instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The reason for the seasons

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus begins a reflection on Christmas in these words:
"I don't know why he has to spoil the season by bringing that up. For him every day is Good Friday." Her complaint was against Father's homily, which underscored that the baby Jesus was born to die. Yes, Good Friday, but Easter, too. Although Father insisted that we should not rush to Easter.
Christmas and Good Friday and Easter. These are sometimes treated as discrete and disparate things that happen to be linked, like a train engine and a passenger car and a caboose, but that can only be thought about individually. One's joyful, one's sorrowful, one's glorious. If they don't need to be treated as entirely different stories, they're at least different acts of the same play. There's a necessary progression: you need Christmas to get to Good Friday, and you need Good Friday to get to Easter, and you can't go back to Christmas after Easter, much less right after Good Friday.

This idea of a sequence -- of moving, in one direction only, from one thing to the next -- is inseparably bound with the fact that we are temporal creatures. Christ, too, in His created human nature really did experience Christmas and Good Friday and Easter as discrete and disparate things.

Yet from the divine perspective, I hazard to guess, they are all the same thing. To us, the Bethlehem stable and the Garden of Gethsemane are settings for stories that aren't generally both told in one sitting. To the Eternally-Begotten Son, the stable and the garden -- and the desert and the town and the sea and the cross and the tomb -- are all, somehow, the same setting, the same story, the same single word, which, as Mike Liccione points out Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa reminds us, is, "Love."

The challenge for us is to see how this can be, then make it be so in our own lives.