I WAS ADORED ONCE TOO
Andrew Neaum (25.12.09)
The saddest line in all of English literature, is the wistful comment of the buffoonish Andrew Aguecheek in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “I was adored once too....”
It speaks, you see of love’s transience, love’s impermanence, love’s fragility, love’s inevitable end. Of being abandoned by our beloved, either by being supplanted by someone else, or bereaved by death, and so left unloved, with only the bitter-sweet remembrance of love to grieve us or console us. “I was adored once too.....”
In the Christmas story the saddest line would have to be, surely; A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
It speaks you see of the vulnerability of children, and of the fragility and impotence of mother love, in the face of human hatred, violence, fear and pride; of the millions of innocent little ones who have died and still die in terrorism, war, pograms, death camps, infanticide..... Rachel weeping for her children; refusing to be consoled, because they are no more.’
The most significant line in the Christmas story is Mary’s acceptance of personal disaster: ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’
In a lovely story, that shimmers with wonder, with divine reality illuminating and transfiguring ordinary reality, with accounts of heavenly dreams, of angels, wise men, guiding stars, celestial singing, of ancient prophecies being fulfilled. We hear of Mary, faced with personal disaster, an unwanted, unlooked for, undeserved pregnancy, praying, not for yet another sign or wonder, not, that is, to be spared her personal disaster, but rather praying her acceptance of it. Saying “Yes!” to it. Praying not “take this cup away from me Lord”, but “here am I.... let it be with me according to your word.
It is the most significant line in the whole Christmas story. Possibly the most significant line in the whole Gospel. Because not only did Jesus embed it in the only prayer he left for us, the Lord’s Prayer, he also, like Mary, prayed it himself in Gethsemane.
In the Lord’s prayer it goes: Thy will be done.... In Gethsemane: nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done....
Acceptance. Not resistance. Yes, not no.
All the glory, all the signs, wonders, beauties and miracles that so illuminate and halo the Christmas narratives, are subsequent to and dependent upon, Mary’s acceptance of her personal disaster, her “yes” to social disgrace, and to her possible abandonment by Joseph.
All the glory, signs, wonders, beauties and miracles that so illuminate and halo the Easter narratives, are subsequent to and dependent upon Jesus’s acceptance of his personal disaster, his “yes” to social humiliation, disgrace, brutal torture and hideous death.
Acceptance. Not resistance. Yes, not no.
It lies too behind the whole Christian ethic, the radical Sermon on the Mount ethic: turn the other cheek, walk the second mile, love your enemy, if anyone sues you for your coat, give him your cloak as well.
Acceptance. Not retaliation. Acceptance. Not resistance. Yes. Not no. Courage not cowardice.
Never, ever think that to be a fair dinkum Christian is an easy option, is all about living for ever and ever in heaven, plunking a harp, is about favours for being good, is about happiness and the avoidance of tragedy, and that the Cross is a crutch to help us limp through life on.
Poppy-cock, balderdash, hogwash, piffle! It is all about acceptance of the difficult, not resistance. Yes, not no. Courage not cowardice.
Mary’s prayer, the Lord’s Prayer the Gethsemane Prayer, my prayer, your prayer, if it is prayer at all, is all about acceptance, not resistance. Yes, not no.
This is because acceptance allows God’s will to be, opens the door to forgiveness, mercy, change of heart. In a sense it actually makes God’s will and floods existence with hope and light and joy and love, with all the glory, all the signs, wonders, beauties that so illuminate and halo the Christmas narratives.
God according to Christian theology, did not create the world in six days, and then step back and sleep forever. He continues to create. In our understanding he holds in existence the world and everything in it, now: the sub atomic particle, molecule and amoeba, the rain-forests, Himalayas and satellites, your kitchen table, my little finger and your mind.
If God ceased to create, took away his creative presence then all these things and we ourselves would cease to exist on the instant.
When we say yes, to what happens, like Mary, when we accept and so can forgive, like Nelson Mandela, when like my wife and so many others, we accept and say yes to cancer, or injury, or hurt or misfortune, when we say “yes, yes, yes” to work with what happens, instead of whining “no, no, no, let black be white, Lord, spare me, save me, let my will, my will, my will be done not yours....”
When, instead, we say “yes”, we allow God the continuing creator to work wonders, and an unwanted pregnancy enables God’s Incarnation. a judicial murder enables Jesus’s Resurrection.
Acceptance allows God’s will to be, changes situations, opens doors to forgiveness, mercy, a change of heart, it makes God’s will, it floods existence with hope and light and joy and love, with all the glory, all the signs, wonders and beauties that so illuminate and halo the Christmas narratives.
So! Instead of bogging our self down in a dull desire for unattainable proofs and certainties, instead of hearing the Christmas stories as a dull historian, which we are not, we need to say “Yes” to them. Accept them as they are, for what they are, accept them, love them, revel in them, and so look in them not for unattainable certainty or proof, but rather for truth and beauty and meaning.
They are unprovable certainly, otherworldly even fanciful yes indeed, they are a mixture of fact and fiction of course, as is all historical narrative, biography, and even more so, autobiography. Like all narrative the Christmas stories contain the closely remembered and the partially remembered all interpreted and shaped by the present, Of course, of course, of course..... But at their heart they contain Mary’s incontrovertible “Yes” and Jesus’ incontrovertible birth.
To say “yes” to them, and accept them, to open our hearts to them and love them as we did when a child, will enable God to work his wonders, and to flood our life, our story, with the glory, the signs, wonders and beauties that so illuminate and halo the life-enhancing, beautiful, purpose-imparting Christian Faith that has illuminated my life and continues to do so.
I was adored once too. I still am. That is Gospel truth.