Every year in December, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in downtown Indianapolis has the Christkindl Village. There are games for kids, vendors, and of course German food and beer. The beer is provided by a local brewery around the corner and has the parishioners of St. John name their winter ale. This year it is St. John the Evangelager.
Last night while enjoying food and beer with friends at the Christkindl Village, we had an interruption, a divine interruption. We heard caroling which was the sign that the Eucharistic procession had come to us. It really was an interruption. One moment you’re talking about Star Wars and the next you’re on your knees, adoring our Lord, and joining in the caroling. There is no transition; it is immediate; it is an interruption. It was interesting to see the sudden change among everyone there. Some went to their knees and some stood. There were many who remained sitting – these being non-Catholics who had no idea what was going on. Whether you knew what was happening or not, there was a common reaction: silence. Conversation ceased, phones were not a distraction. For all who were there – Catholics and non-Catholics alike – the space and time had changed. Hearts were quieted. When it was over and we had returned to the ordinary, conversation and life ensued but not quite the same as before.
While Jesus Christ has won the victory, we are still the pilgrim Church on earth. Peace and joy are mixed with sorrow and grief – Blessed are those who mourn! The coming of our Lord in the Eucharist and the peace that followed lifted my heart, yet it also brought my mind to a fresh awareness of the poverty in which we now find ourselves. The Church, in the United States at least, has become whitewashed. (Church Life Journal has a great article on this issue and its remedy in the season of Advent). In truth, we Catholics no longer see the divine; we simply see the world at work in its natural processes. We have desacramentalized the world and given ourselves to a secular materialist worldview. When natural disasters strike, rains do not come, or the fruit of our works, whatever that work may be, do not yield any sort of abundance, we attribute it to mere natural processes and say that life sucks and that life is hard. Hardship, work, obstacles, and disasters have been bled of meaning. And with these blessing, abundance, and leisure have as well. If God is not in the one, He is not in the other. The divine interruption of a Eucharistic procession reminds us that God is present in natural interruptions. The Lord God of hosts is not a clockmaker who simply walks away leaving his work to do as it does. No! He is the divine Lover who bounds from heaven to earth. He does this in His Incarnation, His theophonies, His revelation in the Apostles, prophets, and writings, and He does this in nature. That natural things work by natural processes does not change one iota that God is in them and can direct them as He wills when He wills. As the prophet Haggai says to the Jews returned from their Exile:
So much attempted, so little attained; store you brought into your houses withered at my breath; would you know the reason for it? Says the Lord of hosts. Because to your own houses you run helter-skelter, and my temple in ruins! That is why the skies are forbidden to rain on you, earth to afford its bounty; ban of barrenness lies on plain and hill, wheat and wine and oil and all the earth yields, man and beast and all they toil to win. (Hag 1:9-11)
“Helter-skelter” – is this not our lives? Do we not run helter-skelter with all our various duties, work, obligations, making sure that all our things are in order? Today we are worse than what Haggai speaks of; not only is the Lord’s house in ruins, but our own houses are too for we are too busy trying to put the cries of modern life and work in order. May not our “earthly undertakings hinder us”. (See my previous post).
In answer to that prayer the high school student (not to speak of the high school teacher!) receives a snow day. A divine interruption, to stop, to be still and know that He is God. A day to reorient ourselves, to not be hindered by our earthly undertakings, but to enjoy true leisure and meet our Lord at His coming. But the demon of secular materialism rears its ugly damnable head. In a desacramentalized world we do not see the snow day as a divine interruption. It is viewed as an obstacle of nature to meeting the state mandated required number of days of instruction. That “lost” day, that interruption of work will need to be made up. Now we have a new freedom – a freedom to work! – thanks to technology which eliminates pesky divine interruptions of snow days. Now there are e-learning days on which teachers can post assignments online, students can still have their hours of work, and another mandated day of instruction can be checked off the list. Such a concept is deeply anti-Catholic and completely contrary to a sacramental understanding of the world. In this Advent season let us remember that more often than not it is in the ordinary, the natural, and the mundane through which we are given a divine interruption, not in the extraordinary and miraculous. Let us embrace God in what He gives us, and in a sacramental view of the world see and act upon all things as signs of Him, the divine Lover bounding to us from heaven.