Sunday, December 18, 2005

Mythical Christmas and Mystical Christmas


The fundamentalist right seems to be much inclined to worry whether people greet each other with "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holiday." This argument has nothing to do with authentic Christmas values and much to do with tribal symbols, affiliation, and cultural dominance. Whose flag is the dominant one, whose group is the greater and in charge? These are their anxieties. At such a time the cultural and political forces waging this war are very much concerned with giving more of the nation's resources to the already affluent while the minimum safety net of food, health care, and shelter is cut even more. A sad, sad, path to take, and one which will bear bitter fruit for years to come.

I long ago signed off the cultural Christmas we now have in this land, of consumption, buying, selling, and the overall escalation of expectations and stress in people's lives. No presents, no cards, no tree, no decorations. I do have a small Christmas altar as part of a larger altar. That suits me fine.

As I puzzle over this I wonder how what is essentially a pre-Christian Northern European pagan festival came to be a celebration of the birth of Christ, particularly when we consider that the birth of Yeshua, the Christ is thought to have happened in April. I'm all for celebrations of lights in the middle of dark winter, but let's not make it more than it is. Let's search deeper.

The story is a good one, the Revelation of Divine Light, the King come to heal the land. That's one that many, if not all cultures, can understand. A child born in poverty, who will challenge empires, principalities, powers, and the priorities of societies like the present American one. But what does this story have to do with here and now, this moment and the next? The story is the mythical dimension of religion, but without something more, it's just a story, a beautiful one perhaps, but it's not my story, or the story of the Universe.

The icon of Christ Pantocrator is the compelling one for us. Christ who is at the Center of the Cosmos and the Center of our own Hearts. The Mystical dimension is the doorway in, what gives life and purpose to the myth. (Myth here does not mean "untrue") The Mystical dimension is the unitive spiritual dimension. Mystical Christmas is a celebration of a spiritual truth that happens to all of us as either actualized or unrealized potential. The Light of Christ can be born, can be revealed in each of us, can come forth if we allow, if we surrender to the longing for this birthing to happen in each of us, whether we be Christian or not. The One Life, that Christians know as the Trinity, the "I AM" Source of all existence, known by countless other names in other traditions, wants to be manifest and lived, consciously and intentionally in our own life.

Hence the goal of the spiritual life, the goal of religious practice, is not to simply venerate the historical events of Yeshua of Nazareth, or proclaim our tribal and group affiliation with this historic personage. The purpose of our life is bring forth, to actualize the same Light that Christians know as Christ in the life and humanity that is the human vessel of our own brief life on this earth. In this way the liturgical celebration of Advent and Christmas carries therefore deep significance. The historical event and the mystical process are joined in us and in the moment to moment choice we make to be present and open in presence and adoration to Divine Light and to offer the gift of our human self, our human will and faculties to this same Light and Love who wishes to be born and live fully in us. The goal of the Christian journey is not primarily to venerate the historical Jesus but to birth and live the mystical Christ-Christosis.

Christmas Peace and Blessings to All,
Bill Ryan