Friday, December 26, 2008

Angels Heard On High, And Low, And Everywhere In Between

The following link is to an English translation of the Pope's homily at midnight Mass. In it he speaks to some of the prayers I mentioned I had for this Christmas:

" In every child we see something of the Child of Bethlehem. Every child asks for our love. This night, then, let us think especially of those children who are denied the love of their parents. Let us think of those street children who do not have the blessing of a family home, of those children who are brutally exploited as soldiers and made instruments of violence, instead of messengers of reconciliation and peace. Let us think of those children who are victims of the industry of pornography and every other appalling form of abuse, and thus are traumatized in the depths of their soul." (Apparently even the Pope and I share connections.)

As I previously mentioned, I also prayed for the world's women. Specifically, that those who birth and nurture our children might also find some relief from the same dynamics which oppress children. This dynamic, which puts some ideas and people above other ideas and people, is not in the Christmas story.

In that light of hierarchical dominance, there were other things in his homily which gave me pause to think. I wondered what kind of God Benedict envisioned when he prayed. Does he really think of God like he says here:

"The Creator of the universe, the one who guides all things, is very far from us: or so he seems at the beginning. But then comes the surprising realization: The One who has no equal, who “is seated on high”, looks down upon us. He stoops down. He sees us, and he sees me. God’s looking down is much more than simply seeing from above. God’s looking is active. The fact that he sees me, that he looks at me, transforms me and the world around me.

Does Benedict really believe God is up there somewhere, 'seated on high' looking down on us? Completely separate and so not us, that we are threatened by Him? He quotes a Church Father about this:

"The medieval theologian William of Saint Thierry once said that God – from the time of Adam – saw that his grandeur provoked resistance in man, that we felt limited in our own being and threatened in our freedom. Therefore God chose a new way. He became a child. He made himself dependent and weak, in need of our love. Now – this God who has become a child says to us – you can no longer fear me, you can only love me."

It's an interesting take on the Nativity. Not one I necessarily agree with given Jesus's teachings as an adult. I'm more inclined to see the Nativity as God reminding humanity of it's true origins. We are, in these human forms, every bit as much a part of the totality of God as we ever were or will be. We are not 'less than' because we are in a material manifestation. We just get lost and forgetful. Christmas reminds us of our true state, one with the angels, beings of light and love.

Speaking of angels, Benedict had some interesting words about them as well, also from the fathers of the Church.

"The Fathers of the Church offer a remarkable commentary on the song that the angels sang to greet the Redeemer. Until that moment – the Fathers say – the angels had known God in the grandeur of the universe, in the reason and the beauty of the cosmos that come from him and are a reflection of him. They had heard, so to speak, creation’s silent song of praise and had transformed it into celestial music. But now something new had happened, something that astounded them.

The One of whom the universe speaks, the God who sustains all things and bears them in his hands – he himself had entered into human history, he had become someone who acts and suffers within history. From the joyful amazement that this unimaginable event called forth, from God’s new and further way of making himself known – say the Fathers – a new song was born, one verse of which the Christmas Gospel has preserved for us: “Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace to his people on earth”.

I like to think that the angels also sang because God was telling humanity that His grandeur and beauty resided in humanity every bit as much as it does in angels and the created cosmos. The problem humanity has is that in incarnating we lose this knowledge, our sense of wholeness and our sense of connection. The child in the manger was another of God's gifts about the truth of our humanity. God is in us as He always has been and will be. Our flesh is an illusion of separation, as it too, is an aspect of, and therefor in, God.

So maybe the angels rejoiced because of God's willingness to help us with our sense of separation, as that sense of separation impacts them as well as us. We are all connected and they know it far more intimately than we do. The child in the manager was a gift to them as well. They are, after all, part of our family and like concerned loving family members, angels want us to remember and live the God with in. That's their task. To help us remember, and in that remembering, bring peace, love, and joy to our aspect of God's creation. In other words to bring in the fullness of God's kingdom on Earth.

To me the Nativity is not just about the birth of Jesus, it's secondarily about the love and concern for humanity that is core to the angelic race. Just like God, they are not 'up there' and 'out there', they are here, in their legions. They see with crystal clear eyes, those who can accept Jesus's message about the true nature of humanity, and those who can't, but they seek to enlighten all of humanity.

And so angels addressed the shepherds, in a clearly visual and auditory way, and with their two fold message. The first was about the birth of Jesus, and the second about the reality of the angelic concern and love for humanity. These messages seem to say it is not the Holy God who has forgotten humanity, it is humanity that has forgotten our own being in that Holiness. It isn't angels who have forgotten humanity , it is that humanity has forgotten that we are not alone in the universe. There are many sentient beings who share our life in the Creator. Angels are foremost amongst those races whose love inspires them to help us remember our fullest and truest nature. We are all one in being with the Creator.

Angels are all over the nativity story. They come to the mother of John the Baptist, they come to Mary, they come to Joseph, they come to shepherds. They continue to stay involved in the life of Jesus. They are visible signs of the importance of his life, his teachings, and finally his resurrection. Make no mistake, the Nativity leads directly to the Resurrection when Jesus manifests God's ultimate design for conscious material reality. It's why the angels never leave Jesus, because Jesus becomes True man, fully one in being with the Creator.

In his new material reality Jesus even sounds like angels. "Be not afraid." he says, whenever he manifests amongst his disciples. This Divine connection we share with each other, with Jesus, with the angelic realm is a gift we can receive when ever we understand the gift being offered. We need not be afraid for lumps of coal. These are gifts of knowledge about a shared Being. The messages are endless, all around us, but like Benedict speaks to in this homily, it takes being watchful and open to the notion.

We don't have to earn these gifts. We have them already. The trick is believing we do, and acting on those beliefs. When enough of us do, we will have peace, love and joy, and the mountain of misery and domination will move. All we have to do is trust enough to recognize and unwrap the gifts. To "be not afraid".


  1. The Pope makes reference here to children over and over, but Jesus is no longer that child in the stable. Jesus is found is the drunkard like in Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes' article on ncrcafe. Jesus is found in Fr. Roy Bourgeois, in womenpriests, in gays, in divorced and remarried people, but the Pope is looking elsewhere, just as the Pharisees were looking elsewhere, to some God who was distant, whom they did not know.

    I have some books around here I am going to reacquaint myself with again. Where Angels Walk by Joan Webster Anderson, 1992, and Life after Life by Raymond A Moody Jr., MD.

    The Pope seems to focus too much on medieval writers or of Church fathers who seemed to be very limited and distant in their understanding of God. To fear God is not a bad thing, it is the beginning of wisdom. But to fear Him so much that one is desensitized to His being in us is to deny Him.

    God does not need us. He has no needs. It is His love for us which is the cause for Him Coming in Jesus. He came because we need Him. Jesus is the manifestation of God's love for us. In relationship with Him we are never equal to Him but we share the fruits of His love in that relationship.

    word is bobema - novena to the angels of the Lord.

  2. As I read thte commentary, it occurred to me that as we evolve into a greater awareness of our true nature, we perceive less and less need for a human intercessor between us and God. In fact,as we evolve spiritually, we realize that intercessors are in actuality barriers that keep us seperated from our true selves and our true nature, barriers that keep us seperate from a deep rich intimate understanding of our oneness.

    Benedict is locked into his role as intermediary and his pontifications have the subtle design of attempting to put us back in our place (his idea of our place) rather than to assist us in taking that next step.

    His exposition tells a great deal about how he views the laity. Rather than acknowledging and encouraging our spiritual evolution, he instead chooses to analogize the laity with children, implying that we are too ignorant to understand the real truth of our nature.

    For this very reason, as we move forward with spiritual evolution, we find that we do not need organized religion. Organized religion is structured to keep us ignorant. Structured to lock us into legalism. Structured to keep those in "authority" in authority. Structured to keep us dependant. That was one of the issues that the Jewish Magisterial Authorities had with Jesus: he was independant of their authority. Does that sound familiar?

    Organized religion serves a purpose, but as we evolve spiritually we find ourselves with less and less need for legalism, less and less need for rules and laws, less and less need for an intecessor, less and less need for all of the things that keep the catholic heirarchy in power.

    What we find is a growing restlessness within us. A yearning for something more. A desire to be more fully expressed, our true expression. The catholic church never has, and in its current form never will be able to fullfil that yearning.

    What I have to wonder is how many of the "disaffected" in all religions are "disaffected" for the core reason that they have evolved to a point where religion in its current form no longer serves their highest good? I suspect it is a large percentage.

  3. These are great commentaries. I don't know how I missed them.

    Great line butterfly:

    To fear God is not a bad thing, it is the beginning of wisdom. But to fear Him so much that one is desensitized to His being in us is to deny Him.

    Carl, I think you hit the nail on the head with this one:

    What I have to wonder is how many of the "disaffected" in all religions are "disaffected" for the core reason that they have evolved to a point where religion in its current form no longer serves their highest good? I suspect it is a large percentage.

    It's probably why one priest made the observation that while Jesus taught adults and blessed children, our institutional churches teach kids and bless adults.