The Still-Empty Manger

At right is a manger from about the time of Christ's birth. It was found inthe town of Megiddo (Armageddon), which you can see from the Mt. of Transfiguration. (Holy Land Photos.)

The redoubtable Padre Schall has a lovely Advent meditation. It's about waiting.
My own childhood memories of the days leading up to Christmas were ones of waiting and expectancy. These are both great categories of finite being. Without the waiting, the reality of Christmas is not nearly so wondrous. Some things we cannot have unless we wait for them to be what they are. I sometimes suspect that this unwillingness to wait is the besetting sin of modern times. It has something to do with the replacing of a hope rooted in the divine by a hope transferred into a human project, something discussed in detail in Pope Benedict's latest encyclical.
And choice:
Often I think that purely "human" history--a history conceived as depending on no transcendent order--means letting us human beings conjure up for ourselves the best way of live. Then, once we have produced what we think we want, we find out not only that we do not want it, but that it is not worth having once we get it. God has a purpose in letting us attempt to make our own world. He long ago discovered that, if free beings like ourselves are warned about some route not to travel, the first thing we know is that they are busy traveling on it as if that is the only way to go. I have often thought that God does not bother to prove us wrong. He lets us do it ourselves. We only have to look with cold eyes at the results of our own confabulations.
And growth:
The verb "to grow" means that a living thing directs itself to the fullness, to the flourishing of its own being. If a toad grows up to be a chicken, we do not call it "growth." We call it a monstrosity. A connection exists between what a thing is and what it ought to come to be. It comes to be ultimately because of what it ought to be. This "growth" is especially true when it comes to ourselves. The hitch with us is that to be what we are intended to be, we have to get into the act ourselves. No one, not even God, can make us what we ought to be if we do not
choose to be what we ought to be. This is why everything in the divine dealings with our kind passes through our minds and our wills. God, as it were, does not want us unless we want Him.
And from there to what Christmas means.

Other items:

  • I meant to post Ken Masugi's latest excellent interview w/ the good Padre. Just a taste:

The voluntarist strands in Islamic and other philosophies were designed to prevent anything from being taken away from the Godhead, from Allah. Thus, if we postulate a creation of secondary causes, that is, of beings who were free and who could act, we would somehow denigrate the Godhead by claiming that something in the world was not caused by Allah. Thus even what I do must really be the effect of Allah, not me. To praise God means to be totally submissive to the fact that I can do nothing. I acknowledge that nothing comes from myself.

Now the Christian view of this position is that it is a denigration of the power of God, of His glory, to maintain that only what God does really exists and acts. God is greater because beings other than Himself really exist. They really and freely act. Now if we try to act in a world in which our theology denies the very possibility of our acts meaning anything, then it will be utterly useless for us to try to do anything. Indeed, it will be blasphemous if we claim to do anything.

On these premises, of course, it is difficult to imagine just why there is a world at all. Why would God have gone to the trouble of creating a world in which nothing could happen but what He did? He already knew that. We do not intend here to deny divine providence, but to point out that this providence is really a knowledge of what free creatures do in their freedom. It is not what determines them to do them.

Ultimately, all arguments are theological. What is remarkable about the new encyclical of Benedict on hope is, as I have remarked in my comments on, is the effort to straighten out the political. By taking away what is not political but theological, we can leave politics to do what it in fact is capable of doing.