Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Birth of Our Savior

Years ago I sat with a Buddhist priest who asked me, “What do you want?” At the time I was preparing to continue graduate studies in psychology that I had postponed after the completion of my Master’s degree a few years earlier, so I said, “I want to be a psychologist,” to keep it simple. He said, “That will make you crazy.”

A few years later, I found myself in pain. I was suffering the effects of a bulging disc in my cervical spine which was impinging a nerve that ran from one thumb through the neck to the other. I tried physical therapy, but the results were negligible as I had gone for over a year with the pinched nerve before making my way there, having had no medical insurance. Living near an ashram, I dropped by to check out what yoga could do. Since this was really an ashram, and not a westernized yoga/pilates studio, I was taught a little something more than asanas. Essentially, the yoga I was taught was meant to liberate me from all suffering. This was its goal.  

Before going any further, it is important that I tell you I did these things prior to my Christianity. I do not now visit with Buddhist priests or continue the practice of yoga. But I am mentioning these things to illustrate the tendency of both to direct people away from suffering.

This is radically different from Christianity, and in radical opposition to the Person of Christ Himself, who entered the flesh and the world precisely in order to live, suffer, and die. Today is the eve of His birth into suffering. And we celebrate His coming, why? Because He came to suffer and die so as to free us, ultimately, from suffering and the bondage of death. We celebrate as well because our maker came to teach us that the way out of suffering and death is through it.

For, Christ, who is the Word made flesh, the first word and the last, the alpha and the omega, changed the character and meaning of suffering and death by taking them upon Himself. Through His taking our suffering upon Himself unto death, and His conquering of death by rising again to new life, He has not only claimed for us this possibility should we so choose it, but God has demonstrated for us the way to transcend our suffering, and it is not by way of fleeing from it. It is in taking up the cross and following Him who did not turn away from human suffering, but entered into the flesh and the world in order to go through it.

So, as we celebrate this great mystery of love in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us remember that it is His embrace of our suffering for which we are glad, and for which we follow Him in kind, bearing our crosses with trust and hope in joy and in peace.   

In honor and memory of His birth, I wish you Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Ever Virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe

"Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you.
Is it not I, your Mother, who is here?
Are you not under my protection?
Are you not, fortunately, under my care?"