Christ is born today! (Christmas hymn)
Christmas raises the question, “How do we bring Christ to birth within us each day? Someone has said, probably rightly so, that self-hatred lurks behind all our efforts at reforming our lives and that we tend to harp on the things we find most difficult to achieve. Is the struggle to attain money, beauty, freedom, peace or whatever it might be, constantly on our minds? Christmas can turn our thoughts to our own most difficult struggle; for example, the struggle to attain conscious awareness each day.
Most of us, even if we did not attend a parochial school, remember memorizing the ten commandments and the six precepts of the Church. Unfortunately, sometimes our religious training hindered, rather than helped, us to become religious people. Our conscience, viewed as an intellectual assent to some external laws, was indoctrinated in a way that subverted our growth in consciousness, making us act like robots. Experience proves that religion is evil insofar as it tries to make us good instead of letting us be ourselves and allowing the good within us to flow out naturally.
Many years ago, I tried to demonstrate to a particularly bright group of high school juniors, that each of the ten commandments was already firmly written in our hearts before being spelled out as law. The idea caught. Conscience experienced as an inner voice can make external law seem either extraneous or burdensome. Unless interested and skilled in “getting around it,” we find external law has a finality about it; it admits of no exception. Internal law, on the other hand, entices us to use our imaginations for improving our observance; it makes us more finely tuned to the voice of God within so that Christ can more easily come to birth in us.
Jesus, help us to think “out of the box,” so you can more easily come to birth in us!
—Sister Mary E. Penrose
Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending
The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.