Monday, December 26, 2011
“An Inexorable Positivity Dominates Life”
To describe our humanity and look adequately at ourselves in this moment of the history of the world, it would be hard to find a more suitable word than that found in this passage of the prophet Zephaniah: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! sing joyfully, O Israel!” Why? What reason is there to rejoice, with all that is happening in the world? Because “the Lord has removed the judgment against you” (Zephaniah 3:14-15).
The first feeling these words provoked in me was surprise at how the Lord looks at us: with a gaze that can see things we would never be able to recognize if we did not participate in that same gaze on reality: “The Lord has removed the judgment against you,” that is, your evil is no longer the final word on your life; your usual gaze upon yourself is not the right one; the gaze with which you continually reprove yourself is not true. The only true gaze is that of the Lord. It is precisely through this that you can recognize He is with you: if He has removed the judgment against you, what should you fear? “You have no further misfortune to fear.” An inexorable positivity dominates life. For this reason, the Bible passage continues, “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!” Why? Because “the Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior.” There is no other source of joy than this: “He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you” (Zephaniah 3:15-17).
That these have not remained mere words, but have been fulfilled, is testified to in the Gospel; in the Child that Mary carries in her womb, those words became flesh and blood, as Benedict XVI reminds us in a moving passage: “The real novelty of the New Testament lies not so much in new ideas as in the figure of Christ himself, who gives flesh and blood to those concepts—an unprecedented realism” (Deus caritas est, 12). And it is such a real fact in the life of the world that when Elizabeth receives Mary’s greeting, the child she carries in her womb—John—leaps for joy. The words of the Prophet are not just words, but have become flesh and blood, to the point that this joy has become present, real experience: “The infant in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk 1:39-45).
Let us ask ourselves: Is Christianity a devout remembrance, or is it an event that happens today exactly as it happened two thousand years ago? Let us look at the many facts that our eyes continually see, that surprise us and amaze us, beginning with that powerful fact called Benedict XVI, who continually makes our inner being leap with joy. There is One in our midst who causes the “child” we bear within, in our intimate depths, in the profundity of our being, to leap with joy. This present experience testifies to us that the episode of the Visitation is not merely a fact of the past, but the beginning of a story that has reached us and that continues to reach us in the same way, through encounters, in the flesh and blood of the many people we encounter along the road, who move our innermost being.
With these facts in our eyes we can enter into the mystery of this Christmas, avoiding the risk of a “devout remembrance,” of reducing the celebration to a pure act of piety, to sentimental devotion. Deep down, very often the temptation is not to expect much from Christmas. But for those who are given the greatest grace imaginable—seeing Him at work in signs and facts that document Him present—it is impossible to celebrate the birth of Jesus as a “devout remembrance.” It is not allowed us! Not because we are better than our fellow women and men, not because we are not fragile like everyone, but because we are continually saved from our weakness by the strength of One who is happening now and who has removed the judgment against us.
Only with these facts in our eyes can we look at the approaching Christmas, not with devout nostalgia, not with the natural sentiment always aroused when a child is born, and not even with a vague religious sentiment, but because of an experience (because all the rest only produces a reduction of “that” birth). This real experience is what truly reveals who this Child is: the son of Elizabeth leapt for joy in her womb. The continual renewal of this event is what keeps us from reducing Christmas and what enables us to rejoice in it like the first time.
Posted by Webster Bull at 8:04 PM