Gaudium et Luctus

The "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" is universally known by its first words in Latin: "Gaudium et Spes." But the Constitution immediately goes on to add two other nouns: "luctus et angor" -- "grief and anxiety."Michael Gerson, in the Washington Post, devoted his column to the "Joy and Grief" many are experiencing in this Christmas season. He writes, I think, wisely and compassionately. Here is part of his reflection:

Instead of setting out a philosophy to interpret the human drama, God joined it. He became God with us a God with a face. In the process, he both shared and dignified ordinary human life, with all its delight, boredom and suffering. The Christmas story revels in this blasphemous elevation of the ordinary a birth in second-rate accommodations under a cloud of illegitimacy.The story is also shadowed by sorrow. In one of the odder moments of the narrative, a random stranger at the Jerusalem Temple predicts a mothers grief. A sword, Simeon tells Mary, shall pierce through your own soul also. As it did. As it has for many mothers and fathers who have followed.The point of Christmas is not a sentimental optimism about the human condition or even a teaching about the will of God. It is an assertion that God came to our rescue, and holds our hand, and becomes, at the worst moments, our brokenhearted brother. It is preposterous, unless it is true. And then it would be everything.

The rest is here.

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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