Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas 2007

[The final parts of "Nonne: Are Feminists Asking the Wrong Questions" will be posted in the New Year.]

My dear Friends,

"When all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her swift course, thine almighty Word leapt down out of thy royal throne. Alleluia." (Wisdom 18:15)

This antiphon on the Magnificat, used for centuries for the Second Vespers of Christmas, has an important message for a Christianity that has lost its way, and is tearing itself, and the world, apart.

The Incarnation is not a single event in history but continuous. It effects the resurrection of the mind through the body in the silence of the heart where our attention is taken up in the mystery of transfiguration even as we live our ordinary lives. As recent scientific studies have confirmed, silence is essential to the balance of our minds, to the learning and integration processes of our lives.

Stop for a moment and think of how many ways silence is emphasized in the writings, carols and atmosphere that surround Christmas, a silence that tends to get lost in our celebrations. Santa comes when everyone is asleep; Christmas cards show silent, snowy landscapes; "How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given," we sing.

Yet Advent these days seems to lead not to the silence of the heart, the kingdom of God that is within us, but rather to a kingdom of noise. If Christianity is not to die, if we are to realize our full humanity, we need recover the balance of silence in our lives, particularly as we try to understand what has gone wrong with our religion.

The following sermon is a partial précis of my recent work here in Oxford. It began as research in art history; it has developed into something far wider ranging. May it bring you light at this season, and also my love and my prayer.



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