Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy Christmas and a hospitable New Year!

Virgin Laboris by Nicholas Roerich

Nicholas Roerich's Madonna Laboris depicts the story from an apocryphal gospel that captured his imagination. 

At the gate of Heaven stands the Apostle Peter. He was disturbed and said to the Lord God: ‘All day long I watch the gates of Paradise; I do not let anyone in, yet in the morning there are newcomers in Paradise.’ And the Lord said: ‘Let us make the rounds at night, Peter.’ So they went in the night and they saw the Holy Virgin lowering along the wall Her snow-white scarf, up which souls were climbing. Peter took this to heart and wanted to interfere, but the Lord whispered: “Shh... let be…”

Even when the disciple is commissioned, they can lay hold of the wrong end of the stick! Peter may be the rock on which the Church is built but the rock is not a fortress to exclude but a welcoming strength. Mary's 'let it be' was her acceptance of the gift of a child who in turn was themselves to be the gift to the world. Christ's coming was to unpick our constraining imagination that heaven was not open to all. We have all been summoned to become as friends and the city of God is where we hang out, altogether, or not at all. That this realisation is a work in progress is a painful truth - enfolded in this story, enfolded in the news of the year, where much as been made of boundaries and their transgression.

The righteousness of Peter is wholly comprehensible as long as we rest in the fear of our identities (and that is for most of us, for much of the time, where we reside) but Mary lets down her scarf to all of us, inviting a different ascent, out from our fear into a place where we all live in a common, graced humanity, and can figure out, from this renewing unity, living places that welcome all. The practical challenges of which can only be figured out if we respond, heartedly, to the spiritual challenge. As never before, we look towards truly understanding what it means to say yes and surrender to the learning of hospitality.

Wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.


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