by Catherine Doherty.
The river is imprisoned today in the powerful arms of a thick icy sheet that covers it completely. The air is cold, clear and crisp. Nature seems to have entered into its time of prayer and solitude, some sort of special union with God.
But what about man? Soon the Christian world will celebrate the birth of Christ. What real meaning will this feast have for Christians who are so filled with struggle and pain?
Not too long ago some of them—Christians!—were proclaiming that God is dead. Will Christmas, the birthday of the God they think is dead stir their hearts in awe and wonder? Or will it pass them by unnoticed and unimportant?
As I sit by my window and watch the contemplative silence of nature, I feel a strange, deep pain. For it seems to me—how can I explain it?—that suddenly I have lost my being, that I live in the hearts of those who believe that God is dead.
I live even in the hearts of those who, though baptized, do not believe that he was even born.
This strange pain becomes unbearable because I know it is not mine but theirs. I realize that these souls, into which I have been allowed to enter by my meditation, are filled with a hunger which consumes them. This hunger torments and overshadows their lives, often taking the forms of restlessness, anger and despair.
They say God is dead, but they cannot, will not, bury him. They cannot bury him because they desperately want him to be alive, want to believe in him, hunger for an encounter with him.
Those who do not believe that he was born have this hunger, too. Only they suppress and deny it even to themselves. They cannot stop talking about him as they try to convince others that he does not exist.
A strange paradox. Why should anybody discuss, or wish to discuss, a nonexistent subject? People normally do not discuss something or someone who does not exist. But these people do, as though something within them relentlessly drives them.
They say they are atheists, unbelievers. They spend their time proving the nonexistence of God. But in their souls is the same hunger for him. They try to satisfy it by using his name, by repeating the word "God," and then launching into proofs of his nonexistence.
My pain grows. I am crushed, almost annihilated, by the weight of that hunger and that denial, by their search and their despair.
Then I am back again in my log cabin, in the presence of the white snow, the frozen river and the green–black fir trees.
My fear vanishes. Darkness falls on the white snow. Night has come, and with it my tears have come. I weep bitter tears before the icon of the Mother of God.
I am glad I can weep, because in our Eastern spirituality our holy and wise men have taught us to weep over our sins and the sins of others. They also taught us to weep tears of love. They say such tears cleanse us and those for whom we weep.
I am glad I can believe this, and I thank God for the gift of tears. Perhaps, just perhaps, my weeping in the month of Christ’s birthday may resurrect him in the hearts of tepid Christians, hungry Christians, the searching and the lonely.
All around me my island is still, and I sense that nature, in its own fashion, seconds my hope.
—From Welcome, Pilgrim, Madonna House Publications, 1991, pp.96-97, out of print.
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