i find it interesting that at this time of the year, I have no problem referring to myself as a christian. Usually, I think of myself as a humanist or a unitarian. As a humanist and a unitarian, I behave as if I am the center of both my intellectual and my spiritual life. Higher powers, and mysticism have little influence on me any more, although, I was brought up as a devout catholic and no doubt that has had a tremendous impact on my anti-authoritarian stance in both politics and religion.
I think of Emerson first when I try to wrestle with my beliefs or lack of them. His paper delivered to the Divinity School at Harvard in which he proclaims the right and ability of every man and woman to find and establish his or her own relationship with a god, and further more to establishes our relationship with nature as perhaps the closest thing we have to godliness on earth, is the first piece of literature to draw my interest in a direction more solitary that the direction provided by the nuns of the Presentation of Mary.
I was new to the world at the age of 20 in 1965 & my customs and values exploded as rapidly and as furiously as my sexuality, both of which had been so radically repressed that when they were set free they catapulted from me as if i was a medieval instrument of war attacking a Lord’s castle.
In a very real way it was My Lord’s castle that I was hurling bombs at. Loaded with questions these cast iron balls of arrogance would sail through the air and land amidst a cluster of family and friends who were shocked at the manner in which i had turned my back against everything that i previously knew. The world could have been turned inside out for all I knew.
For as long as I could remember I thought that “Christ” was Jesus’s last name. It appears that anything that came from a Greek or Hebrew heritage was not going to get properly explained by 1950 catholicism. So here I am half a century later telling my readers that finally I understand that Christ means the anointed one. This is a revelation that is fun to have on this uniquely christian holiday.
I love to love christmas. I really like the production of decorating, the labor of love that goes into food making and of course the carols that I have been singing for the last sixty years are a blessing in themselves. How can an event that comes around every year, one so powerful that it requires me to bring an eight foot pine tree into my home, how can such a perpetual event cause anything but nostalgia?
As a secular humanist, christmas is as delightful as chocolate after lent, or perhaps a blackened steak to a somewhat reluctant vegetarian. It is simply a treat. I was talking with a Jewish friend today and I told her that a piece of my deep faith was paralyzed after the Vatican II convocation. At that gathering of Cardinals and Popes, they dismantles the Latin requirement for Christian Mass and it was absolutely devastating when,
P: In nomine Patris, + et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
Introibo ad altare Dei. R: Ad deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.
meant, in english…now i am walking up to the altar.
I am sorry, guys, in your burgundy and scarlet gowns, you may have meant well–but you just took all the magic & mystery out of the mass.
So, at this time of the year, when it is still possible to find a high solemn mass, complete with hymns sung in Latin and incense sanctifying the chapel; i just love to put aside my secular humanism and dust off my deeply sacred memories of being a catholic boy passionately in love with his suffering Christ.
Merry Christmas, glad tidings to all, and on this midnight clear may you enjoy the holy spirit in all its universal splendor & may each moment be connected to a strand of a million lights warming you through the coldest darkest days of the year.