The heading above was on the Internet in one of the hundreds of Emails I get on buying something I just can’t do without. That got me thinking in my Lectio Divina reflection (Phil 2:5), what is a gift I can receive at Christmas that I can’t do without, or what gift can I give someone to make them happy?
I don’t want anyone to give me gifts of things. I have everyTHING I need. This means clothes I don’t or won’t wear, kitchen appliances I never use, toys or novelties I leave in their original box, electronic gadgets I don’t know how to use (an exception might be a television set installed by Computer Geeks). Add to this that most clothing or gifts are not needs I have because no one has asked me what I need.
I tried to just give money or Target gift cards. I give you $500.00 and you give me $500.00. What craziness is that?
The World has seduced us into thinking that giving gifts is more important than giving the gifts of self and conversion of morals as it affects others. We can give and receive as the World suggest is meaningful, or we can live in three universes (physical, mental and spiritual) and give of self to others.
THE GREAT GIFT OF SELF
Christ is the reason for the season, as the bumper sticker says. For me, it means I find meaning at Christmas time not from looking at a baby in a manger, although that is cute, but in God giving the gift of who he is to us, to me, to you. (Philippians 2:5-12) I remind you to not be seduced by seeing reality with just two universes (physical and mental) but rather by three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual).
My Lection Divina presented me with four gifts, some of them not traditionally seen as gifts, but are meaningful to me.
THE GREAT GIFT OF CREATION
We take it for granted, but creation or the physical universe is our platform to hold our bodies and our spirit. I like to think of Fermi’s Paradox when I think of creation. The famed scientist asked his colleagues at lunch, where is everyone? Creation is so commonplace, we don’t even think about it. Scientists and great thinkers do think about creation, like the late Stephen Hawking, or Carl Sagan, and provide us with ways to see reality as it is. We need to continue to explore our universe to ask questions such as, why is it, how is it, and what does all of this tell us about who we are as humans.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_deGrasse_Tyson Neil deGrasse Tyson is a scientist who looks at reality from a practical view but using science to explain the physical universe. I like his viewpoints, but he has limited the scope of what he considers reality. What he does have is great.
If you use three universes to look at Creation, then God is the Word (John 1:1) in the beginning. But wait! Why is there a universe at all? If we look at Creation as the platform for living things and sentient beings, we find that we are alone in the Universe. What does that mean? Look at the immensity of what is. There must be a reason that we have the earth as our platform for human evolution from the first cells to the last blast of the trumpet. This is the season to remember not only the birth of Christ but the preparation from all eternity for this event to take place. In fact, there is no season that proclaims the great gift of creation, all four seasons do. This is the day the Lord has made, says the Psalmist in 118, let us be glad in it and rejoice. But there is more…
THE GREAT GIFT OF LIFE
We have a platform for life, the world, and the universe, but where is life? The next gift is life itself, characterized in the archetypal form in Genesis with the story of Adam and Eve. Life began on earth but developed into what we know as humans, Adam and Eve being the primal beginnings of humans. Before there was life, but after Adam and Eve, however they developed, there was something different, so different that Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., noted paleontologist and philosopher, termed it Noosphere, the circle of Knowing. The gift of life is that we can reflect on what is and ask the question why. Sounds like a simple thing, but animals can’t do that. Plants can’t do that. I go so far as to say that, in all the known universe, humans are the only ones that know that we know. Why is that? We have a platform for life and now we have life reflecting on itself over time and trying to discover meaning and purpose. Why is that? Do you realize that, with all our sophisticated instruments, we have not found one planet out there that harbors life, much less sentient life (stories of aliens notwithstanding)? I hope that there is such life out there, but right now, it looks bleak. So, why is that? Why do humans, of all the known living things, have the ability to ask why to know that we know? You see a trend developing here? But there is more…
THE GREAT GIFT OF LIFE…LOST.
Let’s recap: we have a platform for life, one not too hot or too cold (the Goldilocks effect) and one that enables humans to mature and develop their knowledge in all sorts of good ways. But there is a problem. The Genesis Story tells us that humans were made by a Being outside of themselves, one divine not human. Humans (Adam and Eve) disobeyed God’s command to be human and wanted to be what they were not. We call that Original Sin, which is still the core sin and temptation facing all humans, no matter what their belief system. And that is not the end of the story…
THE GREAT GIFT OF LIFE…RESTORED
God took pity on humans for fumbling their one chance to fulfill both the reason for creation and the reason for the gift of life itself. God sent his only Son, the Word made Flesh to dwell among us and show us how to restore paradise lost. We call this by the word, redemption, as in going to a pawn shop and buying back the ticket we used to pawn our collective inheritance. The price: death, death on a cross. The results: we are now adopted sons and daughters of the Father…again…Forever. This is the news that is so good, the great gift of Faith from God, one we did not, and still do not deserve. But that is not all…
THE GREAT GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
God made the platform for human life and restored us to our inheritance (the prodigal sons and daughters). God’s problem now is how to sustain this life-giving energy in light of Original Sin and the weakness of humans to want to be their own god. The Church is born from the Upper Room, with some exceptions. We still have to work to keep from temptation. (and lead us not into temptation, says the Lord’s Prayer).
THE GIFT OF LAY CISTERCIAN SPIRITUALITY
To enter the spiritual universe and remain there takes work. As a Lay Cistercian, I use Cistercian spirituality, silence, and solitude to help me convert my life to be more like Christ on a daily basis, to make room in my heart for the heart of Christ, to move from self to God. There is no reward without a struggle, just as there was no redemption without the passion and death of Christ. Christ came to give us the tools to sustain us. St. Benedict, in Chapter 4 of his Rule, sets forth those tools of good works that enable me to call God Abba, Father, and sustain me through Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration Before the Blessed Sacrament and the Rosary.
Christmas is a remembrance of all of these wondrous gifts we have been given by God through, with and in Christ with the Holy Spirit, in order to survive the minefields of this World until we can reach our purpose for which the universe was created, and why humans are the only ones to know that they know, and why Christ came to give us back that which Adam and Eve lost for us through lack of humility and obedience to God’s will. What greater gift is there than to realize that, through Faith (energy from God) that we are sons and daughters of the Father who will claim our inheritance one day. As you sew on earth you shall reap in Heaven. May you realize all your gifts from God and become what you pray, love, and know. May the gifts that you share with each other include these special blessings from God to us, blessed be God forever.
Praise be the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology