Friday, November 20, 2009


This year has flown by so fast. I realize that I am using a well worn cliché, but I cannot help but look back and wonder where the year went. Here at the monastery we are already preparing for the busy year’s end. Orders will soon be coming in for our Abbey Store items. A team of monks has been busy making enough fruit cakes, fudge and other food items to ship out during the Christmas Season. Soon, much of Conyers will follow the pattern of much of the world as lights are strung across streets and on the limbs of trees, Christmas lights that can easily lift the mood of many a traveler. The stores will soon be stocked with all kinds of gifts that can be bought, wrapped and given away to loved ones. And the Post Office will swell with tens of thousands of cards and letters, missives that express a hope for a good and holy season.
Thanksgiving is just days away. In some ways, it is a day that heralds the onset of the Christmas Season and I want to suggest a way to blend the two feasts together.
Not long ago I read a quote from Joyce Carol Oates. She mentioned how little she feels she has accomplished when she looks back on her life. Ms. Oates has written an incredibly large number of novels, essays, book reviews and critical commentaries. In terms of the written word, there are very few genres that have eluded her grasp. She has a gift for verbal amplitude and the quality of her output is as good as it is massive.
I read “We Were the Mulvaneys,” a novel she published not too long ago and loved it. The story is powerful and it still resonates within me. I suppose in a significant way, Ms. Oates’s words have become a part of me. I learned something from them, from her. And I learned good things about life, love, suffering and redemption. I am surely not alone in what I took in from Ms. Oates’s labors. Her words have found a home in the hearts of millions. Yet, she probably cannot grasp the import of her words. I do not think any author is capable of that, of measuring how far and deep their words have traveled and taken root. But take root they do.
We will soon celebrate the mystery of God’s Word being born among us. It is far off – there is much to do between now and Christmas. But the Word to be born is speaking now and we can hear and share in that language. It is the language of love, the words that speak compassion, hope, forgiveness, kindness, beauty. God speaks through us. He is born every day through us. We probably do not think of that, when we speak words from the depths of our hearts and hopes. But so much is accomplished through what we say and how we say it, on the most ordinary of our days. Life is a harvest of words, words spoken, words that take root in the rich soil of the fields of life.
Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for the gift of language, the gift of speaking. It is a time to look back and ponder the mystery of all that we have said, and how all of it accomplishes something through the power that is God through language. Words bring society, friendship, culture and hope into being. Words are among the most important living stones in the building of God’s Kingdom among us.
The meaning of Christmas has much to do with the gift of the Word. A Word is spoken to us and lives among us and within us. We can draw the feast near, as near as this day, through a careful and tender use of words. It is a gift for which we should be grateful, for God is born again and again through our finding him through the language of love.

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