The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 26, 2023 - 6:11:58

Christmas fail

Katie van Schaijik, Jan 09, 2015

I am like the son in the gospel who told his father he would work in the vineyard but then didn't do it.

When I say I'll do something, I'm never consciously lying. I sincerely mean to do it. Then I don't. Sometimes I don't because I can't for one reason or another. But more often, I just don't. I do other, less challenging things instead.

Anyway. When I set out to offer a reflection a day for the 12 days of Christmas, I thought I was giving myself an entirely doable task. It was doable. Yet I didn't do it, most days.

I had plenty of themes to elaborate. Christmas is so rich with personalist themes. Besides the ones I developed below, I had lots to say about

1) Poetry, music and imagery. The star; the gold, frankincense and myrrh; the wise men and angels; the hymns....The presence of poetry bespeaks personhood. Only persons live by meaning. Only persons look for signs and relate orders of being to other orders of being.

2) Transcendence: the way the supernatural breaks in on the ordinary; human life is surrounded by the divine and ordered to the divine. I was struck at mass the other day by the line from We Three Kings: "divinity is nigh"...

3) Contrasts: poverty and riches; light and dark; intimacy and exile; fear and hope; tenderness and power. Personal existence is practically composed of contrasts and paradoxes.

4) Journeys: Mary journeys to Elizabeth; Mary and Joseph journey to Bethlehem, then later to Egypt; the Magi journey toward the star...The life of every person is a journey. A series of journeys—toward maturity, toward home, toward self-knowledge, toward holiness, toward God...

5) The upending of the master/slave hermeneutic of the fall. God chose to come among us not in power in glory, but as a helpless, utterly vulnerable infant. This is a gigantic mystery at the very heart of our vocation as persons.

Another standing feature of human life, though, is our moral imperfection and conflictedness.

For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

To be a human person is to need a savior.