Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas

Dear friends, today I post a homily I heard about 15 years ago when visiting my parents for the holidays and attending Christmas Eve Mass.  Though I have strayed far from my Catholicism, this homily affected me deeply then and does so even more today.

Christmas

Tonight we hear the story, the same one this year as last.  It is the story of a birth in a dark cold night among strangers.  The promise of the story has been kept again this year: it has pulled us out of the darkness and into the warmth of a new light.


Whatever the past year has brought us - pain and doubt and fear, rejoicing and dying and birthing, good fortune or bad - it has not broken the power and the promise of this story to bring us together again.  The story gives us just enough courage and hope on this night to pray for peace, to stand close to those who love us, and to confess that there is more to our living than we understand.


What we do not understand tempts us to say that this story of a man and woman - of two people finding each other and making a home for more than their love - is an accident.  But hope rising in us on the darkest of nights, in the coldest of circumstances, even among strangers, leads us to believe that this story, like our own stories, is not an accident but a promise kept.


Here and there, in all our lives, things do go as they were meant, people love as they intend, suffering and evil do not win.  The power of this story is the promise kept, that even in a dark place on a cold night among strangers, a new birth is possible.  For Mary and Josephus then, for us now, and again.


Fr. Ambrose Bryce

Father Bryce moved on to another parish shortly after delivering this homily, I believe in 1995, and has since retired.  I ask his forgiveness for taking the liberty to post his beautiful words.  I cried then and each time I read it.  After hearing his homily I asked the church secretary for a copy and take it out each year at Christmas along with the ornaments, wreaths, and stockings.  Each year I forget I have it then remember it when we unpack the decorations.  I cried the moment I saw it this year.

And I hope, whatever you personal beliefs of Christmas, as we pass through the long night and the stillness of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, we can all share the hope that new birth always will triumph over death.

Amen.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Motes

The morning column sunlight, from a low flying autumn sun, slowly scanned across the gathered congregants from the one uncovered, east facing, pane.  Like a spotlight from the back of the theater it scanned from stage left to right. Eventually the beam found me, where I sit most Sundays, like I did that Sunday, which is where Amy and I sat most Sundays.  It warmed me.  Then, through squinting eyes, countless dust motes appeared, dancing this way and that in the motionless air.  Undetectable convection currents and gentle inhales and exhales of the community created just the right currents for the many points of light to swirl, some slowly and some less slowly.  Some passed steadily through the illumination un-hindered off to attend to some important matter elsewhere. Others lazily swirled and twisted and paused then swirled again towards the shadows and out of sight without any urgency whatsoever.  For a few moments I stared towards the light and wondered the nature of these strange little creatures.  Then my moment in the sunlight ended.