Suffering and Christmas

Well, this blog has been full of the Christmas spirit, hasn’t it?  To tell you the truth, I think that sweetpea616 succeeded more in immersing herself in the Christmas spirit than I did–and she’s pagan!  At any rate, I think that it will be worthwhile to write about how suffering relates to the holiday of Christmas.

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I can already hear someone asking: “How can suffering possibly relate to such a joyous holiday?  What a morbid, moribund, and melancholy person!”  (And I can tell that this speaker does not know me personally.)  But do not forget that the colors green and red symbolize the Christmas holiday.  Green obviously symbolizes rebirth and renewal–and how did Christ accomplish our rebirth?  By pouring out His red blood on the Cross.  Verily, He was born in order to die.  We Christians celebrate the Invincible Love of God in sending His only Son so that Jesus Christ would redeem us through a painful death upon a cross and give us new life by His Resurrection.  In the same way, Christians are baptized into the Passion of Christ and reborn into His Resurrection.  Since “the disciple is not above his master” (Lk 6:40), we must suffer many things and courageously bear the cross God gives us so that we may be steadily transformed into the image of Christ until we reach that perfection which God has destined for us in Paradise.

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The Church calendar seems to reinforce the idea of suffering even in the midst of this joyful time of year: the day after Christmas we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Stephan, the feast of the Holy Innocents today, and tomorrow recalls the murder of St. Thomas à Becket.  Only St. John the Evangelist seems not to fit in until we remind ourselves that he suffered a white martyrdom.  How could it be otherwise?  In support of this idea, we have all the suffering John endured in spreading the Gospel and his gospel itself, which enters more fully into the divinity of Christ than any other gospel.  John’s gospel evidences his suffering because no one can understand God so fully without meditating on and participating in Christ’s sufferings daily.  How much grief must have filled St. John’s soul in recalling those three interminable hours at the foot of the Savior’s cruel cross?  To always have before his eyes the visible memory of Christ’s wounds and the sorrowful last words of Christ ringing in his ears?  And on the thirtieth, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family: after Christ’s whose sorrows are meditated on more frequently or were more severe than St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s?  These two saints have more glory in heaven than all the rest because they both played a larger role in Salvation History and suffered more greatly than all the other saints combined.

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So, suffering, doubts, anxiety, grief, and pain do not seem out of place this time of year.  In my case, I lack a certain talent to suffer–if I may call it so.  Suffering has the propensity to make us focus inward, to disregard the people around us, and overly seek consolations for oneself–anything to cause us to forget or diminish our pain or angst.  But, the talent or skill which one should strive to attain is to ignore our miserable condition and manifest joy to the world–especially around Christmas.

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The most memorable scene from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the meeting of Jesus and His Mother on the Way of the Cross, demonstrates this attitude perfectly.  What does Our Lord say to His Mother?  After being insulted and beaten constantly, being mocked, unjustly condemned, scourged, crowned with thorns, and even to this point being shown every form of contempt and disdain?  “Behold, I make all things new.”  This carries the idea that Christ’s attention was focused mainly or even purely on the good his sacrifice would do humanity rather than all the evils humanity was pouring on him–even though these sins pierced His Heart like the crown of thorns did His Brow.  Rather than indicate any pain, He joyfully boasts of the salvation He brings to the human race.  For, not even an ocean of sin can extinguish the Love of God.

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Remember what the red and green symbolize when you look next time at a Christmas wreath.  There is joy because Our Savior has come to restore the human race; on the other hand, He restores it through His Sorrowful Passion.  Neither pain or sorrow is out of place in this holiday nor ought one to forget the Passion of Our Lord in this or any season.  So, one must rejoice in spite of suffering, since Christ has come to save poor sinners–us–and these very sufferings, especially when we strive to suffer with love, bring us closer to Christ.  This quote from G. K. Chesterton seems appropriate here: “He is a sane man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.”

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Legens, scribe sententias tuas.

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