06 December 2006

A Pregnant Silence.

As a reminder, Lent & Beyond is chock full of prayers, Scripture readings, devotionals, and other resources for keeping a holy Advent. Today's posting include an article of mine, written for the parish newsletter last Advent, and reproduced here:

Here at the beginning of Advent, it is almost a rule that card-carrying traditionalist, reactionary priests like me issue some sort of a screed railing against… well, you know, the commercialization of Christmas, a secular consumerist buying spree, the expansion of Christmas that crowds out the layered meanings of Advent itself, and all that. But I suspect all of us want to have a deeply meaningful Advent, we want to be deeply prepared to enter into the mystery of the Incarnation of our Lord through the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And we want all the other good things of the season as well – big family meals, to give gifts to people we love, full houses, lights, bells, and all the rest. You all can supply the screed for yourselves, and I would hazard to guess that as long as we all feel the tension between the deep (the deepest!) mystery the Church proclaims and lives and the retail free-for-all happening around us, then the battle is not lost. As Fr. Richard John Neuhaus has said, “It is reassuring that every December the cry is heard from every corner of the land that we have lost the true meaning of Christmas, from which one may infer that the true meaning of Christmas is far from lost; it will be time to really worry when the cry is no longer heard.”

So take my annual “cry,” my screed, as read. Instead I would ask you to carry around a thought in your minds and hearts as you prepare for all your Christmas entails. Or maybe the absence of a thought. But that’s not right, either – because there is content, but it is content that explodes the limits of our thinking. Perhaps what I am getting at is what is sometimes called a “pregnant silence” – a silence that is full of meaning, a meaning so full that the only appropriate response is silence. The thought, of course, is the basic thought of Christmas – that the Babe lying in the manger is Christ the Lord, that the Son of Mary is God the Son; that, as St. Augustine, said, the One whom the Universe could not contain is contained in the Virgin’s womb. And if, like the Virgin God-bearer, we ponder it in our hearts, words will quickly and properly run out. This pregnant silence is named in an ancient prayer from the liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church:

We see most eloquent orators voiceless as fish when they must speak of Thee, O Jesus our Savior. For it is beyond their power to tell how Thou art both perfect man and immutable God at the same time.

Voiceless as fish! You have my prayers (and I hope I may have yours) for a blessed season of Advent and Christmas.



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