ADVENT IV: The Great Mystery

In the fourth century, Christians were asked to mark December 17 as the beginning of a twenty-one-day period, ending at the Epiphany, in which they focused on the great mystery unfolding in the life of the church, the mystery of God incarnate in human flesh. They were asked to turn away from distraction, from either staying at home and losing themselves in domestic chores, or traveling and being continually stimulated by a change of scenery. Christians were to seek out the church as a place where they could gather as a community not merely to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but to allow the power of the Incarnation to pentrate their lives. How can we imagine such a thing? How can we make this season holy, when the world tells us that Christmas is over in just a day, and then we rush toward New Year’s Eve, and merchants begin putting out goods for Valentine’s Day? We might start, presently and simply, by picturing in our mind’s eye the great sign prophesied by Isaiah: “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”

By Kathleen Norris

Excerpted from God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, Edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete Press)

Madonna of the Book

The Madonna of the Book (c.1480) Sandro Botticelli

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