Thursday, December 1, 2016


   The coming of Christmas brings with it the perennial tension between what is secular and what is sacred.  In our malls, on TV and in our towns we struggle with the clashes:  Advent vs. the Christmas Season; prayer and reflection vs. frenzied shopping;  Jesus vs. Santa Claus; "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays;" a Nativity Scene in front of City Hall, etc.

   Of course, we should not overdo our Christmas preparations, to the point of overshadowing the peace, generosity, joy and love that mark the sacred meaning of the holiday.

   My point is that our secular Christmas preparations, reflectively carried out, are sacred.  The entire secular world is sacred.  It is a common mistake for us to believe that the secular is the opposite of the sacred, and therefore, not sacred.  This mistake is strengthened by the false spirituality of believing that in order to be holy, we have to avoid this world and think and do only heavenly things.  In truth, every good thing that we do here on earth is a heavenly thing.

   Secular means pertaining to space/time, i.e., to the created world we live in.  It means the opposite of the infinite/eternal.  It does not mean the opposite of the sacred.  Space/time, the secular, is God's creation and therefore is essentially good and holy:  sacred.  As we see in the Creation story of Genesis, "And God saw that it was good."  

   God is present within the entire secular world, and so all peoples, families, education, business, economics, politics, science, art, etc., are sacred.

   By its nature, space/time is limited.  So while sacred, it is imperfect.  As part of imperfect space/time, we humans can misuse and even pervert our humanity and fall into cheating, lying, murder, etc.  God calls and empowers us to use our sacred humanity to work to make our world more luminously good in the loving and saving grace of Christ.

   The true opposite of the secular, then, is not the sacred but the profane, the sinful.  Getting back to the Christmas season, we can profane this sacred time by over-emphasizing the buying of things to the detriment of enhancing the sacredness of our lives and the lives of our family, friends--and especially in these times--of our non-Christian friends and neighbors.    

   And stupidly, we can also get involved in profane silliness by trivializing our "devotion" to the sacred by declaring that there is a "War on Christmas!" being waged by people who say, "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."  

   Certainly, the Christmas season must be lived within a spiritually mature, prayerful reflection of Advent, as we once again anticipate celebrating the birth of Jesus, who by coming to Earth and personally sharing in our space/time, secular humanity, showed beyond all doubt that the secular is sacred.   



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