WAVES – Fr Tim’s Midnight Christmas Message

DSCN0587               CHRISTMAS DOESN’T HAPPEN in a vacuum. It is a cosmic event that explodes through all time and space and whatever lies beyond them, but even on the surface level of religion, it is the resolution of four weeks of Advent – the waiting – an intense month of prayer, fasting and spiritual practice. During this Advent, my prayer time included running on the beaches, sometimes with Emilia, usually with Libby, our dog, sometimes alone. Always, I found a place near the sea to settle and contemplate the waves and the sky, and God and Christ, Mary and Jesus, Joseph and the Baptist, the prophets, the Celtic church, to just be with all this mystery and truth, one with All that Is.

But such being is difficult to bring back to you now in words. Christopher Paolini – “The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.”

This is why poets and artists do what they do. Vernon Watkins, who so often contemplated the Gower coasts in his time, wrote, “I have been taught the script of stones, I know the tongue of the wave…” His poetry is wonderful but I have no doubt Vernon would admit that, though he had for sure learned to understand the script and the tongue through contemplation, he could still not speak them plainly, however great his art. This is why myth is so much more powerful than reportage when it comes to speaking truth. Our Celtic ancestors and the ancient Hebrews understood very well that fact and truth are not the same – there is fact that is not truth and there is truth which is not strictly fact. Knowledge for the ancients was not about recounting or regurgitating facts but rather about the apprehension of truth through wisdom, perception and metaphor – feeling it – mystics know this when they tell us to drop from the mind to the heart in contemplation. The Gospel writers knew it too.

Advent contemplations: Waves – divine flow – you are like a wave – egged on and empowered by the waves that have been pulled back from the shore to return to the Big Sea. A wave is wave but it is not separate from the sea; it is a wave and it is the sea. And when it ceases to be a wave it is still the sea.

Our Christmas tradition, together with the witness of the Apostles, the full weight of the Celtic, Roman and Post-Reformation churches, the spirituality of the saints, all our ancestral history and aspirations are all in this Big Sea, all of it lifting and compelling the waves toward the shore. We are each of us a wave on the Sea of unearned Grace. All the saints in that sea, who have been the waves in their time, have returned to their place in the Sea body, in cosmic union with the One Love, Christ Consciousness…God. These saints would have no interest in being singled out for the greatness of their witness or teaching. They would be totally bemused by the idea that they might be venerated by the church. Each one of us is saint, called and loved unconditionally by Love. Love that imagined all Creation into being. Love that brings us into the world. Love whom we return to when we pray, when we contemplate Scripture or beauty or nature, when we simply stop and notice that there is so much more than the purely material or mundane, when we gaze at the sea and somehow feel deep inside that we are…home. Love to whom we will return when our wave finally crashes or ripples on the shore at the end of our earthly life. Love does not discriminate but is complete and absolute. Love knows no differentiation or delineation. Love is not interested in Christian or Muslim, even Atheist or Theist. All that is real is One Reality. Each wave is temporarily a wave but always it belongs to and exists in the One Sea.

Uncertainty and fear have been 2016s biggest themes in global consciousness, at least the consciousness promoted by media and governments – a year of Brexit, Donald Trump, the rise of Far-Right rhetoric and associated political charismatics in Europe and America, civil unrest and protest in response to these, bombs and killings on the streets of France, Belgium and now in a Berlin Christmas market too. Aleppo has been like a microcosmic concentration of all this fear and violence…”a synonym for hell”, in the words of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Nobody knows where the world is heading in 2017 but one thing seems obvious – the lines of national/political definition are being drawn thick as thick…walls and borders, restriction of movement, ethnicity surveys, cameras everywhere, tighter controls…

But the message of Christmas is clear and it is a message of great hope. Whoever we are, wherever we are, from whatever tribe, country, religion or race, however high we think we’ve climbed or to whatever depth we have fallen, God is with us…Immanuel. Closer than breath. And it’s not about an authoritarian Judge watching our every move. It’s not even about a mighty Messiah who is going to kill all our enemies and stick our righteous bottoms or the chosen bottoms of any chosen race or caste on the Cosmic thrones of Divine Rule. It is about a refugee baby, born in the desperate holy night of human condition, in the sweat and the turmoil of political and social oppression, to a poor Palestinian girl, herself still a child, and a confused wood-worker who followed a mystical dream, though he knew the baby was not even his. It is a message of triumphant Love, the love of the Creator for his or/and her created, the Love from which All That Is emanates and returns, One Love…One God… It is about what is left when all is taken away, the One Is… You see, words… are never enough… so back to the sea…

Van Morrison – “Hark, now hear the sailors cry / smell the sea, and feel the sky / let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic”. 

“Hail the Prince of Peace…Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Fishes and tales and a fisherman’s daughter
Walks in the rain, she walks to the water
To the sea… (Lanois)

~ by Fr Tim Ardouin on December 30, 2016.

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