KENNETH Gan’s letter (CL 14/12/08) really backs up the meaning of Advent as described in Liturgy Lines (CL 30/11/08) as both focus on the coming of Christ.
Reading his letter, the meaning he wants to emphasise is the need for fasting, pain and suffering (as exemplified in the stigmata of St Francis of Assisi) as if the meaning of “penance” encapsulates deprivation of whatever colour.
Penance, repentance (“metanoia” in Greek) also encapsulate a desire to focus the mind and heart on what gives life.
Perhaps this is why Pope Benedict (or Cardinal Ratzinger, as he then was known) once gave a retreat and focused upon two aspects of the Creed to draw out the meaning of Christmas for adults.
Firstly “He came down (“descendit”) from heaven”; secondly “And He was made man”. The then cardinal summed up the two statements by reference to Matthew 16:16 – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
As Son, said the then cardinal, Jesus’ whole being was directed to constant communication with His Father – “I come to do thy will, O God” as the central message explained in Hebrews 10:5-7.
Cardinal Ratzinger taught that for mankind this action of “descent” and being born as a “child” (“paidea” – also meaning “servant”) really then means the opposite of those literal actions. The “descent” and “servanthood” of Jesus takes mankind up to the level of the Divine.
The gifting of Christmas has its primary meaning in the giving of Jesus to His Father through the Incarnation that then liberates mankind to find true freedom in joining our wills to Jesus.
The gift of Jesus in communication with His Father, inseparable from the fiat of Mary as her willing gift, is what Christian adults celebrate as Christmas.
This is the point that Cardinal Ratzinger emphasised through a reference to Plato in his “Timeon”.
Plato accepted as a compliment the judgement of a non-Greek that affirmed the Greeks were “aei paides” – “eternal children apt to wonder in amazement at the higher states of human existence”.
Whatever it takes, penance, deprivation, prayer, joy, let us strive to make Christmas an adult occasion where there is the capacity to “marvel” and ” to listen” like children communicating with their father and mother so that we adults too can cry out at Christmas: “Abba-Father” – I come to do your will!
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