Monday, December 28, 2009
The Faith of the Little Things
Although Christmas has been largely (no pun intended) about surviving sleepless nights and bronchial lungs this year, I was blessed with a few moments to read the central chapters of GK Chesterton's Everlasting Man. Ostensibly, I was preparing to lead a seminar on the Roman Empire. God had additional ends in mind.
Here is Chesterton on what Christmas meant to that ancient and founding world:
"It might be suggested, in a somewhat violent image, that nothing had happened in that fold or crack in the great gray hills [of Bethlehem] except that the whole universe had been turned inside out. I mean that all the eyes of wonder and worship which had been turned outwards to the largest thing were now. turned inward to the smallest. The very image will suggest all that multitudinous marvel of converging eyes that makes so much of the colored Catholic imagery like a peacock's tail., But it is true in a sense that God who bad been only a circumference was seen as a centre; and a centre is infinitely small. It is true that the spiritual spiral henceforward works inwards instead of outwards, and in that sense is centripetal and not centrifugal. The faith becomes, in more ways than one, a religion of little things."
Hans Urs von Balthasar mentioned last week that a world that forgets the incarnation will be a world without women and children (not literally, of course, but rather a world that refuses value to the womanly and childlike things). This is close to what Chesterton claims for Christianity: the faith is a faith of the "little things"--infants, manure (human and animal), night-time feedings, a mother's wordless adoration and service, a father's irreplaceable protection of the helpless.
It was a great comfort to be reminded in all the illness and frustration: our God is a God who was little. Mary wasn't sleeping much during the Christmas octave either--she was attending to the little things, the everlasting things.