Friday, December 07, 2007

"Your hearts will rejoice"

It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free.
Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi

The photo in the header echoes for me the truth of these words on hope. The trees are frosted with winter, and you can see the small St Francis of Assisi figure with his eyes downcast in contemplation. It was said to be St Francis who first established the tradition of the creche, a presentation of the Nativity. Here, he is keeping vigil over the memory of my twins, who I lost at 16 weeks gestation just around this time of year, 10 years ago.

I did not find out I had lost them until later, until that Epiphany of 1998, but the sorrow seeped backwards and still tinges my Advents. I miss them still. They were both boys. There are times when I can almost see them running with Kieron and Aidan and Patrick, or feel a strong sense that someone is missing even though my living children are all around me. By now, they would be nine years old. (Oddly, their due date was the very day that Aidan was born a year later, which is just one of several temporal signs that have provided consolation through various sorrowful times in our family life).

As Pope Benedict says, this is not the last word, though.

In some way we want life itself, true life, untouched even by death; yet at the same time we do not know the thing towards which we feel driven. .... The term “eternal life” is intended to give a name to this known “unknown”. Inevitably it is an inadequate term that creates confusion. “Eternal”, in fact, suggests to us the idea of something interminable, and this frightens us; “life” makes us think of the life that we know and love and do not want to lose, even though very often it brings more toil than satisfaction, so that while on the one hand we desire it, on the other hand we do not want it. To imagine ourselves outside the temporality that imprisons us and in some way to sense that eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, but something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality—this we can only attempt. ...... This is how Jesus expresses it in Saint John's Gospel: “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (16:22).

We celebrate our Lord's birthday just after the winter solstice, just after the shortest day of the year. Though the days are still short and cold, they have almost imperceptibly started to lengthen. We can't see it clearly, but it is there nevertheless. The seeds buried under the cold soil are not dead. We are not prisoners of the universe; we are free. The things that matter are eternal. It is the opposite of Frost's "nothing gold can stay." Everything that is truly gold -- precious and durable-- will stay, though the rest burns away or vanishes. My sorrow is mixed with hope, because my twins are eternal souls, and precious to God as they are to me.
... in Christ, God has revealed himself. He has already communicated to us the “substance” of things to come, and thus the expectation of God acquires a new certainty.

It is the expectation of things to come from the perspective of a present that is already given. It is a looking-forward in Christ's presence, with Christ who is present, to the perfecting of his Body, to his definitive coming.

There are several others who are mourning during this season. Please pray for them.

1 comment:

Faith said...

I didn't know you had lost twins, Willa. I am so sorry. I'm glad Pope Benedict's words could offer you such deep consolation. I read your beautiful post with tears in my eyes. Advent is a time of penitential waiting for the Joy of Christmas; a dry run for the living waiting for the Joy of eternal life with God.