Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Inconvenient Christ

My mother was the editor of our local Catholic newspaper for most of her working life. Every Christmas, she used to do a photo essay which was carried one picture per page right through the whole paper. Every year she outdid herself in the theme and the quotes (and I am pretty sure that's where my passion for the Karuna Vihar calendar got its start), but one year's effort was so remarkable I still know it by heart.

It was called "The Inconvenient Christ" and she wrote it herself.

It began:

This Christmas, let us consider
the Inconvenient Christ
who comes when He is least wanted
in our inns
and in our hearts.

The photo with that one was a window with a big "NO VACANCY" sign.

The essay went on to illustrate all the ways Christ manifests Himself in our lives "He's in the boring elderly who talk too much" (that was a photo of my grandfather, long since dead when it was printed, so not offended) "and the rebellious teens who won't talk at all."

The last picture of all was a photo of me, dressed as Mary, holding my then baby sister in my arms.

The caption read:

This baby Jesus is manageable enough
when He sleeps in Mary's arms,
but once you start to love:
Beware of Him,
Beware of Him:
He will awaken.

Puppies are not babies and grownup dogs are not "the boring elderly who talk too much" but as I consider the pup I so carelessly let into our lives last week and the whole family she has brought along with her, I can't help but be reminded of the dangers of love. It is almost never on our terms. You think you have contained the extent you are willing to go, but almost always, once you open the door or your heart, you find yourself being stretched far beyond what you thought you were capable of.

The other night I went to check on Glenties. There was her mother, gobbling all the food in the dish and there was her brother, beneath the mum, frantically suckling. (Dad was lounging in a chair on our verandah, smoking a pipe.) Glenties, of course, had been totally sidelined.

We don't get to choose. Once you say yes to anything in this life, everything and everyone else floods in behind it.


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