Wednesday, December 29, 2010

At Christmas with an eye toward Easter

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a baby, born, as everybody, do die. But, differently from everybody else, with him going toward death was thoroughly a gift of love.

Some time ago, in a class where I was teaching, I asked this question: is it possible to love without dying? Useless to say that my students were rather baffled. Why, if I die, how can I ever love? was the question stamped in all their eyes, that someone also tried to voice.

No, I stated, it's not possible. And I so explained myself:

Let's think about it, what do we really know about death? Or, for that matter, about birth. Should I say nothing? We actually don't remember our birth, so we have no direct experience and knowledge of what it is to be born. On the other side, we can't in any way imagine our death. However hard we try, "I" am always there imagining someone like "me" dead.

This disqualifies all those who think themselves rational by stating that after death there isn't anything. How do they know? I ask. But this is not the point I wanted to make.

The point is that death is like what mathematicians call an unknown. And though, we know that death is there in our future. This means that death is the future as unknown.

Ok, that is the point of your observation about birth and death. So what?

Think about it: any time we meet somebody new, we actually don't know what there is in store for us. How much more when we enter into a love relationship, dealing with persons in whom we came to see our good, with the hope that the same would be with them toward us. We can't know it, if we don't declare ourselves, but we can't be sure of what the answer would be. We have to face the unknown. Our life is at stake, and we might be afraid.

Now, back to that baby who was born to make of his life a gift of love. The witness of the Church, in an uninterrupted tradition of love, is that because of it the life he gave was not hold from him, but he received it back in its fullness.

With the Christmas celebrations, therefore, already eyeing toward Easter, we are told: don't be afraid to love. Life is stronger than death.


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