Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

Christmas Rest

Mother and sleeping child IMG_3327
When was the last time you took a rest?  A real rest?

Most of us have trouble even knowing what true rest is.  Yet, we yearn for it.  When speaking to the crowds, Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  But what does that mean?  What does rest look like?  In the Passion of the Infant Christ, Caryll Houselander gives this description of rest:

Rest is not idleness; indeed, restlessness is the torment of idle people.  It is not relaxation.  Relaxation should never be necessary, because the nervous tension which makes it so should never be present.

Rest, far from being relaxation, is a culmination, a fullness of gathered peace, like the fullness and stillness of waters gathered to a flood tide.

Think of a child asleep in his mother’s arms; the abandon with which he gives himself to sleep can only be because he has complete trust in the arms that hold him.  He is not lying asleep on that heart because he is worn out with anxiety.  He is asleep there because it is a delight to him to be asleep there.  The mother rests too.  She rests in his rest.  Her mind and her body rest in him.  His head fits into the crook of her curved arm.  Their warmth is mingled like the warmth of two softly burning flames.  She rocks to and fro, and her rocking is unconsciously timed by his breathing.  Rest is a communion of love between them.  It is a culmination of content.  On the child’s part, utter trust in his mother; on the mother’s part, sheer joy in the power of her love sustain his life.

Such as this was the rest of God in the beginning of time…  His rest was the Infinite Peace of Infinite Love.

This is the rest to which Jesus invites us, and which God eagerly wants to give us.  How do we obtain this rest?  We trust.  We surrender to God.  Caryll Houselander continues: “Our rest in a world that is full of unrest is Christ’s trust in His Father; our peace in a world without peace is our surrender, complete as the surrender of the sleeping child to its mother, of the Christ in us, to God who is both Father and Mother.”

Such surrender scares us at times.  What if I miss something?  What if things aren’t done “just so”?  What if God expects something of me that’s just too much for me?  What if He asks me to do only little things?  Yet, God does not demand of us through His power (though He could).  With the exercise of power, fear tends to dominate the relationship.  Instead, God invites, He woos.  He wants to win our hearts with love…He comes to us as a frail, helpless infant.

Few can hold an infant, feel the grasp of a tiny hand around a finger and not melt with love.  You would do anything for that child – and they depend on you for their continued existence.  Soon, your schedule, your work, your décor, your hobbies, your spending habits, what you say, what you do, your entire life is turned upside down and affected by this little person.  And you make the sacrifices, sometimes painful, but you do it, from love.  That is how our Savior comes to us, and that is how his life begins in each baptized person.  His life in us begins as a simply infant life – a small, miraculously helpless life entrusted to each of us to foster, so that it may grow.

Looking at the world today, it is not easy to believe that everywhere Christ is born again, that God looks down on the wreckage and misery – the fiasco, if you like – that we have made of the world, and seeing us in the midst of it says “This is my well beloved Son!”
But this is so, and however difficult or however insignificant our life may seem to be, it is precious to God as Christ is precious to God.  On each one in whom Christ lives, the whole of the infinite love of God is concentrated at every moment.

– Caryll Houselander

Do you believe that about yourself?  That you are infinitely loved by God?  That the perfect Son of God, Jesus, wants to live His life in you?  That the divine Trinity comes to live in each person at baptism and eagerly wants you to live, and rest, in their communion?

To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom…  Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us.  Christmas is the mystery of this “marvelous exchange”:  O marvelous exchange!  Man’s Creator has become man, born of the Virgin.  We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.”

– Catechism of the Catholic Church, 526

The Christmas season is the Church’s invitation to consider these first beginnings of life.  How has Jesus’ arrival this Christmas changed you?  Have you made more room in your heart and life to welcome Him?  What changes can you make in your life and family to more faithfully nurture the life of Christ within so that you may enjoy His rest?

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation