Saturday, December 24, 2005

2005 Christmas Eve Reflection

I would guess many of you, depending on which Mass you attend tonight, will take the opportunity to drive around your community and look at the myriad displays of outdoor lights your neighbors have strung. From the ridiculous to the sublime, we will point them out to our passengers in our vehicles. All will gaze and admire, with just a hint of the wonder of a child and a smile of joy.

We enjoy the lights, especially at this time of the year. But, I have also heard a fair share of people complain about how it gets too dark too soon at night and wish they didn't have to arise still without dawn's early light. The draw of that brightness is seemingly a trait inherent in us. We long for it; we wish it would stay longer.

And yet, we linger in darkness way too long. We seek shadows, wondering what lurks amongst them. We seem to oppose the very thing in which we find delight. And how easy it is to turn away from seeing clearly and toward groping in pitch blackness.

Light and Darkness. The eternal struggle. Mankind is indeed a strange, curious creature.

Yet, why do we do this? In a word--sin. Yes, that most popular topic at your local place of worship. The mystery of iniquity. I wonder if Satan is winning the battle right now because we do not acknowledge that reality, that we do not admit to ourselves that we are sinners (meaning one who sins). When was the last time you recited the Confiteor at Mass? How long has it been since you confessed "to my brothers and sisters that I have sinned through my own fault"? What happen to "naming and claiming," in today's pop psychology vernacular? Has Satan done a whitewashing? Or can we, like G.K. Chesterton, upon the occasion of a newspaper asking what was wrong with society, reply, "Dear Sir, I am."

Yes, we can return to Light. In fact, it has been here since the world began. Remember, God's first command in Genesis was, "Let there be light!" He did not want darkness. It was the first hint of his Triune nature. It was a clue as to where we were to turn, when at last we were created.

Salvation history repeatedly points out light, reaching its climax in what we celebrate tonight and tomorrow. "The people who walked in darkness has seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone....For a child is born to us, a son is given us; on his shoulder dominion rests." (Isaiah 9:1, 5a) Jesus Christ, the Son of God, "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God." "Whatever came to be in him, found life, life for the light of men. The light shines on in darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it." (John 1:4-5) In fact, when one reads the Gospel of St. John, one finds references to Him as Light: His conversation with Nicodemus, the discourse after forgiving the woman caught in adultery, the man cured of blindness, before He raised Lazarus from the dead, after He entered Jerusalem before His passion. He offers true Light for He is true Light. He will illuminate us like nothing else, if only we will allow ourselves to be illuminated by Him.

And so, led by the star (more light) which led the three kings of the East to the King of Kings, we come to adore Him, Christ the Lord. To behold the radiance of the Light of the World. And in so doing, we can see ourselves; not only the sin and sinfulness, but also the echo of the reality in which God created us, as "very good".

As I sit here in my apartment composing these thoughts, I have very little illuminating my computer screen. There is a seven-bulb set of lights, each inside a translucent red bell that when the lights flash on and off give the impression of them ringing. There is a tall candle serving as the "star" for my glass nativity set, consisting of the three Magi and the Holy Family. And my four-candle wrought iron holder has been transformed from an Advent "wreath" to a Christmas "wreath", complete with white candles. With a classical music station playing music of the season in the background, "all is calm, all is bright." 

It is enough to dispel the Darkness. Because "hodie Christus natus est." And because of that, the world, and my world, will be bright.

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