Magnum Mysterium.

Last night at a Christmas festival, I heard a choir sing, in Latin, Gabrielli’s O Magnum Mysterium: “O greatest of mysteries and O most wonderful sacrament, Jesus lying there in the manger for all creatures to gaze upon. O blessed virgin, whose womb was deemed worthy of bearing Christ, the Lord Jesus. Alleluia!” An intense sweetness filled the space in that auditorium as voices deep, strong, high, clear, resonant, and reverent moved out from the stage and enfolded me. The harmony and the all-encompassing sense of the meaning of the words, which went beyond intellectual understanding, pierced me.

The Incarnation shows us simply, clearly, what would otherwise blind us–Jesus, Logos, metaphor of God, Word that both tells and shows, accessible yet mysterious, essence as well as sacrament, actuality and analogy both.

God and his truth are like a sun that fills the sky. His huge verities flare off from its center of certainty like the flaming tongues of a corona, overwhelming us in our insignificance. Yet he may appear to those whose eyes are open–the seers (Annie Dillard calls herself a stalker of truth, Virginia Stem Owens a spy)–in forms as unthreatening, yet true, as a baby, or a seed, or a dove, or a lamb, or a loaf of bread. Or a flick of rainbow color on the wall. -Luci Shaw

That’s one of the things I like about this time of the year: My eyes seem more open to God and his truth. Look, there he is in that little boy, dressed in a bathrobe, playing a shepherd in the Christmas Play. Look, there he is in a woman who serves the church and the poor every month by preparing dinner for the homeless shelter. Here he is in some kind words written in a Christmas card. Here he is in the miracle of rain in the midst of a drought. I see him in the candlelight service on Christmas Eve, in the in the faces of those I love as we gather to celebrate the holiday, in a clear starry night. What a mystery, that the God we serve is accessible and can be seen, if only we have the eyes to look for him. O greatest of mysteries, that instead of overwhelming us with our own insignificance, he would make himself nothing that we might see his truth and follow it out of the darkness into God’s own marvelous light.

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