“In my deepest wounds, I saw your glory and it dazzled me.”- Saint Augustine.
Most people assume they will automatically feel cheerful during Christmas. Not only does the Church celebrate the birth of our Saviour with joy, secular society also promotes the idea that everybody is happy during this season, bombarding us with images in the media of lighthearted people giving gifts and enjoying each other’s company. In fact, there is so much pressure on people to be in good spirits during Christmas, many sink even deeper into depression when they are unable to force themselves to even crack a smile. Often, I also feel depleted and empty during the days leading up to Christmas, dismayed my emotions do not line up with my beliefs and certain there is something wrong with my spiritual life. The more I try with my own willpower to get in the Christmas spirit, the worse I feel. I am not alone. Many of us notice our wounds during this joyful season
God is God and I Am Not
You would think by now I would have learnt to simply wait for God to fill me with His joy in His own good time. For decades, the Holy Spirit has delighted in showing me who is really in charge of my emotions. For example, one year a friend dropped by on Boxing Day to give me a tall stack of hand-knitted dishcloths. Unexpected joy bubbled up instantly when I received this simple gift from a friend who was in pain herself. Foolishly, I had tried unsuccessfully to manufacture a good mood for days. It was only when Christ took my eyes off myself as I gratefully received a sign of love from my friend that God could fill my spirit with His joy. As Father Henri Nouwen explains, “real care means the willingness to help each other in making our brokenness into the gateway to joy.”
Walking With Wounds
Logically, I am often legitimately exhausted by Christmas morning but my own wounds seem even more apparent not only because I am tired but because I pray. Christ’s light reveals more darkness within us as we learn to live more fully in His Presence. It is true that people are only aware of their own inner darkness when it is contrasted and revealed by the Light of God. It is important, then, to really experience and taste the reality of our own inner darkness.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who lived in a land of gloom
a light has shone. Isaiah 9:1
As Jesus said in the Gospels, only the sick need a doctor, only those who realize they are in the dark seek the Light of Salvation. The Pharisees thought they were fine, perfect, holy even, and so they did not need or even want a saviour. Instead, they hated Christ.
Only those who realize they are in prison and that they have deep wounds will be healed and freed by Christ. “O Key of David, open the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom; come and free the prisoners of darkness!” Over and over again, I am reminded how to accept my brokenness rather than fight it with my own strength and willpower. Only then can I discover the glory of Christ’s power in me.
2546 “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”338 The Beatitudes reveal an order of happiness and grace, of beauty and peace. Jesus celebrates the joy of the poor, to whom the Kingdom already belongs:339
When we touch our wounds, accept our spiritual poverty and stand in prayer, vulnerable but waiting expectantly, then we have the capacity to receive from God.