There is already a Monday Musing up; it is an essay that I wrote for the Christmas bulletin. However, I woke up and was praying and was struck by the full force of what this day, the feast of St. Stephen, is about.
We have journeyed through Advent with all of its peaceful images – watching, waiting, hoping. We see the darkness encroaching as the days grow shorter, colder. Then, as one of the readings for Christmas Eve, from Isaiah, proclaims:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
Wow- Christmas, joy, light, new life, birth and hope beyond imagining!
Now here we are, a scant 24 hours later and we are celebrating (note that celebrating is the correct word!) the violent death of the first martyr, St. Stephen.
I was struck by the sound of the words in the breviary for one of the readings, from The Book of Wisdom, and frequently used for funerals:
The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead.
But they are in peace.
They come, see, they come singing for joy.
– Homeward bound, laden with sheaves.
In the throes of birth we are confronted with death! We are called in Christ to enter into the mystery. Our faith, our church, our teachings, and our scripture should give you answers, I also believe (and I could be wrong) that we would be wise to love the questions as much as the answers. That is the mystery of faith, isn’t it?
One answer remains clear – the only answer really, the answer that is Christ the Lord. Christ comes in the form of a tiny, vulnerable baby. That tiny one however is the source of our transformation and new life! That is why in birth and in death, we have hope. As the reading from Wisdom points out – we may seem foolish, but we have the promise of peace.
Birth and Death are forever entwined. Let us embrace both with the faith and the joy that is given us through Christ. When caught up in the thrill of one, let us not fall prey to the seeming despair of the the other. If we welcome and love birth, we must also welcome and love death; both cry out of for our deep embrace. They come together and we need to remember and hold both, firmly in faith, always in our hearts.