Like a Child at Home
by Fr. Ambrose Criste, O.Praem.
“The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.”
“Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.”
In our Christmas trip through the joyful mysteries, we pause to meditate upon our Lord’s Presentation in the Temple, and we find St. Simeon already there, his own life fading into old age and death as the newborn Messiah appears before his eyes. Picking up the light-shining-through-the-darkness theme of Christmas, we might say that Simeon’s light as represented by his own aged and aging life was growing dimmer and dimmer, even as his hope for the appearance of the Messiah was growing stronger and stronger, brighter and brighter. And then, when St. Simeon finally sees Him, that brightest of lights for whom he was waiting his whole life long, he cries out in prayer that he is now ready to die. He has finally seen the light of lights, and so now he is ready to close his eyes. Every other earthly light must have paled in comparison to the light he saw in the temple that day. In our Lord and our Lady, he looked directly upon the sun and the moon.
St. John tells us, “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. … Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.” This love of one Christian for another—there in your families or here in our monastery—this love builds us a safe home, a warm place, like the straw-softened crib where our Lord first rested His tiny head. Family life and fraternal charity help each of us who finds his place there to recognize the Lord when He shows up. If we are isolated or alone or unloved—or if we perceive ourselves to be any of these things—then it’s very difficult for us to recognize Christ’s light in our life, even when it’s right there before our eyes. But when we are surrounded by the love of Christ—and as the late, great Cardinal Jos told us here a number of years ago, “We are swimming in the love of God”—when we know that to be true, then we see light all around us, even when it might seem to grow dark within us.
I often wonder what the other people in the temple saw when St. Simeon and Anna the Prophetess recognized the arrival of their salvation there in the temple. Did they recognize Him too, or did He look to them like all the other children presented in the temple that day?
Occasionally we sing a lovely English hymn by Isaac Watts here in our church, “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need.” The last verse of that hymn ends by begging God that we might dwell in His house, that His house will be our abode, and that we will rest there: “No more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home.” St. Simeon must have felt so much at home there in the temple. He was safe, and in his place, and so he was disposed to see the light. It’s true that we are wayfarers here on this side of heaven, and in that sense we cannot ever find a home that feels completely like our home. But that doesn’t mean that we are always doomed to feel estranged from our lives, merely strangers or guests. No, even on this side of the veil, we can be children at home, here in our abbey, or on a pilgrimage, or even in Toronto, or San Pedro, or a parish, or wherever God might lead us. We are bathed in His light, swimming in His love, and so always at home—even when it’s only a home-away-from-home.
Before St. Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury, he served King Henry II as Lord Chancellor of England. It was the custom in that day for noble families to foster out their children to other noble households, and so the king sent his young son Prince Henry to live in Becket’s household. Prince Henry was reported to have said that Becket showed him more fatherly love in a day than his father the king did for his entire life.
St. Thomas Becket went on to crown that Christian love that Prince Henry experienced in his home with the ultimate Christian witness of his heroic death. In these glorious days of light and love and joy, may we too spend ourselves in love for one another, no longer strangers or guests, but safely at home, in the sunlight of our Lord and the moonlight of our Lady, and with each other’s company on the way, until we are all safely at rest together in our Father’s house. Amen.
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