Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Fount of True Fellowship

With the 'holiday season' fast upon us, there will be much talk about what we celebrate. In spite of the general commercialization and secularization of our holidays, there is still a strong desire for the more meaningful things in life.

You will often hear people say that Christmas is about family, a time to be with those you love. This is true so far as it goes, but I would like to propose something a little different. You see, I think our notion of fellowship is deeply impoverished. The typical approach is to bring everyone together, pull ourselves up by our moral bootstraps and have quality 'family time.' Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. (Have you ever wondered why the bickering family at holidays is such a common image in films and other media?) Even at its best, this model can only do so much.

While living at the Quincy House, I saw very clearly that there is another form of holiday fellowship. Triduum and the Easter Octave were a marathon of liturgies and celebrations, leaving participants joyfully exhausted at the end of it all. Dear friends and good food and drink abounded, and ringing in our ears was John Chrysostom's declaration, "You, O death, are annihilated!" The greeting of choice, repeated time and again, was "Christ is risen!" To which the reply could be heard with gusto, "Indeed! He is risen!" This, I would suggest, was the true fount of our overflowing fellowship. We stood before the mystery and glory of the Resurrection and received a grace which we could not but share.

At the end of a nail-biting championship sporting event, you will often see fans of the winning side embracing one another, sometimes embracing total strangers around them. (I have been the recipient of the same sort of behavior when delivering the official word that school is closed for a snow day.) Why? Because their joy overflows and must necessarily be shared. If this is the instinctive response to winning a game (or getting a single day off from school), what must be the response to Christ conquering sin and death, or the Word being made flesh and dwelling among us?

So this Christmas, I would encourage you to keep that in mind. I am not suggesting that you call off your family dinner or forgo time with friends. But try spending a little more time in the overwhelming light of the mystery, and let your fellowship flow from that shared experience. It might just change your life.
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