The Holy Name
Num. 6:22-27 • Ps. 8
Gal. 4:4-7 [or Phil. 2:5-11] • Luke 2: 15-21
With half-closed eyes the monk has retreated into prayer, unplugged the world, killing its worldly noise. He breathes a breath of life in and out, slowly, with all the purpose of a sleeping dog. What restfulness. Oh that we could all leave the world. How unprofitable all the buzzing of the crowd. Beware of the Scribes and the Pharisees. Throw your TV set in the trash. Let us set out for a lonely place and smoke the fresh air and eat rattlesnakes roasted over juniper branches. Let us breathe the biting air.
As long as the world turns, there will always be those who would rather die with Christ now than tolerate two more minutes of worldly tedium. Even those who would rather not — the life-lovers, the affirmers, the optimists, the ones sitting in the bars talking to girls: Do they not at least hear the haunting wind, the inviting voice, “Come get buried in baptism for good”? It is finished.
Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden. Come. Let the dead bury the dead. Is this a cruel departure, this rejection of the world? No. A sixth-century iconic Jesus has awoken from his inner prayer. With gaping walnut-shaped eyes he lookout over the world. He is not of this world. He does not recycle the world’s verbiage and he declines all its addictions. He is free. Out of those eye pours a river of love. His very name means “Savior,” saving us from the world and for the world. He makes us adopted sons and daughters, pours his living Spirit into our hearts, and invites us to give prayer a chance. Say Abba to the wind and sky, say Abba to the naked trees, say Abba in your secret room. Be close to your heavenly father in everything and wherever you walk.
Jesus has a thousand shining faces. He shines over his people, he blesses and keeps, and delivers a solemn peace. He writes one of his given names into our hearts: God with us.
St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ arrival is the most well known. It gives us at least two ways to consider what new life in him entails. “The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’” Thus they move, going to Jesus. They leave what they were doing for him. In just this way every disciple is asked to leave the world, utterly and completely, for Jesus’ sake. There is another character in our tale who doesn’t leave, the young girl who has nowhere to go in search of this thing, the mystery in her womb, the child upon her breast. Once again, Luke tells us she was thinking, “conserving each of these words and gathering them into her heart.”
So Luke gives us a program. Leave the world like a Franciscan lunatic, run over the snow in your bare feet. Get thee to a nunnery where the holy child rests. Move out of the world and into Christ. He also suggests, however, that we not move at all. Conserve each word with exegetical exactness. Let the sharp sword of Scripture open your dry heart. Jesus wants heart and blood, bone and tissue. He wants to be where you are.
Look It Up
Read Luke 2:19. Don’t move. Let the Word adhere to your heart.
Think About It
Go with God, provided you recall that you could not go but for the prevenient trick that God is already with you.