Merry Christmas and a Light bearing New Year
The Three Kings arrive to adore; and, what we see is simply the light emerging from the cradle. We presume it is the light incarnate in the child but the indeterminacy, its overflowing, suggests a light transcendent to the child. It is the light that underpins all.
St. Augustine writes that a central feature of the Incarnation was to restore wisdom to sight. The wisdom that we all carry by virtue of being human had become overlaid by the darkness of sin and ordinary knowledge had been set free from its roots. We could believe only what we saw with an outward directed, calculating gaze. Christ came to reconnect this Scientia (knowledge reaped from observation) to Sapientia (truth gained through direct intuition, seeing the whole), peeling back sin, to reveal wisdom once more. The image of God that we all carry could now be reconnected in a living likeness to God. God became human so that humanity might be divinized and become God (to quote St. Athanasius). The three 'wise men', the epitome of human knowledge, come to learn once more wherein that knowledge is rooted in wisdom.
It is the startling part of the Christmas claim that truth came in the form of a person but only startling when you place it 'out there' in Jesus alone rather than see it as a common light, shared by all, concentrated in this person, now, in the everydayness of a stable, a particular time and place but always available, here and now, in every and any particular place and person. The invitation was to lean into the light, as the Kings lean here, and be transformed.
Leaning into the light sounds daunting, and in its fullness, it is. Transfiguration is a big deal but you can step towards it. Bringing your gifts, in whatever measure they are, and living them as wholly as you can towards and within the light. I recall the Russian psychiatrist, Olga Kharitidi, being given by her Siberian shamanic teacher what she calls the First Rule that is to make every choice, however small, grounded in five principles - truth, beauty, health, happiness, and light - said in such a way that I was arrested into reflecting on what that might truly mean? What would it look like to test every choice against such standards and how many of my choices would survive as adequate, correctly facing, if that were the standard?
For no act, however small, does not resonate through the world, reaping consequence, and that the spiritual task is to ever deepen one's awareness of this and to tread ever more lightly, graciously. As in Jewish mysticism, every particular thing carries within it a divine spark and each time you touch the world with the right intention, aware of these five rules, you release the spark to arrive at its right destination, the world steps into its right flow, transfigured.
And you often learn this not from strength but from moments of vulnerability.
This year I have been dogged by my health - a retinal tear in the eye, arthritic, gout-ridden feet - all improved or improving, but the latter a chronic condition to be controlled rather than cured - and out of this sense of things breaking down, amidst much resistance, grumbling and moments of depression, has come glimmerings of awareness.
Of the physical world around you and how resistant it can be - slopes are great for wheelchairs but if your feet are usable but in pain, slopes suck, stairs are better! One size in the world does not fit all! And where is the non-slip bathmat in your hotel's otherwise lethally slippy bathtub?
But, most especially, in the people around you and since both of my conditions were invisible, what do other people hide that accounts for that behavior of theirs that collides with my impatience? I do not know and thus should have care. How many times this year I have been the slow person subject to the irritation that (internally) I meted out to others? So illness has slowed me down and sometimes into that has come a brighter awareness that pauses, leans into the First Rule and, at least, asks what might be different in how I am in the world and sometimes there has been a positive answering activity!
Here is to hoping that we can, bringing our particular gifts, learn to ever better put them at the disposal of the light, bringing to birth the Son in the soul and being bearers of light, even if only a flickering candle, in need of much attention, and thus illuminate better the world we have been given, whose transformation in grace is continually placed in our hands.