One of my Brothers told me the other day about seeing Julia Child weeping. She was with the French chef Jacques Pepin on her TV show and they had made a nectarine tart. When it was finished, they sat down to eat. Julia wept. That something so good, so beautiful, so wonderful, so delicious should exist in this life moved her to tears.
I once had a piano student, a seven year old girl, very gifted. One day she played a Bach Minuet for her lesson—a simple, but lovely piece that piano students play in their second or third year. She played with confidence and exquisite sensitivity. And as she did, a big tear rolled down her cheek, which I pretended not to notice. But I knew what was happening: she was in that moment awakening to the possibility of beauty. Awakening to the beauty and goodness that are actual possibilities in this life. And she was making it happen—with her own hands!
We have all had moments of awakening–awakening to goodness and beauty, to grace and truth. To light and life and love. It can happen in so many ways. On this New Year’s Eve we might reminisce on those moments of awakening. What have those moments been for you?
Maybe it was seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. Or seeing the night sky for the thousandth time, but really seeing it for the first time. Or holding a new-born baby. Or reading about some extraordinary act of kindness. Or encountering a great work of art unexpectedly. I remember the time I stumbled across the Winged Victory in the Louvre—it nearly knocked me down. The magnificent outstretched wings. The billowing folds of windblown drapery caught in ancient Greek marble. To know that such beauty is possible in this life can be breathtaking.
Life and its possibilities is a wonder. That anything should exist at all is a wonder. And that what does exist exists, an even greater wonder. And that such goodness and beauty and light can come into the world through human endeavor, a still greater wonder. (Have you ever heard Joan Sutherland sing “Casta diva” from “Norma”?) Light can shine in the darkness, grace and truth can come into the world.
I once saw a grown man cry while reciting verses from Longfellow’s “Hiawatha”, weeping at the sheer beauty of it. Or perhaps you were lucky enough to see Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev dance in Romeo and Juliet. (I’ve only seen this miracle on film.) Or perhaps you’ve seen the Taj Mahal through morning mist.
Life, light, grace and truth. Goodness and beauty. These are attributes of our humanity.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.….What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”
Life and light. God is light and life. God is light and life and love. And this love speaks the cosmos into existence. Our own existence and the order of the cosmos are sustained by the Logos, the Word of God. The Word which is both with God and is God. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory…From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace…Grace and truth came [into the world] through Jesus Christ.”
That was then. Now we are the continuation of Word made flesh, grafted into Christ’s body—we are the continuity of light and life; you and I are the continuity of Christ’s grace and truth in this world (in all our frailty; with all our faults and sinfulness).
Human flesh and the work of human hands is now the means by which light and life come into the world, how grace and truth come into this world. Now we embody the love and compassion of God. Now we embody the grace and truth of Christ.
In any given moment, is there anything else we need to do? Even in the most ordinary circumstances, is there anything else we need to do? Even at the check out counter, even in traffic, even with mop in hand, is there anything else that is truly necessary? Even in these little moments we can embody Christ’s life, Christ’s light, Christ’s love, Christ’s grace, Christ’s truth.
It doesn’t have to be a Bellini aria, but it could be. It doesn’t have to be a nectarine tart, but it could be. It doesn’t have to be the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but it could be. It might also be acts of kindness, acts of charity, acts of heroism. Mother Teresa I don’t believe could have sung “Casta diva” like Joan Sutherland or done pirouettes like Margot Fonteyn. She probably didn’t make many nectarine tarts either. Her particular art was of a different sort. Her embodiment of grace and truth were of another order. Her incarnation of the light and life of Christ were something else. She worked in a different medium among the poorest of the poor. She brought this particular art to perfection.
What’s ours? What is our particular medium? How shall we embody the light and life of Christ? How shall we incarnate the Love, grace and truth of Christ in a dark and violent world? How shall we embody Christ in our own particular way in the year 2007? A question for rumination on this New Year’s Eve.
Julia Child did a lot of television shows and wrote a number of books. At first glance it all seems to be about cooking (pots and pans and knives and rubber spatulas and wonderful things from oven and stove). At first it seems to be about cooking and nectarine tarts, but the more you look…
A very happy and blessed New Year to all. May we know grace and truth in the year 2007—and may we make him known. “Bon appetit”
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