By Amy Carr
After my parents headed back to Upper Michigan two days after Christmas, I sat down and wrote my two page, double-sided annual holiday letter. To actually get all the letters in the mail takes many days of going back and forth between writing a note in a card to a particular person, then doing some other small activity that the rest of my life demands, too.
But I often notice something as I am going about the days of card writing. It is kind of like the feeling that I have after a work-out: a sense of radiant well-being, as if this is something a human being should be doing.
With writing holiday cards and an annual letter, though, there is another dimension involved as well. In the spaces between writing each note, even to someone I do not hear from often, I find my awareness dwelling upon the person to whom I just wrote, with a joyous recognition.
Writing of many kinds has always been a form of prayer for me, but the epistolary form is a decidedly intercessory and communion-of-the-saints sort of prayer. It connects one person’s spirit to another – perhaps not wholly unlike the way that Rey and Kylo Ren could be connected across the galaxy in The Last Jedi (for those who have seen the most recent Star Wars film), if not always with such epic dramatic significance.
Holiday card sharing is also one expression of our celebration of the incarnation. In Advent we anticipate the future coming of Christ; at Christmas we recall Christ’s first coming, and open to his presence in a new way in our lives this year. And this mix of anticipation and remembrance spills over into joy about the consummation of God’s love for us – in the vulnerable beauty of a baby who is destined for a cross that catches up every other terror and injustice, until the ultimate fulfillment of the messianic promise when the age to come breaks into the present.
Certainly, our holiday season renewal with particular beloved friends and family members, near and far, is more diffuse than the story of a child, a cross, an ever-near future feast. But the gifts of our presence to one another (as well as our presents), including our presence across a distance by way of holiday cards and letters – this is part of the spirit of Christmas’ celebration of the incarnation past, present, and future.
The body of Christ is spread over time and space, in our own gathered-together lives, as well as in that particular baby in a manger. Let us thank that consummate letter writer, Paul, for taking time to “remember to write” and share his thoughts with us – especially his perceptive thoughts about the church as the living body of Christ, united with Jesus in the Spirit!
Is there another sort of prayer you find in your own life in the Christmas season – some form of prayer that is more common at this time of year than at others?
Amy, I agree with the feeling of “Being with” the person I wrote to. Even imagining their joy when they receive it and what their response might be. Thanks for your precious message. A Blessed 2018!
Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB
Thank you, Sister Catherine! And blessings to you for 2018 as well!
Amy, I have always so appreciated your holy-day letters over the years. I love reading the joy and connection and Presence this brings you. (And all of us.)
Thanks Amy for your nourishing prose. I feel like answering your final question: Is there another sort of prayer you find in your own life in the Christmas season – some form of prayer that is more common at this time of year than at others?
It works out for our family that our children and grand children in the US can come celebrate around New Years. When the grandchildren were all young, we only spent time coloring and decorating the new numbers that name the coming year. But, this year, the communion time of coloring was also filled with talking about all that can happen in 2018 and what our hearts really longed for. I was surprised that one grand child passionately desired for everyone’s garden and farm to be filled with good food. Another wanted to be in a play again to make the audience happy. Most of us ended up drawing or writing about the new baby coming in April. This tradition has become a sacred time for all 3 generations to share our deep desires for all that is good, joyous and beautiful.
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What a beautiful tradition!