Saturday, October 25, 2014

Practicing faith: notes on how to live "this" way

This Friday, 31 October, is Halloween. Overnight, no doubt, a change will happen. We will awake on 1 November deluged by all things Christmas, but not authentically Christmas. We will be faced with what might be called, with no exaggeration at all, "anti-Christmas."

In his short book Who Is a Christian?, which I am milking for all it's worth (I find it all very valuable), Hans Urs Von Balthasar makes a couple of observations about just this that are worth passing along. The title of the chapter in which he makes these worthwhile observations is "What Does It Mean to 'Practice'?"

First, as regards the liturgical year as a whole and its "application," for lack of a better term, to everyday life, he wrote:
"Practicing" is, finally, something the individual will pursue, not only within the socially well-trodden ways of the liturgical year, but equally in the untrodden, unknown paths of his own personal fate, which he will come to recognize as such at times of joy, yet perhaps still more markedly in times of trial. Here he faces the demanding challenge of interpreting his life in relation to God... more effective are the humiliations that the Lord has promised his own as a great grace and which, when they come, must always remind him, for "a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant his master' (Mt 10:24). They are a sign that the Lord and Master has not forgotten the servant. Failures, defeats, reverses, calumnies, contempt; finally, as the very embodiment of his life, a great bankruptcy - all this was the daily bread of Christ (106-107)

Then, as regards Christmas specifically:
Practicing Christmas... means translating the spirit of the feast into our own lives: the fact that God, although rich, has become poor for our sakes in order to enrich us with his poverty (2 Cor 8:9), so shamefully abused as the birthday of Mammon, distorted to the point of unrecognizability into its very opposite, must be restored by Christians to its primary meaning (106)
When we pray the Joyful Mysteries of Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, coming to the third Mystery, the Nativity of our Lord, the fruit of this Mystery is poverty.

If I have to assign this post a moral, or a point, it would be, Before we worry about keeping Christ in Christmas, let's observe the beautiful, multi-faceted season of Advent, which does not merely look back to that singular event when the Only Begotten Son of God was born impoverished in a manager in Nazareth, but to the end of time, when He will return in glory, a time we seek to bring about by praying Maranatha!

In the second volume of the tripartate Is It Possible to Live This Way: An Unusual Approach to Christian Existence, the focus of which is the theological virtue of hope, Msgr Luigi Giussani said,
As the virtue of freedom opens up the space for obedience, so the virtue of poverty opens up the space for trust... which is paradoxical, because freedom and obedience seem contradictory, and the space that non-possession opens up for trust seems contradictory; no, it is contradictory. Instead, in Christian discourse, according to its usual unpredictability, according to its unexpected attitude, hope, above all, gives birth to poverty

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