December 18, 2012

Reek of Stupefaction

Yesterday I finally got to confession. It had been too long. In fact, it had been since the day of my pilgrimage to the bleak Via Ostiense 131/L. I just didn't know whom to ask. It's so much easier to walk up to a confessional box. When you have to pick someone, knock on his door, and ask him if he has a moment to hear your confession, that's something different. But I had been praying that the Holy Spirit let me know to whom I should try to go, and, perhaps spurred on by the beginning of the second stage of Advent yesterday,  I finally managed it.

In his counsel, the priest invited me to live these days of immediate preparation for Christmas con cuore stupito. It probably just stuck in my mind because it sounds funny to the ear of an English-speaker. 'With an amazed heart' or 'with an astonished heart,' I guess you could say. 'With a stupefied heart' doesn't really do it, but it's not an entirely useless thought; perhaps it captures something of being overwhelmed by contemplation of the mysteries at hand.

In one of the little synchronicities of grace, later on I happened to pray Night Prayer in Italian. (As I have mentioned, I don't really prefer it.) When I came to the Alma Redemptoris Mater in Italian, there was the substantive of the same word:

O santa Madre del Redentore,
porta dei cieli, stella del mare,
soccorri il tuo popolo che sta cadendo,
che anela a risorgere.
Tu che accogliendo quell'Ave di Gabriele,
nello stupore di tutto il creato,
hai generato il tuo Genitore,
vergine prima e dopo il parto,
pietà di noi peccatori.

That's the Latin natura mirante that translates in our American-English breviary as 'to the wonderment of nature' if I remember rightly.

A certain amazed, astonished, joyful wonder is the spiritual climate of Christmas. We are amazed to see that the birth of Jesus Christ reverses everything that our insecure and acquisitive minds think power and mightiness should mean. The Word of God, through whom all things are created, is born as one of us, born to plain parents, born away from home, born into a people and a place that were considered important by no known criterion of human civilization.

But Christmas is not only astonishing because it is an amazing and even scandalous revelation of God; Christmas is also invites us to wonder because it reveals who we really are, what creation really is. The creation, and we ourselves as created beings in it, as full of wonder and beauty as it all is even just on its own terms, finds in the newborn Jesus its true destiny, that we and all created being exists precisely so that God might be with us, incarnate among us. And our prayer is to sit in wonder, con cuore stupito, at the astonishing realization that we exist so that the overflowing Love we call the Blessed Trinity may love all the more by drawing us into the dynamic relations that are Himself. This is why it is the Holy Spirit--the Love the proceeds from the Father and the Son--who conceives Jesus Christ, that in the humanity of Christ we might be invited, drawn, and folded into the eternal, blessed and infinitely happy generation of the Beloved by the Lover.

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