Posts

The Nativity in Our Lives – Joy

Fr. John Codis
December 16, 2012

Book Reference
Lifesigns
Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective
By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Opening thoughts and basis for discussion

“I have told you this, so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

“Ecstasy for all Christians is a struggle to move from the house of fear to the house of love.” Pg. 71

Joy is the reward of an intimate and fruitful life in the house of God. Ecstasy is this realization and experience of joy and is not for the mystics but for all believers. Joy is a deeper, more intimate, more “normal” condition than sadness and pain, and therefore harder to articulate. It is for some reason, much more difficult to express joy than sadness.

Humanity has experienced the ultimate joy, that is the incarnation of the Word, God manifested in the flesh, born as none other than a baby. The nativity impacts us when we allow that joy of the birth of Christ to enter into ourselves and make it manifest in our daily lives.

Fear Makes ecstasy, a real experience of joy, impossible

Fear keeps us clinging to the familiar place, or, in the case of acute anxiety, makes us dissipate ourselves aimlessly. When we are stricken with fear we often exude two reactions – routine and rootlessness.

Routine is developed by all people to some degree. Many of them are helpful ways of ordering our lives and communicating with others. However, it is when routine behavior begins to dominate our daily lives, and suggestions of change call forth violent resistance, “fear has begun to position the roots of our existence.” Pg. 76

With an experience of rootlessness and lack of direction we become fearful and often delve into those routines that are familiar to us.

The stronger our fear is the more rigid our routines become. When our environment causes us great anxiety we often cling to familiar ways of thinking and acting.

True joy comes from the house of Love – Chris’s own joy-filled presence

True joy cannot be found in the house of fear where routine and rootlessness dwell. We make attempts to produce joy: happy hours, receptions, and surprise parties. These “productions” are only attempts to alter the present for a moment of artificial bliss.

True joy is the joy Christ offers when he enters into the world. It is the joy he offers his disciples that being his own joy-filled presence, which flows from his intimate communion with the One who sent him.

“Community is the place where God completes our lives with his joy.” Pg. 90 Every word Jesus spoke was spoken to share his joy with us and thus make our joy complete. Please see John 15:11.

Conclusion

We must continue to move towards a shared life and disregard the static living because it separates us and turns us into isolated individuals fighting for our own individual survival.

The nativity, the incarnation of the Prince of Peace, is not only in our lives once a year as media and society makes us think, it is in our lives every day through every word and encounter. We are so caught up in our consume-or-be-consumed society of self-indulgence of the Christmas gifts we give and are given. Why don’t we become consumed with joy? We don’t need to continue our routine lives to feel safe and protected. We need to live our lives in the expectation and fullness of the Joy of Christ, who has promised what no one can ever promise…His Joy.

The Nativity in Our Lives – Fecundity

Joseph Olas
December 19, 2012

Book Reference
Lifesigns
Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective
By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Opening thoughts and basis for discussion

Have you ever felt worthless? What helped you to overcome this feeling?

Fecundity and Fear

Identify some of the forces in our world that lead to feeling useless and sterile. How do these forces relate to fear?

What is the difference between productivity and fecundity? How does an overemphasis on productivity diminish the spiritual dimension of life?

Do you tend to emphasize doing over being? Recall a time in you life when you simply allowed yourself to be.

Fecundity and Love

Why is vulnerability necessary to a fruitful life? How does the life of Jesus manifest this vulnerability?

Do you consider yourself a grateful person? When do you find it difficult to be grateful and what can you do to regain a sense of gratitude?

How does care differ from control? What enables people to be caring instead of controlling?

Fecundity and Mission

In what ways is mission more than merely improving the physical lives of the poor?

Conclusion

How can you find new life in the concept of fecundity as Henri has evoked it?

The Nativity in Our Lives – Intimacy with God and Others

Fr. Christopher
December 2, 2012

Book Reference
Lifesigns
Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective
By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Opening thoughts and basis for discussion

We need new eyes to see and new ears to hear the truth of our unity, a unity which cannot be perceived by our broken, sinful, anxious hearts.

Negative power of fear and the liberating power of love

Which questions guide your life? Which do we make our own?

Once fearful survival questions become the guiding question of our lives we tend to dismiss words spoken from the house of love as unrealities.

“Perfect love casts out all fear” says St. John in the first letter.

There is no reason to fear anymore. “It is I; do not be afraid.” (John 6:21)

The house of love is not simply a place in the afterlife.

1. Jesus spoke of Himself as the vine and a disciple as the branches- John 15:4

2. Invitation to intimacy- a call to productivity- John 15:5

3. Have joy in your life and you may be complete- John 15:11

Intimacy

When you contemplate the word home what do you think of? “Make your home in me as I make in you”

A sense of belonging, cared for, protected and loved.

Christian faith calls us to experience life “as going home, and death as “coming home at last”.

Fear and Intimacy

Fear makes us move away from each other at a safe distance. Fear does not create a home.

Intimacy and Love

If fear is the great enemy of intimacy, love is its true friend.

Intimacy is not a happy medium. It is a way of being in which the tension between distance and closeness is dissolved and a new horizon appears. Intimacy is beyond fear.

Prayer leads us to intimacy with love with God. In and through God we can be fulfilled to each other: in friendship, marriage and community.

Intimacy and Solidarity- Nativity

“The Word was made flesh and pitched his tent among us. (John 1:14)

The mystery of the incarnation reveals to us the spiritual dimension of human solidarity. All of humanity is taken up into God through the incarnation of the Word.

Christians are called to bear witnesses to the truth that God has gathered all people into one family.

In God’s House we are consecrated to the truth.