Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Big Three on Christmas Day

Faith. Hope. Love.

Did you think I meant the American car companies?

In all traditions, religious or not, the top three spiritual values are faith, hope and love. St. Paul tries to tell us that the greatest of these is love, but I think they are a trinity, co-existent and interdependent and of equal value although one may predominate from time to time according to your personal situation.

The time of transformation and hope for something new to be born is central to all faith, to all people. Christians at Christmas see this at the birth of Jesus, Godde as little baby—hard not to love. (Well, there's chronic colic. Hard not to care for anyway.)

Faith, hope and love are called spiritual because humanity can't control them, only be open to them, experience them, and be grateful. Ever try to make yourself love someone you don't? Or make someone love you? Ever try to give faith to someone, or hope? You can't. (It's worse than trying to get your loved one to stop smoking. In that case you let go and pray for a triple dose of all three.)

I wish you my blog readers and colleagues the joy of love, the wealth of faith, and the inner serenity of hope at Christmas and beyond— in equal measure.

Hopes and Fears

"The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight." So goes a line of the old Christmas carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

Hopes and fears. Where, how will they meet? Where is Bethlehem this year?

I feel stretched thin on the rack of hopes and fears right now. It's a messy mix to have swirling around mind and heart together. Neither one edges out the other completely; both are true.

I remember when my labor started for my first child I cried in fear anticipating the pain to come. I wanted it to stop, even prayed for that I think. At the same time I hoped almost to assurance that a little child would push its way with me through me out into the light. She did, a beautiful, hirsute, squawling baby girl, now 45 and still beautiful.

But I'd wanted to separate the fear from the hope, the labor from its fruit. I wanted to have one without the other. I still try for that.

I have labored over a manuscript— my vocational story of becoming a priest, my story of getting to know and love Godde and myself, my story of how I came to know that what happens to Godde happens to me.

I've labored. I wait. I labor to find a publisher. I fear my story is too insignificant and my timing lousy. I still hope for a publisher or some attractive alternative. Hope and fear together. I let them wrestle, watch my seesaw mood soar and plummet daily (no I'm not bipolar!—yet) Where and how will they meet?

The meeting of these two apparent emotional enemies comes for me in tears, tears that melt the tension.

When I began my labor I was afraid to be a "baby" and cry in fear. When I admitted this to my husband he gave me a hug and luckily didn't tell me how terrified he was.

When a friend recently wrote that somewhere out there there is a publisher who wants me I wept. Even a tired old cliche can be holy.

When hopes and fear come together and vulnerability is born I know the Holy is around, something new will be born.

Godde only knows what, who or when.