Well, a very Merry Christmas to you all. This will be my last post for the year 2015, as I customarily take a bit of a break from blogging between Christmas and New Years.
I would like to share my 'Christmas present' from God this year - I generally ask the Lord for a word for the big seasons and feasts of the year, and He generally has something to say to me, somehow. This year my present came early, some weeks ago, and I have been pondering it ever since.
It is, Adeste Fideles. Traditionally the title of the carol is translated as 'O Come, All Ye Faithful', but any first year student of Latin knows that's not quite right. The Latin verb for 'come' is venire, and the imperative would be Venite Fideles.
This is 'adeste', which means something quite different. It is the Latin verb 'adesse' which is from the verb 'to be' and is literally 'to be towards'. It is rightly translated as 'to be present, to be here'. When a teacher in Latin class is doing the roll call, the students respond to their name with 'Adsum' - I am here.
So, 'adeste' you faithful ones. Be present. Be here. Christmas is so busy, so very, very busy. In MH this year it got even busier what with Fr. Pat's death and funeral this week. But it's always something, and so much of what it is, beautiful as it all is with the fancy food and the sparkly decorations and the visiting and frolicking... well, it's all very good and proper and right.
But... adeste. Don't forget to 'be towards' what the whole thing is about. Be present... to what? To the Christ child. To the mystery. To God made man for us. To the manger, Mary, Joseph, the ox, the ass, the star, the shepherds. To the story, but it is no pious fable, no made up mythology. It is all true, it all happened, and it continues to happen in each one of our lives. He is present - are we?
I still hope to write about Fr. Pat McNulty at some point - his was a life worth memorializing. But a key story of his life and his relationship with Catherine Doherty seems relevant to what I'm trying to say here. Warning for mild vulgar language in this story - if you are offended by such, stop reading here.
In 1968, Fr. Pat crashed and burned in his parish ministry, and came up to MH to recuperate. Catherine put him in poustinia three days a week and sent him to the farm the other three days. So after a few weeks of this, he came down on Sunday. Fr. Pat was a man of volatile temperament and blunt direct speech, and was working through a lot of things at this point. So he sits at Catherine's table at brunch and promptly explodes at her. "I have a parish back in Forth Wayne going to hell in a handbasket, and here I am up in Canada shovelling horse shit! What good is that supposed to do?"
Catherine looked at him with great compassion and kindness, reached out and took his hand and simply said, "Father Pat, if you can't find Christ in the horse shit, you won't find him anywhere."
This became the transformative word for his life. We think we have to go here, go there, do this, do that. We have to 'Come' if we are 'Faithful' - go somewhere else, have our life be something else, if we are to find Christ. This is, well, it's horseshit! Christ came here. That's pretty much the whole point of Christmas. Christ is here, Christ came to where you are and where I am. We don't have to go looking for him; He came looking for us. Adeste! Be present to the mystery of your own life, in all its mess and murk and mire. God is lurking in there somewhere.
Now yes, you and He together might start cleaning up the place a bit together at some point. But that is the whole point of mercy, which is more than just a Jubilee Year to celebrate and then forget. He has come to us in the exact situation of our exact life as it is lived exactly right now, before we get it all cleaned up and shipshape for him. If I could ask for one Christmas gift from the Lord for all the people in my life, my directees especially, but all of you, all of us, it is that we could learn to trust that, rejoice in our poverty, and simply relax a bit and rest in God's love, present in our lives as they are today.
He is in the mess and the mire. He was 2000 years ago and He is now, for you and for me. Adeste Fideles, and a have a very Merry Christmas on account of it.