Just what are we doing here in the mid-night? I find myself in a new place this Christmas, different from any other in my 61 years. This state is new for my 31 years in this collar. I feel a peaceful agitation a tender urgency to proclaim the awe-ful mystery that orders time from before & after the events of this night! In the name of the one most holy child conceived in the Virgins womb hear & perceive the wondrous gift given us.
They studied the story just as we do. Let us follow their lead in plumbing the depths of sacred story
There are Four Senses of Scripture –
I. The literal story that charms the world this one night. What a nice story, if only it were true. In the Church tonight we will tell the story & the pews fill, some to overflowing as if by some primordial instinctual urge to return to remember, almost remember why? And, yet will leave from our several churches this night, vaguely unsatisfied.
If we remain with only this sense of the Scripture we loiter near but not near enough.
II. Deeper than the text itself, lies the symbolic layer of meaning. This room is literally screaming with symbol. This place makes no sense without the key to the lock of meaning in this place.
The Lady Chapel to my left is place to start. There the Virgin sits dressed in red dress & blue cloak, red is the color of earth & blue of heaven. The angel promised her that the Holy Spirit would over-shadow her womb –
The same word described the brooding contemplation by the Spirit of God over the waters of chaos in the beginning. From her womb came the child, the holy child, who is the word made flesh.
There in the mural he sits in his mother’s lap, fully human yet not infant shaped, no he is proportioned as an fully grown man. Mary displays him to the world and he looking directly at us beckons restraint with his left while raising his right hand in blessing.
The identical posture he takes in the great tower wall – Jesus enthroned in glory. This sense of Scripture is artful & instructive & yet not enough.
III. The Moral Sense of Scripture is deeper yet and demands a response. What are we to do? The shepherds are privy to the oratorio of the angels, and yet do they not go and see this thing that has come to pass? They do go and there in that womb, that cave, find the babe lying in a manager. And yet there is another depth that the Holy Spirit reveal if we are willing.
IV. Here the duo of heart & mind unite in a great paradoxical one, holding contradicting opposites in a holy tension. What happens this night is only historic rumor and magical tale unless it reaches its holy conclusion.
Meister Eckhart, the medieval mystic, of the 13th Century, wrote, “We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.
Saint Basil, the Great, in the fourth Century, speaks from the mystic depths when he said, “There are many annunciations, few Incarnations. “
Oh Lord, let one of those rare, elusive incarnations, be born here this night, in us. Amen.