Now we are entering the darkest ten weeks of the year, marked and celebrated by the winter solstice, and with the great Feast of Christmas bringing light and joy into the darkness of nature and wintry hearts. Approaching Christmas, we will hear stories about the end of the world, destruction, and warnings to “prepare to meet our God.” And in the midst of reflecting on things to come, we will keep the feast of Christ the eternal and rightful ruler over all. Mass readings and prayers will also remind us to remember those who have died, and those who are near death now, and to be mindful of our own passing from this world into the unseen God.
Like Christ himself, we are all ever coming and going. Bodily we have been born once, spiritually we must be born again and again by the divinizing power of faith working through love. And we are ever leaving this passing world, as St. Augustine wrote, “through the affections of our hearts,” through our growing union with God beyond death. We await and receive the God who comes to the poor in spirit, to the humble, to those who mourn and are heavy-burdened, to those who suffer out of love.
Recently, God has come and taken to himself a number of our beloved brothers and sisters in our faith communities. To some extent, our love for them carries us with them, across the threshold of eternity, into the silence and peace of God. And as we remember them and thank God for their lives, they come to us in thoughts and remembered experiences, bringing us hints of divine joy. Without destroying our uniqueness, but perfecting each creature, Love draws us into Itself, into the unfathomable depths. The tide goes out, and we feel it drawing us, slowly, steadily, away from what we have known, into the divine mystery.
With Job we experience loss, change, strangely new comings, and we pray: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I return. The LORD has given, the LORD has taken away: Blessed be the name of the LORD.”