Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas, Calvary, and Holy Communion

The life of the liturgy does not come from what dawns upon the minds of individuals and planning groups. On the contrary, it is God’s descent upon our world, the source of real liberation. He alone can open the door to freedom. The more priests and faithful humbly surrender themselves to this descent of God, the more ‘new’ the liturgy will constantly be, and the more true and personal it becomes. Yes, the liturgy becomes personal, true, and new, not through tomfoolery and banal experiments with the words, but through a courageous entry into the great reality that through the rite is always ahead of us and can never quite be overtaken.

Spirit of the Liturgy, 168-9

Reflection – Well, the Christmas hits just keep on coming here at LWAGS, from all kinds of unexpected directions. Yesterday modern mistaken notions of freedom took us right to the foot of the cradle, the cross, and the tabernacle. Today a wrong notion of liturgy and creativity therein leads us to this luminous statement: ‘it is God’s descent upon the world [that is] the source of real liberation. He alone can open the door to freedom.’

This idea of the ‘descent’ of God upon the world is so charged with meaning and beauty. We think of the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary, and the hidden invisible life beginning in her womb, soon to come forth in radiance and wonder. We think of the hills of Bethlehem and the angelic choirs giving those shepherds the shock of their lives, of the running to the stable, the silent adoration, the marvel of it all.

We think of stars leading the wise and kings being disturbed and frightened for their power as this new and strange power arises in the land. We think of their lashing out with intensity by the murder of children—a terrible and heart-breaking Christmas resonance this year. We think of so many things, all in this phrase, the descent of God into the world.

God has come; God is coming; God is perpetually descending, perpetually entering into our human sphere, like a pirate on a raid, an invading army landing on our beaches, a colonization program perpetually subduing the natives—us—and bringing the divine culture and ways into our savage humanity.

It is Sunday, and most of you readers will go to church some time today, I hope. There is God, coming, descending, invading, raiding, conquering: on the altar, and in your heart as you receive communion. This constant reality that is always greater than us, always surpassing us, always more than what we bargained for, more than what we thought would happen.

God always give us more for Christmas, which is every day, than we asked for. Most of us want a peaceful content life, largely pain-free, with some outlet for creativity perhaps, and at least a few people around to love and who love us. This is the normal desire of roughly decent human beings, and indeed it is a faint echo of the longing for heaven.

We have to realize, though, that God brings us to the heavenly life, not by giving us a nice little content life here and now, but by pouring his Spirit upon us here and now, filling us with his divinity here and now, summoning us into the adventure and grandeur of divine charity here and now, beckoning us to love the world as he loves the world here and now, even though that love will break our hearts at times and certainly never allow us to relax into complacency and ease.

God comes into the world, into the liturgy, into our hearts, and bursts all of it open into true freedom which is the life of love in the world. That is his constant desire and his constant action. That is what Christmas is for, and Calvary, and Communion. In the face of this strange and overwhelming action and love of God, what are we to respond? With tomfoolery and banal improvisations, bringing all our ‘brilliant’ human ideas to God to improve his divine program? This can happen in life as well as in liturgy, you know. Or are we to essentially fall down and worship and adore him, and surrender all our ideas, our words, our hopes, our plans, our dreams, our cleverness, our relationships, our culture—everything, everything, everything to Him.
To the One who has come, is coming, and will come perpetually descending upon the world to bring the world of man up into the life of God. Come let us adore Him, and come let us do whatever He bids us do.

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