Making Meaning of the Holy Days Therese Tappouni

We need cool heads, warm hearts and the guidance of our Holy Ones as we navigate the new world we now inhabit. This post takes into consideration the shift in the world and the upcoming Holy Days of major religions which are celebrated by millions. Each holiday celebrates the birth or anniversary of a beloved person or a passing year. Our heart quietly asks, beneath the hub-bub of sales pitches, to remember why we do this. In stark contrast to the constant “buy, buy, buy” emanating from our televisions, radios, internets and families, is the quiet story of a Jewish family journeying to Bethlehem to register with the tax man and birth a child. This event changed the world as it was perceived. The message of Peace on Earth and Good Will towards All has reverberated down the centuries, becoming a distorted message of “good will only to those who are like me.” The modern version of “What would Jesus say?” has to be hanging over our southern border in a cloud of tear gas. It’s time to find, as Abraham Lincoln reminded us after that awful war, “the better angels of our nature.”
Growing up Catholic gave me a strong and dedicated love of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her examples of loving strength infused my life so much that the nuns invited me for a weekend retreat at their Mother House, where I discovered I was more drawn to the mother/child/goddess relationship of Mary than the unmarried service example of the nuns. The Mass interested me less and the mysticism more. In creating a life that had Mary at the center, I became more and more aware of the tears in the fabric of humankind. (Tears can be read in both ways here.) Mary’s son’s message of total inclusion and his preaching about the preciousness of children had its origins in her gentle ways. This example, not the religion I was raised in, became my guiding light as I grew to adulthood. Every year, the symbols of the Christ Child give us another chance to discover our humanity.
Now, more than ever in our lifetime, we are seeing the fabric of our world come apart. The two or three despots involved in WWII created a human catastrophe we will never forget. We are now overwhelmed by the rising totalitarian rulers in the world—including here at home. Civility has collapsed around us, especially on the internet and television, but we can still see the beauty in humanity. Every year I donate to particular charities in my family’s names as their Christmas gift. The number of needs have multiplied around the world to the point that I cried as I made my choices, my finances being limited. So many people are doing so much to help as the darker side rises over the planet. Over this dark backdrop, the light shines more brightly. I am filled with gratitude at what some people call the small things. Daily interactions with family and friends are irreplaceable. For this light to happen, we have to be willing to accept each member of our circle as they are at the moment. That attitude carries over into outer ripples, like interactions with people at restaurants, grocery stores, doctor’s offices. It’s contagious. Our family lost our Michael, son and brother, at the age of eleven. As I age, more and more friends are on the other side of this life. I remind everyone that anything unsaid, any grudges held, cannot be resolved when someone leaves. It’s a good exercise to be aware, at least in prayer and meditation, that all of us are vulnerable. Being on the planet is a gift, not a guarantee.
On the other side of this light, the dark is powerful and seeks to suck us into negativity, fear and surrender. “It’s just too much! We need to stop looking at what’s happening.” That’s what the dark wants. It wants us to turn away from evidence of children separated from their parents, hate-filled lies and prejudice from our leaders, tear gas aimed at refugees from some of the worst poverty and violence in the world. It wants us to turn to shiny objects and away from hard truths. Mary, riding on a donkey, seeking shelter for the birth of her son, would not tolerate this willful ignorance, even in her own gentle way. She would ask us to look, look closely, feel something, as this is what makes us more than occupiers of space.
As we enter this time of celebrating the good, we are encouraged to find a way to note those who are striving to provide food, shelter, love and education to those who are unable to provide for themselves. In awareness of the homeless, those who are currently losing jobs, people who are mourning their losses alone, we create what is common to most of the animals on this planet. We are the species who sets ourselves above the animals, yet our behavior does not fulfill this plot. It is a time for major re-alignment of what’s important and what is not. Having the latest gadget or car cannot replace the beauty of love and caring, whether it is within or without your family of origin. It is who we are called to be. And, for what it’s worth, it feels wonderful!

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