“Seek and you shall find” this Christmas

This Christmas, we must enter into the spirituality of the wise men. We must engage the deepest desires of our hearts and have the courage to follow the inner ache until we kneel before the infant Christ. Listen to these words of Pope Benedict XVI:

“The key point is this: the wise men from the east are a new beginning. They represent the journeying of humanity toward Christ. They initiate a procession that continues throughout history. Not only do they represent the people who have found the way to Christ: they represent the inner aspiration of the human spirit, the dynamism of religions and human reason toward him (The Infancy Narrative, 97).

This led me to reflect on a powerful section from Christopher West’s Fill These Hearts, pages 56-58. Here it is:

Caryll Houselander, an English artist and mystical writer of the mid-twentieth century, wrote:

“If instead of using the expression ‘spiritual life’ we used ‘the seeking,’ we should set out from the beginning and go on to the end [of the journey] with a clearer idea of what our life with God will be on this earth; and we should be less vulnerable, that is to say, less easily shattered by disillusionment and discouragement” (Reed of God, 121).

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Seek and you shall find” (Mt 7:7).

This is the essence of the journey, the essence of the so-called spiritual life. It is a constant ongoing search, driven by a mad desire and an unquenchable thirst that haunts us and never quits. Christianity does not supply ready-made answers to life’s questions, and it certainly doesn’t erase the yearning we feel inside. Rather it awakens that yearning and increases it… unto folly, unto “madness”… unto infinity…

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Among all the great mystic saints, Saint Therese of Lisieux wrote of this folly with particular expressiveness: “Ah! my Jesus, pardon me if I am unreasonable in wishing to express my desires and longings which reach even unto infinity. Pardon me and heal my soul by giving her what she longs for so much!… Jesus, Jesus, if I wanted to write all my desires, I would have to borrow Your Book of Life.”

Therese was afraid of being “overwhelmed under the weight of [her] bold desires” which were “greater than the universe” and caused in her “the greatest martyrdom.” And yet she was convinced that God would not allow her to experience such bold desires “unless He wanted to grant them.” “I am certain, then, that You will grant my desires; I know, O my God! that the more You want to give, the more You make us desire.” With such confidence in desire’s satisfaction, “ardent thirst” itself, wrote St. Therese, becomes “the most delightful drink of His love.”

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And so “the seeking” itself, when we embark upon it wholeheartedly, offers a rich kind of satisfaction in this life. So long as we’re on earth, we live in the tension of what theologians call the “already – but not yet” of redemption. The living bread has already come down from heaven, and we already have access to it here and now through the life of prayer and the sacraments, especially Holy Communion. But the sacramental life is not yet life in its final form; it’s not yet the ultimate arrival. Christ “our Life” has already come to us, but he also tells us that it’s for our own good that he “goes away” (see John 16:7).

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“He goes away,” Houselander observes, “that we may seek him. The sense of loss, the awareness of insufficiency, makes us long for him as he is; it makes us willing to go out of ourselves and find him where he is.” That’s why it’s good for us that he “goes away.” The emptiness we feel, the gnawing void “must be there that he may fill it; and we must be aware of it,” says Houselander, “in order that we may want him to fill it.” That “wanting him to fill it” becomes our most ardent desire, our most ardent hope. And it is that living hope that enables us to bear with the torments of our yearning in this life.

Some Questions for Reflection:

What are you going to seek this Christmas season? Where are you going to take the mad desire and unquenchable thirst that haunts you and never quits? Reflect on the wise men seeking Christ. Enter into the desires of their hearts.

Do you want to embark wholeheartedly as “a seeker” this Christmas? Do you have the courage to seek Christ? How badly do you want Christ to fill the gnawing void you feel inside? 

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