Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"There is something profoundly anti-Incarnational about it all"

"Incarnation is a process; it is actually a succession of processes — an ongoing pursuit of becoming. Incarnation involves intention and then consent, but not in isolation, and not just once; the consent happens again and again. It is a consent to be present; a consent to see, to hear, to listen, to respond, to love, to ache, to surrender in order to attain the fullness of that intention with which it all started."

"The narcissism on display in these “holiday greetings” suggests no intention to seek out a greatness beyond ourselves; it consents to only the barest engagement with an ever-diminishing sense of social obligation. As such, it is empty and void; the “nothing” that is only possible without God. For with God — the angels tell Mary — “nothing” is “impossible.”

The anchoress Elizabeth Scalia, posting for the National Review.


Lydia said...

Thanks for the link, Lem; I probably wouldn't have seen the piece otherwise. And it's lovely. Especially all the stuff about Duke Ellington, like this by his sideman Clark Terry:

“Duke wants life and music to always be a state of becoming. He doesn’t even like definitive song endings to a piece. He’d often ask us to come up with ideas for closings, but when we’d settled on one of them, he’d keep fooling with it. He always likes to make the end of a song sound as if it’s going somewhere.”

john said...

I was kinda pleased with my printed labels with a little embossed tree in the upper right corner.

It's a personal touch those on my Christmas list have come to expect from me.

edutcher said...

Nice piece and very true.

And, of course, very much in keeping with the idea that those who "care" don't in many cases.

Chip Ahoy said...

Stopped at the end of page one where I felt a pang a diminishing sense of seasonal obligation right at the critical point of clicking. I expect the article to go on to empty Facebook holiday birthday well wishes

Here's how to make a single-page non-popping card that you will not find in a store and that proves you are thinking fondly of someone. For Christmas: cut out three green isometric triangles. Glue them on a page overlapping halfway so that they form a pine tree, tadaa.....

Then reach into you heart and contact directly the chief things there regarding the person, some thing or things so real and so pure that their meaning cannot be missed, nothing elaborate, nothing intellectual, just pure and real. Like this:

[I think about you often and fondly about the things we did as children, fond memories all, and the impact they have on me today, please, don't be such a d-bag and make yourself available sometime. I meant to say just now that I love you.]

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed reading that.

deborah said...

Wonderful article, Lem.

Chip, while you exhibit exuberantly the spirit of Ellington in your everyday life, your Christmas card missive does not quite hit the mark. (Page two is as good as page one :)

Unknown said...

[I think about you often and fondly about the things we did as children, fond memories all, and the impact they have on me today, please, don't be such a d-bag and make yourself available sometime. I meant to say just now that I love you.]

I love that.

Valentine Smith said...

Kenosis from the Greek κένωσις, kénōsis meaning emptiness.

MamaM said...

Thanks, Lem. This one served as a Christmas candle in my window tonight. With ChipA's diverting card and message making me laugh and say yes.

Both added to my experience and appreciation of the levity (from Latin levitās lightness, from levis light) offered here.

Favorite line: Intention, consent, seeing, listening, being present, affirmation. It is an Incarnational way of living...

Michael Haz said...

The cards we are receiving at our house this year, though timely, have seemed relentlessly self-absorbed and unseasonal; the majority of them are not even cards, but photographs. They are pictures of families — or at least of the children, no matter how old — posing in bathing suits on a beach, or with a parrot on a cruise, and with nary a manger or an angel in sight.

Well, why would there be when, in fact, these messages are not really about Christmas at all. They’re about the selfie-ness of the senders, for whom even the recipient has become an irrelevant detail — an acquaintance confirmed via printed label stuck to the envelope. Not a pen is lifted, nor a name scrawled; not a warm sentiment is betrayed. The message is, in essence, “We had a nice vacation this year and liked this picture so here it is, and oh yeah, Happy Holidays.”

Perfect. We stopped sending out Christmas cards maybe ten years ago. At first we told ourselves that it was because we had run out of time.

But as years passed and we received more and more "letters" from people we had seen just recently describing in great detail the accomplishments of their kids, how their new homes look, travels they had taken, and so on, we grew do despise what we were sent.

Scalia's essay perfectly nails what we were feeling - that a brag letter written on holly-wreathed stationery - is as far from the spirit of Christmas as we are from the moon.

Thanks for posting this topic!

sakredkow said...

I really loved the last line (on page two) of the piece:

"So much depends on our ability to see beyond the distractions of a day, and our willingness to unplug, in order to hear the eternal note of invitation and consent to the process of becoming."

This is not only Christianity, it is spirituality. A practitioner of Zen could have wrote that. It's about increasing our awareness beyond our Self.

Unknown said...

I used to receive hand written letters from old friends and neighbors at Christmas time. Sure they were filled with proud braggings and tidings of kids, grandkids and joy. It didn't matter to me, I enjoyed reading the year's re-cap. Now, it really is just photos with "Merry Christmas & Happy New Year"-- & look at how much the kids have grown. The photos do feel perfunctory and obligatory. But the hand-written letters were something special. Few take the time to do it anymore.
I rarely ever wrote letters myself and I feel that letter writing is a lost art. At best we go to the greeting card store, stand there and read through as many cards as it takes to find the right one. I am personally allergic to this process. I get hives just thinking about. Selfish, I know.
(That's why I like Chips idea so much)

It would have been something special to receive a hand written Christmas letter from Duke Ellington in July. Not the celebrity of it - but the idea of the message and the thoughtfulness and love behind it.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I like sending and receiving Christmas letters, even if they are mass produced. I like seeing pictures of how the kids have grown, and I like to think that our friends and family aren't horrified and offended because we are so uncool as to assume that they might like to see how our kids have grown. It would really hurt my feelings to find out that my relatives, with whom I have made the effort to stay in touch, reacted in such a cold, dismissive manner to my Christmas greetings.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I mean geez--yeah I would like to send handwritten letters to my family but I have a job and a house to clean and four kids so I'm very fucking sorry if my Christmas cards are so worthless and inadequate.

That doesn't seem like a very Christmas attitude to take.

Lydia said...

I don't think Scalia's objecting to letters and photos per se, so much as she's begging for even just a little bit of Christ to enter the picture on Christmas. Like adding something onto the "me and mine" -- the way Ellington aimed to "make the end of a song sound as if it’s going somewhere.”

Unknown said...

When I say we - I mean we as in lots of people. My intension this year was to be a good daughter and buy thoughtful inspired cards from the Hallmark store. I walked into the shop and it was mobbed and a long line at the single cash register. Hallmark does good business. I left. There had to be another way.
RE: the sending of boxed cards: I used to do it. I stopped. Though I admit I like to receive them. Funny thing is, when you stop sending,,, they stop coming.
In any case, I can say mass card mailings are a chore and without the intentionality behind it, why bother? It seems long forgotten by many the real reason we are celebrating the holy day of Christ's birth.