Saturday, December 19, 2009

Are We All In?

Are we all in? A question either thought or asked when one is concerned if the family is safely gathered—in a home, a bunker, a shelter, a stable or a mountain cave, even a palace, a corner on a heated grate in the city, or the vehicle that is home when there’s nothing else.

It’s a good question. 

Are we all in?

I am thinking in a spiritual way, thinking of all the diversity of religious practice and story, diversity we need in order to grow, diversity that may provoke conflict and tension, also necessary for growth.

Paradox: the more healthy diversity we have the more resistant to its benefits we get. It’s like those peas your mother said you had to eat to grow—or at least to get dessert.

Hanukkah and Christmas come at the same time of year. Both celebrate liberation with light ( so does Solstice.) We tell of a new start free of war and desecration of precious traditions, places or people. For Jews Hanukkah marks the re-dedication in 165 BCE of the Jerusalem Temple by the Maccabees. The Temple had been destroyed by the Syrians. The Maccabees, the family of Judas Maccabaeus led a religious revolt, fought a kind of guerilla battle from caves and hideouts in rugged lands and ousted the enemy to secure the safety and survival of the
Jewish people.

Hanukkah lasts eight days and today is marked by lighting successive candles or lamps, gifts, parties and special foods cooked in oil, sometimes gifts and games. Hanukkah in Hebrew means consecration—dedicated to a divine purpose, holy.

Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christ-child Jesus. The story-picture is romantic and beautiful: the new young homeless mama and papa gathered in a stable with the newborn babe in a manger mow, surrounded by cattle, sheep, probably a few barn rats and a cat or two—and plenty of stinking manure. But no matter! Angels adorn the scene and stars glitter against the navy blue sky, the brightest shedding light into the humble scene. The sight enchants most Christians, evokes warmth and peace and promise. Liberation, hope. This child can surely heal rifts, melt hard hearts and help the most down and out or dysfunctional among us to make a new start.

Christmas is celebrated today with decorated trees, lights, parties, special foods, and gifts—a time to gather in. Christmas can be lonely for those who don’t have anyone to gather them in. Christmas means Christ Mass, devotional worship dedicated to a divine purpose, holy.

Both festivals gather in all our hopes and fears and tell us to start again, to bring light into inner and outer darkness, to renew even the worst of circumstance with new life and consecrate it all, for it is all divine.

Our little differences and sweet spiritual nuances begin and end in the same place—all consecrated. All holy-days are zoom lenses for divine grandeur.

But Godde is also panoramic, does all of it at once as the poet proclaims. We’re all in!

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1884-1889)