This Christmas, my wife and I are not exchanging gifts. It’s not that we can’t afford to do so, but rather the meaning behind those gifts has been so secularized that anything approaching the reason we remember Christmas has long been supplanted by the tenents of commercialism. Here are some of my thoughts about what Christmas means to me this year.
One of the things experience does is give you the ability to bring more meaning to any reflection on contemplative spirituality. One can hardly comment on being a Lay Cistercian unless you are one. Similarly, the sum of what I think about Christmas the celebration depends on my willingness to make it a part of my spiritual heritage, this year, but also all those Christmases in the past.
For me, Christmas is about another year of trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. The Church calendar year, built around the life of Christ, begins with Advent, or preparing the way for the Lord. Both Advent and Lent are penitential seasons, or times to reflect on who you are, where you are going, and how to get there in an age that glorifies the self over God. These seasons always come before a great event so that we can prepare our hearts to stand next to the heart of Christ. As a Lay Cistercian, I try to make a special effort to do something outside of the ordinary Cistercian practices during these seasons to get my heart ready. This year, my focus was on Lectio Divina and trying to convert these ideas into blog format. I tried not to be seduced by the allure of material things and gifts, although we did give some gifts to our daughter. One of the great take-aways from Advent as Christmas looms is the realization that my purpose in life, Phil 2:5 is again the reason for my moving from self to God with the help of others, such as the monks and Lay Cistercians of Holy Spirit Monastery. Christmas is a time of humility for me because I think of the great love God must have to love sinful persons such as ourselves. Christmas is a story of a child’s birth but it is also the birth of our redemption, and the birth, one more time of the Christ Principle, one that is to be lived out each day as we take up our cross and plod on our journey to Forever.
Again, we remember in spiritual celebration the Christ Principle, from which all that is flows in any way, the center of all reality (physical, mental, spiritual), the Alpha and the Omega, the Sign of Contradiction, the Son of God.
Praise be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, the God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology