A striking feature of the angel's greeting is that he does not address Mary with the usual Hebrew salutation shalom--peace be with you--but with the Greek greeting formula chaire, which we might well translate with the word "Hail," as in the Church's Marian prayer, pieced together from the words of the annunciation narrative (cf. Lk 1:28, 42). Yet at this point it is only right to draw out the true meaning of the word chaire: rejoice! This exclamation from the angel--we could say--marks the true beginning of the New Testament.I am reading this, extremely slowly, during Advent. This fell upon me this morning.
Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI),
Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives
It connected me immediately with something I'd read last night in Pope Francis's apostolic letter Evangelii Gaudium, which I am also reading extremely slowly.
There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.Was the Holy Father intending to riff on C.S. Lewis? I automatically thought:
When it's always winter but never Christmas.This famous quote from C.S. Lewis's classic The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe has been singing through my mind ever since. Singing because that line is used by Reliant K in an original song on their Christmas album, which is a favorite of mine.
It all meshed together this morning with thoughts of the Catholics Come Home campaign. Our parish is giving us fliers, handouts, and CDs every Advent Sunday to help invite people to return to church. Spreading the good news or evangelization is also the point of Pope Francis's letter.
We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?I always have trouble thinking of "evangelizing" in the standard understanding of the term. I know that "Christ died for you" meant absolutely nothing to me before I met Him personally. The "what if" scenario fills me with dread, "So you're in an elevator with one other person who notices you wearing a cross and asks why you are a Christian. You've got 2 minutes. What do you say?"
What do you say indeed?
Since my own conversion was largely internal and very private I really have a hard time knowing how one would "sum up." And yet, I'd hate to have that one shot and not be able to add my mite to what God is telling that person.
Musing on all the above, C.S. Lewis's own conversion came to mind. He was highly influenced by the stories of George MacDonald and G. K. Chesterton. Then there was an all night discussion about the meaning of Myth with J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson. Through and under it all wound the idea of myth, of story, of True Story.
It occurred to me that story is my answer, whether it makes sense to anyone else or not. It's as if your favorite story, the best story you ever read, the story you wanted to be a part of, came true.
All the hope, the meaning, the magic of living inside a story where the good guys win, where the ugly duckling turns into a swan, where our best hopes and dreams come alive ... it's true. It's real. Your life is full of meaning and love no matter what your circumstances or trials because even the best stories have times of great trial for the heroes.
And I rejoice.