Do you know people who see movies twice, read familiar books again? Order the same items from the café menu, revisit art works? Are you one of them? Perhaps one of the reasons for going back to these sources is to deepen the meaning and fulfillment we had the first time. A case could be made that, since we grow, we are not the same person as the last encounter. The experience is new!
In Advent we re-entered the story leading up to Jesus’ birth, re-lived the expectancy of the Jewish community, engaged again with Isaiah’s prophetic imagination. Some questions to ponder: What remained the same in heart and memory? What might have been new and fresh? What did we learn and feel as though for the first time?
In the Christmas season, we re-tell the story of Jesus’ birth. We know the story, even the back story and the end of the story. And still, we keep returning. For you, what is it that remains in your heart and memory—what feeds you in a special way? In both liturgical seasons the themes of presence and patience, watching and waiting, break through–what is new and fresh that arrests your attention? And for your inner life—what new lesson(s) is the season offering your mind and heart?
Jesus’s birth and Jesus’s life story is a narrative of hope that transcends time. What is remarkable is that this story “impregnates” our imagination and then we “give birth” to hope in our own narrative. The following recollection by American author Louisa May Alcott illustrates how a family can give birth to the story of God’s gift of hope for humanity:
“Once we carried our breakfast to a starving family; once lent our whole dinner to a neighbor suddenly taken unprepared by distinguished guests. Another time, one snowy Saturday night, when our wood was very low, a poor child came to beg a little, as the baby was sick and the father on a spree with all his wages. My mother hesitated at first, as we also had a baby. Very cold weather was upon us, and a Sunday to be got through before more wood could be had. My father said, ‘Give half our stock, and trust in Providence; the weather will moderate, or wood will come.’ Mother laughed, and answered in her cheery way, ‘Well, their need is greater than ours, and if our half gives out we can go to bed and tell stories.’ So a generous half went to the poor neighbor, and a little later in the eve, while the storm still raged and we were about to cover our fire to keep it, a knock came, and a farmer who usually supplied us appeared, saying anxiously, ‘I started for Boston with a load of wood, but it drifts so I want to go home. Wouldn’t you like to have me drop the wood here; it would accommodate me, and you needn’t hurry about paying for it.’ ‘Yes,’ said Father; and as the man went off he turned to Mother with a look that much impressed us children with his gifts as a seer, ‘Didn’t I tell you wood would come if the weather did not moderate?’ Mother’s motto was ‘Hope, and keep busy,’ and one of her sayings, ‘Cast your bread upon the waters, and after many days it will come back buttered’” (Louisa May Alcott: Her Life, Letters, and Journals, 1898).
The Alcott family reminds us that the narrative of hope given birth in the holy family can be our story as well. May this Christmas season bring life to you and yours!
From the General Councilor’s Reflection Page
By Brother Timothy Coldwell, FSC