The Gift of Wonder

2006af4448_bourdichon_nativitySeven days ago in the first of the O Antiphons we prayed, “O Wisdom, Who didst come out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come and teach us the way of prudence.”  Now, as He promised, the Eternal Word, present with God the Father before time began, will come to us.  For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne… (Wis 18:14-15)

He Who orders the stars and planets is about to do something very out-of-order, or so it seems, by showing us the countenance of God in the fragile face of a Newborn Infant, Who is at the same time both God and Man. But even this is fully within His plan, something He planned before all ages, something He revealed to the angels (some of whom balked at this condescension of love and rebelled against their Creator).

The order God stamped on all creation is a constant source of wonder for us, especially when we see it up close.  The tiny Baby lying in the manger is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Author of Creation.  This is something we can hardly begin to comprehend in this life, and which we won’t fully grasp until we enjoy the beatific vision.  But even so, it inspires wonder in our souls, and the reality of His love – that He would take on human flesh and be born in time of a Virgin to die for our sins and rise again by His own power – imbues every created thing with wonder.

Sometimes it’s hard not to feel sad at Christmas over our own brokenness and the brokenness of our world: shattered families, mistakes, heartbreaks, loneliness, the many disappointments and failures that seem to weigh heavier upon us during these days, and the ugliness brought to the world by the enemies of Christ, those who want to blast his Image out of society and the created world.  The Christ Child brings us many gifts by His birth; one is that we can unite our sorrows and sufferings to His for the salvation of our own souls and the souls of others.  But another gift He brings which we should embrace at this time is the gift of wonder, that His Incarnation and Birth have turned all of creation into a marvelous present, on which every thing bears His stamp, which reads “I Love You.”
By taking on our fallen humanity God has turned an unredeemed world into a beautiful landscape of color and vitality and hope; He has woven eternity into a finite world; He has turned creation into a great big kaleidoscope.

rose-window-north-chartres

North Rose Window at Chartres Cathedral with the Virgin and Child in Glory at the center.

When you look through the lens of a kaleidoscope, you see a riot of color, fantastic shapes tumbling like jesters, but at the very heart of that window you see one dot that doesn’t change, doesn’t move, it’s fixed. The tiny infant of Bethlehem is that dot, unmoved and unchanging, eternal. The dizzying whirl of color that spins around Him like a Catherine Wheel is His creation. The objects in a kaleidoscope are always the simplest of things – beads, pebbles, little bits of colored glass. You turn them round and round and they never fall in the same pattern, although the objects themselves are always the same, trapped between two pieces of glass, every image is unique and unrepeatable. It is the simplest things, when we see them in the right perspective, radiating out from their true center, Who is Christ, it is the simplest things that give us joy. When we see the world through the kaleidoscope of the Incarnation, every thing is astonishing, everything is a new and wondrous pattern, though the things that form these patterns are simple, never-changing, even dull if not seen through the proper lens.

God’s perfection and beauty is reflected just as fully in the drops of rain on a cobweb as it is in the Hubble images from deep space.  And in the micro-worlds which the human eye cannot see, His order and wisdom are ever-present there, too.  Take a look at this image comparing the shapes of Medieval rose windows to cross-sections of human DNA. The resemblance is breathtaking.

Of the many gifts the Infant Jesus brings to us this Christmas, let us hold on to the gift of wonder, which will keep our hearts fresh and joyful, despite the stale air of sin and despair which wants to overtake our well-placed and rightful joy at the Birth of Our Savior.  And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God.   And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.  And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me: Write, for these words are most faithful and true.    – Rev. 21:3-5

These words Our Lord utters at the end of time, from the Book of Revelation, are also words that He uttered at His Incarnation, at His Nativity, at his Crucifixion, and at every moment in between – God is at all times making a new creation out of the old, and we receive that gift of newness and life as often as we choose to open our hearts, to repent, to put Christ at the center of our lives and hearts and make of our own souls a beautiful kaleidoscope reflecting the wonder and joy of the Incarnation.

 

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