Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gifts Divine and Human

These are busy weeks for us here at the monastery. We are packing and shipping out our Christmas Season orders. Most are food items – fruit cakes, different flavors of fudge and jellies and delicious coffee from our monastery in Venezuela. There are other items, too, like our books and other religious items from our Abbey Store. We are managing to ship hundreds of orders per day. There are many more orders than we anticipated, and that is good. We do all the shipping out of our large bonsai pottery barn and by now, after several years of learning the ropes, it is a smoother operation. We have a lot of fun down there – the spirit of the season easily finds its way into our work areas as well as all the other areas of our lives.
Orders come in from all over the country. The order form leaves ample room for those who wish to send good tidings to friends, family and loved ones. It is nice feeling to know that we are doing something to add some joy and gratitude to the lives of so many people.
Day before yesterday, I was double checking an order to make sure the items were correct, as well as the sender and recipient’s information. The name and address of the recipient caught my eye. Tow boxes of fudge were being sent to a Veterans Hospital in the Washington, DC area. I immediately recognized the name of the facility – it is a large hospital complex where men and women are sent who have been wounded in wars, and most recently the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. There was a card, addressed to the staff who would accept and give the gift to a patient. The words read, “Many thanks for your sacrifice and service to our country….no reply necessary.”
I stared at the two boxes of fudge and wondered who it is who would receive them in a few days. Someone, I thought, whose life may well be forever changed because of a terrible wound, either mental or physical, or both. A man or woman who gave their all, and who hopefully will recover and move on to a normal life. A life, I would bet, of more sacrifice freely given for loved ones, for a cause, for a country.
The box is now on its way north.
I do not know if the person who opens it will need help to do so. His or her hands may be damaged, or gone. And it is possible that he or she will need help with what can no longer be seen, but only spoken about. But there are those who care for our wounded, those whose hands will touch with love, whose eyes will see for another, whose voice will guide those who need reassurance, a sense of hope, a sense of belonging again in a world that may have seemed to have betrayed them with violence.
It is Advent, a time of waiting, awaiting the surprise that will be God among us. We do not know the full implications of that. We can only hold each other in prayers, and in love, and, for our men and women in the military, a deep sense of gratitude. We are here because they are there, in places far away from home.
But someone will receive a small package in the mail, perhaps today or tomorrow. It was sent with a lot of love. Love that can travel miles and somehow carries the deepest gifts of the heart. Kind of like God, who came from afar and gave us the gift of himself, a gift that we spread this time of the year, a gift that may have to be opened with the help of others. But that is the mystery of it all, is it not? We await the coming of God, only to discover that he must be given away, again and again. It is as wondrous as a sensitive touch, a caring smile, the holding of a hand, the opening of a package for one who no longer can. The meaning of Christmas, from a God who asks that we love as the one reply to this gift of life.

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