this new life, the Christ-life, has come and will come. I need to believe that. I need to be carved out, a place from which love can come to feed the world. A child will lead us. The Christ-self, the part of me that is open, receptive, will love and lead.

Rilke’s words from his Letter to a Young Poet once again come to mind: Celebrate Christmas…in this devout feeling, that perhaps He needs this very fear of life from you in order to begin; these very days of your transition are perhaps the time when everything in you is working in him…be patient and without resentment and think that the least we can do is make his becoming not more difficult for him than the earth makes it for the spring when it wants to come.

And so, we are manger and we are ground as well; softened so that the small brown seed might push its way through to a new Spring. The poets words give me hope: We can begin him. We can await his becoming in us and in the world. Our hearts can be the waiting mangers set upon the softened  ground of the self even in this seemingly intractable heart of winter.

The Season of Light

Christmas lights  Tis the season…We haven’t yet had thanksgiving dinner, but the carols have started, the decorated trees are in the center of the stores where you can’t miss them, and all forms of media are joyfully giving you great gift ideas for the 25th of next month or the eight days of Hanukkah. It’s a crazy cacophony of jingling bells, piped in music, mothers cajoling and little ones screaming for toys they can’t have yet. ‘Tis the season…

It is the season of symbols. Symbols that resonate on many levels with our world today and connect us with more ancient celebrations and worlds past. Stars in the night, angel heralds, shepherds and kings, a stable, a manger and a baby. The Christmas tree hung with lights and ornaments, tinsel or ribbons, and adorned with a star or angel atop and gifts beneath gathers together many of the images that represent the season, both secular and religious.  Each symbol has its own story to tell.

The menorah is a more ancient symbol of the season. It’s origins go back to Moses, who crafted a golden seven-branched candelabra designed by G-d that lit the Tabernacle where the arc was kept and that journeyed with the Israelites as they made their way to Jerusalem, where the menorah finally rested in the Temple. Today’s menorah has nine branches and is lit during the eight days of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. The tree and the menorah have more in common than separates them.

Each represents the season of Light. Whether lights strung around a tree or candelabra lit with candles, both celebrations come during the darkening days of December, to light up our world. Both incarnate a reality marked by the coming of something new into a people’s midst. One serving in the Temple of the Lord, custodian of the covenant; the other a sign of another Light that came into the world in the form of a person. The Christ-self whose advent is heralded by St. Paul.

The dreidel, a wooden four-sided top, use in a children’s game, is also a symbol of the season. I love the legend of the dreidel because in my mind this simple children’s object, connects both the Christian and Jewish holidays. According to Jewish tradition, when the Jews were in caves learning Torah, hiding from the Greeks, dreidel became a popular game to play. Legend has it that whenever the teacher heard the Greek soldiers approaching, he would instruct the children to hide their Torah scrolls and take out their dreidels instead. (Wikipedia)

Inscribed on each of its four sides is a letter-symbol whose acronym means ‘a great miracle happened here.’ Indeed. The light that shines out from each religious celebration, each with its ancient origins, proclaims this is the season of a great miracle. The miracle of Light. The miracle of new Life. The dreidel first found its way into the life of Judaism in a cave full of devout children and their teachers.  It was in a cave-like stable that the Christ-child was born and would teach what it means to be Torah, in St. Paul’s words, what it means to be children of the light. (1 Thessalonians 5:5)

 

The Coming of the Christ-self

  Autumn berries    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.