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Christmas blessings: "The light shines in the darkness from the heart of the Father"

Discussion in 'Christianity DIR' started by Vouthon, Dec 24, 2020.

  1. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    Merry Christmas to one and all!!! :hugehug:

    God bless my dear brothers and sisters in Christ on RF, as we mark the Festival of Our Lord's Nativity: the joyful proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God! :glomp: I have just returned myself from watching the Vigil Mass with His Holiness Pope Francis in St. Peters Basilica.

    And I wish a very joyous 'Festival of Midwinter' / 'Yuletide' to all of my secular friends also celebrating this holiday at the same time!!! To you guys I raise my seasonal 'advocaat-with-lemonade-and-lime' snowball cocktail :tropicaldrink::snowflake:
    :snowman:
    How to make a snowball drink Always gets me in the festive mood.



    (This is the Christian DIR and what follows will be stubbornly and brain-numbingly theological. Buyer beware warning in advance. You've been warned....).

    [​IMG]
    The Madonna (Mary) and baby Jesus


    Some two millennia ago, today's gospel message proclaims that the 'Light of the World' Himself came down from the heart of God the Father into the darkness of our human existence and condition; for the purpose of restoring human beings to a state of reconciliation with God and one another ("And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger [...] Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace" (Luke 2:12-13)).

    He who enjoyed perfect unity with God the Father in the divine essence, took upon himself a fragile human nature to make us - each and every one of us - 'whole' again.

    "Salvation" (sozo) literally means in Greek: to be made whole and Mary named her son Jesus: "She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21)

    Valentinus, an ancient Christian teacher from the second century, noted this underlying meaning of being 'saved' by God in his Gospel of Truth: "For where there is envy and strife, there is an incompleteness; but where there is unity, there is completeness. Since this incompleteness came about because mankind did not know the Father...as darkness disappears when light appears, so also incompleteness is eliminated by wholeness...By means of knowledge one will purify himself from multiplicity into unity, fire and darkness by light, death by life" (The Gospel of Truth - Translation by Barnstone and Meyer - The Nag Hammadi Library)

    From the womb of this young Jewish woman, the Son of God who was illimitable and had Himself been the Father's agent of creation, became flesh in the frail and vulnerable body of a baby boy, lying in a manger - a place where animals feed - because there had been no room left in Bethlehem's inn where his mother could give birth to her firstborn son. Hay became the first bed of the One who would reveal himself as “the bread come down from heaven” (Jn 6:41).

    At the epicentre of the Christmas story, the 'Nativity', is the picture of the Madonna and child - Mary and her new-born son Jesus. It is the defining image of the Christmas festival. It's all about this - a mother giving birth.

    Even before a woman gives birth, the experience of pregnancy alters the very structure of her brain, according to the neuroscience. Grey matter gets much more concentrated. Activity goes up in regions that control empathy and social interaction. The flood of hormones eventually, in the long-run - even if some mothers initially experience post-natal depression - leads to immensely powerful maternal feelings of overwhelming love and fierce protectiveness.

    This obsessive love can sometimes result in depression - since in the postpartum period, there is an enormous desire to take care of this frail child and the duty imposed is fairly huge. Just by staring at her new baby, the reward centres of a mother’s brain light up, scientists have found in several studies.

    And that's because maternal oxytocin levels dramatically rise during pregnancy. Often dubbed the 'love hormone', oxytocin is of course the potent neurotransmitter that gives each of us that warm, fuzzy feeling for someone - it foments the social bonding between a mother and her child, the physical intimacy between sexual lovers and enduring ties between close platonic friends. Levels rise in all of us when we experience the sensation of touch: holding hands, stroking, cuddling, kissing, or having sexual intercourse or indeed a young mother tickling her baby's feet to get it to laugh.

    Christmas is in many regards the feast of 'oxytocin' par excellence.

    It is an incredible paradox, this mystery - this 'true myth' - of the God made man in the form of a child; of the immeasurable and infinite condescending to the level of the smallest and most finite; of the omnipotent and all-knowing Creator who is dependant upon no one for existence but Himself - manifesting His glory to the world in the image of a helpless and bawling babe in swaddling clothes, nursed in the arms of a simple peasant girl:


    "in the womb of a mother I was moulded into flesh, within the period of ten months, compacted with blood, from the seed of a man and the pleasure of marriage. And when I was born, I began to breathe the common air, and fell upon the kindred earth; my first sound was a cry, as is true of all. I was nursed with care in swaddling cloths. For no king has had a different beginning of existence; there is for all one entrance into life, and one way out." (Wisdom 7:1-6).​


    (continued...)


     
    #1 Vouthon, Dec 24, 2020
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2020
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  2. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    The radicalism of Christianity as a religion, as a way of life, as a civilisation and as a culture is writ large in that dogma, the incarnation of God. In his own words as an adult man, Jesus said that he had "come to ignite a fire on the earth" (Luke 12:49), a holy fire that has been melting and transforming human hearts, with the living flame of divine love, ever since his birth.

    For many of us, I think it's safe to say that 2020 has been one of the "darkest" and most disorienting years in living memory. There has been a lot of disease, distancing, dislocation, death, despair and foreboding for the future as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. We've had to hone an attitude of "together apart" with at least some of those people whom we love and care for the most in our lives.

    In some cases, social distancing has kept us from having these close bonds of affection and contact, for long stretches of time - such as with our elderly relatives in care homes, because they are particularly vulnerable to the ravages of this deadly pathogen. The pandemic has therefore served as a salutary reminder of the importance of physical affection - hugging, kissing, touching and simply interacting in the presence of loved ones - for which the magic of modern fast-speed internet communication, through apps like Zoom and Skype, will always prove a poor and temporary substitute for the real thing. In-person contact.

    In the northern hemisphere, late December is very cold - it's bleak mid-winter, as the carol goes. Right now, the air outside my house is frigid and my lawn lies frozen stiff with a fairly thick coating of frost, such that it crunches under my feet. But I think the chilly weather is so very 'apropos' for understanding the true meaning and power of the Christmas mystery.

    At Christmastime, we traditionally escape the biting cold by heading indoors - around a log-fire, say - feasting and drinking and carousing with those whom we love; exchanging gifts, hugging and having fun together. The chill of midwinter is thus overridden by the warmth of human kindness and intimate social bonds, at a dinner party shared with family and/or close friends. And this is what Christmas should always be about, it is the very heart of the festival.

    Even if the coronavirus has, to an extent - varying with the intensity of the pandemic in different countries - inhibited or deprived people of that close physical contact at Christmas with loved ones, whatever substitutes we use in the meantime to keep each other safe from the spread of the virus (i.e. Skype or other apps, socially distanced garden visits), it still offers us a priceless opportunity to reflect on the importance of touch and physical closeness in the warmth of a human-to-human embrace to shut out the "cold bleak midwinter" chill.

    In Dante's Inferno, Satan is portrayed as a giant demon, frozen mid-breast in ice at the centre of Hell where souls are imprisoned in a lake of ice. As Satan beats his wings, he creates a cold wind that continues to freeze the ice surrounding him and the other sinners in the Ninth Circle. The winds he creates are felt throughout the other circles of Hell.

    It is thus from the medieval Italian poet Dante that we get the best metaphor for damnation ever expressed in literature: Hell is cold, not hot; it is unfeeling and devoid of love, of kindness, of the empathy that makes us care for other beings, entirely selfish. To be in hell is to live for oneself as an island unto oneself - frozen and frigid and uncaring and ultimately alone, with no one to touch and love and feel the warmth of human intimacy for. As Ciardi writes of the epic poem, "The treacheries of these souls were denials of love (which is God) and of all human warmth. Only the remorseless dead center of the ice will serve to express their natures. As they denied God's love, so are they furthest removed from the light and warmth of His Sun. As they denied all human ties, so are they bound only by the unyielding ice."

    God "is" love as the First Epistle of John tells us, and He calls us through His incarnate, en-fleshed Son (the 'image' of the Father) to share in this love for the Father through the Son in the the unity of the Holy Spirit, which is the inner life of the one God, His very essence and being.

    This divine love has 'flowed' out into creation through the incarnation of that Son, the image of God, who became incarnate flesh as the Bridegroom to 'invite' the human race to share in the "intimacy" of Father and Son in eternity, because the entire human race is the Bride that the Father has prepared for Jesus the Bridegroom.

    "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him." (1 John 4:7-9)

    Christianity places the 'scandal' of this fully incarnate God - conceived and born of a mother's womb, a God who in his lifetime was seen and touched, kissed and hugged - at the heart of its understanding of the meaning of existence. As the prologue to the Gospel of John ends: "No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known."

    St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, in the 19th century, said: "I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons" and for me this epitomizes the meaning of Christmas better than any other statement.

    Divine blessings to one and all!!! :glomp: Let Us remember that His name, the name of Jesus our Saviour, is the "name that is above every name": his name is above depression, his name is above loneliness, his name is above despair, his name is above hunger and poverty, his name is above illness and every other thing. And through Him, with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, so are we!!!!

    Two quotes about the mystery of God's incarnation to end this, the first from scripture:



    "Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness [...]

    Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth"

    (Philippians 2:6-10)


    "The gospel of truth is joy for those who have received from the Father of truth the grace of knowing Him by the power of the Word, who has come from the Fullness and who is in the thought and mind of the Father. This is the one who is called the Saviour, since that is the name of the work that He must do for the redemption of those who have not known the Father. For the name of the gospel is the revelation of hope...

    Oh, such great teaching!...Having entered into the empty territory of fears, He passed before those who were stripped by forgetfulness, proclaiming the things that are in the heart of the Father, so that he became the wisdom of those who have received instruction.

    Thus the Word of the Father goes forth into all, being the fruit of his heart and expression of his will, Jesus of the utmost sweetness. The Father opens his bosom, and his bosom is the Holy Spirit. He reveals his hidden self, which is his Son, so that through the compassion of the Father all beings may know him, end their wearying search for the Father, and rest themselves in him, knowing that this is rest.

    When morning comes, this one knows that the fear that had been experienced was nothing... Indeed, blessings on one who has opened the eyes of the blind. For when they saw it and listened to it, He permitted them to take a taste of and to smell and to grasp the beloved Son."

    (Valentinus (c. AD 100 – c. 160), The Gospel of Truth)
     
    #2 Vouthon, Dec 24, 2020
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2020
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  3. PearlSeeker

    PearlSeeker Active Member

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    MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

    "We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I also do not give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time. When the Son of God is begotten in us.

    /... /

    May the God who has been born again as man assist us to this birth, eternally helping us, weak men, to be born in him again as God. Amen."

    (Meister Eckhart, Sermon I)
     
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  4. pearl

    pearl Well-Known Member

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    Thankyou for your post, so beautifully expressed!
    Jesus is God's love made visible. We exist only because we are loved, and share in that inner life of God through grace.
     
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