Monthly Archives: December 2014


It’s all the rage, now, this year-in-review thing. The highlights of the highlights: the socially presentable tip of the iceberg that is me. The moments are delightful, of course, and worth remembering, but at the same time it seems an odd way to recount to oneself one’s own existence; even a dangerous way, if it is the case that the way we review reflects the way we view. How are we to remember our own history? And how do we see our now? This social topo map can remark on certain peaks and valleys (but not the texture, not the smell of the terrain or how it felt under your boots): and it has erased the broad plains and the places attained only in solitude.

As though the highlights and broadcastable doldrums were really the stuff of our days.

After all, when I look at my own little facebook-provided history, it is not my year. It has nothing to say about the residual excitement of finding a front parking spot open on a whole week of mornings, or the way the moon looks in the December sky as I’m stumbling through the front doors to work. It doesn’t have much to say about the daily trudges (now swimming together in my own mind, trudges of seeing or fretting or mulling or merely forgetting) through a wintering park speckled with Canadian geese and dog-walkers and children. Somehow it leaves out the way that the coffee smell mysteriously seeps from the break room into the outside hallway, and the way my sixth graders dart back into line when they see me coming, and the fact that we roar with laughter at lunch over things we’ve forgotten about by dinner. Invisible is the seven-thousandth edition of yogurt and frozen berries, consumed at work before a glowing computer screen. It doesn’t mention how many times I’ve paused in the faculty bathroom (the one deep in the building that smells like mown grass on yardwork days) to pray that Christ would hide me in His heart of patience and grace and charity, His heart of things I do not have.

It passes right over the long and hungry hours I have spent in fluorescent rooms talking to surly boys and weeping, hormonal girls, and entering disciplinary paperwork, and emailing parents, and teaching classes, and sitting in detention, and having meetings, and teaching more classes, and poking fun at my colleagues, and putting off class prep because I’m too busy arguing about virtue or the Incarnation or the nature of God, and wondering if anything will ever be good enough, and trying to get children to see for one instant beyond themselves. It is silent, necessarily, on all the little emergencies I deal with every day which seem so small, seem almost petty from the perspective of this big outside world, but which are not small to them: because this little cosmos is their world, and a harsh word or a cold shoulder hurts them so deeply that sometimes I feel it in my stomach too. It has nothing to say about the tears or the gratitude in eyes whose names I can’t reveal.

It says so little about the failures which aren’t worth recounting, about the loneliness which cannot be recounted, about the friendships sustained by things forgotten; about the hunger and the satisfaction of merely being.

Maybe these things were worthy, too. Maybe every moment is somehow gathered into the skein of things that matter, of things that shall not be forgotten. Maybe ours is not a facebook world.

Maybe every second, every swift and numbered second when only we are living and no one is watching–is full of remarkable grace.

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deus nobiscum

nativity 4

Christmas Eve: the Church all glorious in her apparel, already rejoicing; the light; the relief of here and now and God come to us.

It strikes me especially, this year, the force of the fact that He comes to us where we are. And suddenly the stable is so beautiful a thing, because we aren’t many of us in palaces–no, for the most part we’re out there in the dark, somewhere between the sheep and the donkey, our hearts breaking and so little to make sense of who we are, or why. We’re most of us in that stable; strangers on the road; wanderers in the lonely hills. And that is where He comes to us. Oh, blessed be He.

And the sense, too (beautiful) that we are all on a plane facing Him and He speaks to each of us and there is not a single way we can judge each other in that. Every one of us, the liar and the thief and the slanderer and the adulterer and the murderer, assenters to evil in our hearts and minds and hands, on our knees before Him who comes to us–where we are, where we are. The God in the stable made bread for us. Our Brother come for us, the Healer of us all.


We could almost have guessed, by being thus,
how He would come. Eyes hungry for morning
taught us of light; tongues, of running water.
Winter reminded us that He must come
as fire; famine, of bread and wine.

We forgot, for a while, that we
were also bodies. (Who could have guessed
that flesh could be a prayer?)

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