Thursday, December 24, 2015

Heather King: A Course in Christmas Miracles

The following comes from Heather King:

"For some extraordinary reason, there is a fixed notion that it is more liberal to disbelieve in miracles than to believe in them. Why, I cannot imagine, nor can anybody tell me."

--G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

A friend recently asked my take on a passage that began: "One of the keys to survival is to know deep in one’s heart no one is coming to save you. Because as long as the person who is in a dire situation thinks that is so, then they sit and wait. They don’t go on about the business of living in that place. Rather, they wait for someone to save them so that then they can resume living." 

"Because obviously," my friend continued, "we all have to come to grips with the fact that no-one's coming. No-one's going to save us." 

I looked around my room. The home-made triptych to my three unborn children that sits in the loft above my bed, the Sacred Heart of Jesus icon, the Christmas lights, the angel candle (lit each night before I go to sleep), the rosary of purple glass beads, the multiple Madonna and child calenders, prayers cards, the photo of Therese of Lisieux (the one where she looks both infinitely tender and infinitely fierce), the Rembrandt Head of Christ  (the one in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he looks like he has been regarding your wounded, conflicted, fearful, yearning heart with utter love for all eternity).

I thought about how, as a kid on holidays and especially Christmas, I could hardly wait for Nana to come. Nana, who would have been driven over in the big black Buick by Cousin Richard, who she had raised, and who was now her helpmeet. Nana, with a white-blue perm, a long fur coat with a weasel-head clasp, and a hard-sided black leather handbag that held an embroidered hankie (raised pink rosebuds, pale blue forget-me-nots), a bottle of Yardley Smelling Salts, and a change purse filled with coins she was lavish about doling out.

Nana, Daddy's mother, the Queen Bee to whom we all instinctively paid homage. Nana, with her brogue. "She's here, she's here!!" I'd yell, and race out through the breezeway to stand in the ice-rutted driveway, semaphoring my arms like those parking lot jockeys with orange flags, in case (though Nana and Richard came almost every Sunday), they'd forgotten where we lived.

I'd yank open the passenger side door--"Merry Christmas, Nan! do you want me to take the rolls, Nan? What does the ocean look like today, Nan?..."

Nana always brought home-made yeasted rolls. At Christmas, she made red wool shirts for "the boys" (my father on down), and for "the girls"...I can't remember. A card with a five or ten-dollar bill maybe. Nana was the present. She was special, she was ours, I would have broken the arm of anyone who tried to wrest from me the honor of hanging up her coat, or situating her on "her" place on the couch, or fetching her a glass of punch.

After she fell years later, on the steps of the church, I'd go over to the house in Rye Beach and stay overnight, filling the hot water bottle for her aching hip. I still spoon sugar every morning into my coffee from the blue and white sugar bowl, part of the china set she brought over on the boat from Ireland.

"Because obviously no-one's going to save us....obviously no-one's coming"...

I thought about how the mark of a follower of Christ is to believe in miracles, in magic, in angels and prophetic dreams and saints. I thought about which is more sublime, more clear-eyed, harder: to stop waiting, to harden your heart against waiting; or to wait in hope, your whole life, for someone you know will never come. I thought about how Catholicism ends with a wedding. 

I wrote back to my friend, "Actually, I don't think no-one's coming. In a practical sense of course I identify with feeling lost and the realization that no one is going to save us. I think we first realize that as children--and forever after, we're pissed off! Yes, I absolutely think we are responsible for making a life-or-death choice as to how and why we are going to be on this earth. But from a mystical sense, I DON'T think no-one's coming. I long to be united with Christ, who has already come. And at the end of time, will come again"....

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