In the early 1990’s, sometimes the unthinkable would occur: abandonment of babies. I recall a news story in which a newborn was found in the sewage pipe. The young mother had given birth in her apartment and flushed the baby, who became trapped in the piping further down below. A resident kept hearing a baby crying but couldn’t locate it in any apartment, so officials were called in. The baby survived.
Living in Phoenix at that time, it was more common for newborns to be found in trash dumpsters. Although it wasn’t a copycat epidemic, sometimes having such things reported on TV news breaks a mental barrier causing it to seem “ok” to do. The mothers told no one in part because they faced arrest for child abandonment. The cities enacted laws relieving a parent of legal penalties if the baby was brought to an organization who typically deals with emergencies. Specifically: churches, hospitals, police and fire departments.
I recall we would occasionally have a baby left at the church or rectory doorstep. This, and other incidents, were reminders that society saw the Catholics as the ones to go to for help. The Catholic Church is keeper of the faith, of Truth, for all of creation. And that Truth is this: when God created the cosmos, He created each of our souls knowing He would infuse us into a human body giving us ‘being’, a very specific person. For Him it is personal. We were very intentionally and personally created and for no other reason than His love.
“God became incarnate so that man may contemplate his face through every face. Perfect prayer seeks the presence of Christ and recognizes it in every human being. The unique image of Christ is the icon, but they are innumerable, and this means that every human face is also the icon of Christ. A prayerful attitude discovers it.” (Paul Evdokimov, Orthodox theologian, The Struggle with God)
Advent is a season of preparation so that Jesus can become incarnate in us. It may sound like Catholic hyperbole but it is the spiritual reality within which we actually exist every day. In her book Poustinia, Servant of God Catherine Doherty uses the analogy of a pregnant woman who goes about her daily routine even though she carries a life within her. The child itself cannot be seen by others, but her appearance changes as she becomes a ‘witness to new life’.
“In this present time of verbal inflation that only aggravates loneliness, only the man of prayerful peace can still speak to others, and show them the word become a face and a look become a presence. His silence will speak where no preaching can reach; his mystery will make others attentive to a revelation that has now become close and accessible to them.” (Paul Evdokimov)
We are challenged to permit the Christ Child to enter into our souls in a very real way. We become Christ to others while in return finding him in them. In a secular season of materialistic madness and skyrocketing depression, there is no better time than to share this truth of God’s intentional love. “Acquire interior peace, and a multitude of men will find their salvation near you” as St. Seraphim taught. To do this, to be this, takes change. Advent is a joyful season of preparing for the first coming of Christ and in so doing, increasing our desire for his return at the end of time.
Acquire interior peace, and a multitude of men will find their salvation near you. -St. Seraphim
No one is insignificant, unnoticed or forgotten. One must simply look at the dead body of Jesus hanging on the crucifix to know what it means to be ‘wanted’. Advent is our season to bring the Prince of Peace into the world in a deliberate and profound way so that “minds that once were fierce and cruel are changed by the gospel and the word of the apostles into good dispositions productive of good fruit,” taught Tertullian of Carthage.
“It was not enough for Him that He should become one of ourselves by adopting a human nature like our own. It was not enough that He should share the hardships of a life like our own—that He should suffer and die and atone for our sins, in our name. He loved us, and He would not rest until He should be completely united to us. And in His love He devised this most extraordinary method of union, in which He Himself becomes our food! Truly a tremendous lover!” (Dom Eugene Boylan)
Let us continue to pray for the worldwide church especially Pope Francis as well as your local clergy, religious, seminarians and those discerning.
O, elect Lady, our mediator and intercessor, commend us to thy Son, intercede for us with thy Son. Do thou see to it, O blessed one, by the grace that thou hast found, the election that thou hast earned, and the mercy that thou hast borne, that He Who condescended through thee to take our sicknesses and our misery upon Him, may also by His intercession enable us to participate in His glory and blessedness,” Jesus Christ, Who with Father and the Holy Ghost is blessed forever. Amen. (St. Bernard)
Image courtesy of Unsplash.