From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel;
whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.
Micah 5: 2
“Joseph, Son of David, do not fear to take home Mary your wife.
For what has been begotten in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Matthew 1: 20
Today is the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin and, for many Brothers, an anniversary of first profession and entrance into the novitiate. The liturgical readings of today as well as the anniversary we celebrate invite all of us to a meditative remembrance of our lives and an awareness that the meaning of each and every event of our life and choice that we make is, to some degree, shrouded in mystery and so is always manifesting itself more fully to us in light of our ever-emergent original calling.
As with Mary, what is most uniquely begotten in each of us is “from the Holy Spirit.” As such, its full reality and significance is never immediately, nor totally, accessible to us. In today’s gospel, Joseph, who is the central character in Matthew’s account, is inspired to realize that things are not as they seem, that his understanding born of the cultural and religious narratives of his time cannot comprehend the full meaning of what is occurring in and through his betrothed. We are reminded today that in our own life as well, our life, as “hidden with Christ in God,” always holds meanings that are beyond our familial, cultural, and religious narratives. To live and appraise spiritually requires that we always have a “light grasp” on the current interpretations we have of the meaning of our life’s events.
On the cross Jesus prays: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23: 34) At the core of the life of discipleship is the call to live in continual repentance. For, our judgments and our choices are always partial. Life in and of the spirit is always, in part, a realization of, as Wordsworth says, “the sleep and the forgetting” that we take for consciousness. The mystery of who we really are, of our original calling, comes to us slowly and gradually in the course of our lives. It is largely in retrospect, in the awareness of how we have to various degrees violated our true call, that we come to know more fully the one we are called to be.
In The Deeper Life Louis Dupre writes:
In a very real sense, all spiritual life consists in a constant “rereading” of oneself and, beyond that self, of all history. It attempts to review the temporal succession of my existence in its totality and thereby to grasp it in its unity. . . . Through the gates of memory I travel to the inner land where the core of my existence may be revealed.
And, in perhaps the most famous, and arguably the most beautiful, narrative of this return to the inner source of life, St. Augustine writes:
Late have I loved you,
beauty so old and so new,
late have I loved you.
And see, you were within,
and I was in the external world and sought you there,
and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely things
which you made.
You were with me, and I was not with you.
The lovely things kept me far from you,
though if they did not have their existence in you
they had no existence at all.
You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness.
You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness.
You were fragrant,
and I drew my breath and now pant after you.
I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me,
and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.
Confessions X, 27