In a sea of madness, we have been called to offer a clear, loving, tender and grounded alternative born of compassion and grace. As "holy fools" - women, men and children who embrace the way of Christ - our presence is to bring a measure of shelter in the storm and a bit of light into this present darkness. And as I get it, this is to happen in the way St. Francis is reputed to have described: "Preach the gospel at all times... when necessary use words."
Yesterday in worship, in an unscripted moment, I stumbled into saying that the Blessed Virgin Mary was for me one of Christianity's first "holy fools." Now I don't know if that is theologically correct. Miryam, after all, was a Jew from birth to death. I can't say for certain whether or not she ever heard the wisdom of St. Paul on this subject or not. (NOTE: Miryam is supposed to have been taken to Syria a few years after the Lord's death where she died at age 64. So, it IS possible...) Ultimately, however, it doesn't matter: she was clearly living a pre-figurative sacred foolishness by being open to the Spirit. As Theotokos, as Christ-bearer, as the one who established in Jesus a love of the prophets and as a person of faith who bore witness to God's grace despite the obvious evidence: Mary resonates with what it means to be a holy fool. St. Paul put it like this in I Corinthians 1:
Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is
foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to
shame the strong; God chose what is low and
despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that
are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your
life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and
sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is
written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’
This sounds like Miryam, the blessed Virgin Mary, to me whose own song of praise to God sounds strikingly like the great apostle's in chapter 1 of Luke:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.
I note this mostly because as this Advent ripens into Christmas I am more aware than ever of the need for more sacred fools. Life is increasingly out of balance. Fear is palpable. And despair and cynicism holds more clout that hope or joy. All the more reason for those who love God in the spirit of Jesus to start pushing the envelope as holy fools. When Mary allowed herself to be taken up in this spirit, Christ was born. And that is what the gospels promise to us, too: let God rule and guide us and we will give birth to Christ in new and unexpected ways in our flesh.
Tonight I spent almost three hours practicing Christmas Eve music with three jazz masters. We are preparing an improvisation reflection on what it means to live as sacred fools at this moment in time. We lament the slaughter of the innocents from Pakistan to Ferguson. We honor the presence of the holy in the least of these our sisters and brothers. And we are exploring how to offer our gifts to God so that creativity, community and compassion is experienced as an alternative to the status quo. This is a foolish endeavor - almost no one will notice - even fewer will participate. But this is, perhaps, why we are moving forward: in small and unexpected places and ways, sacred fools will be giving birth to Jesus all over the world. We won't be counting the bottom line. We won't be worrying about how many bodies are in worship. And we sure as hell won't be interested in anything but strengthenng the spirit of solidarity among those who know our common life must change.
The blessed Virgin Mary is said to have been perplexed not only at the miracle of Christ's birth, but in his presence in the world. Scripture says that she pondered all these things in her heart. That is what we shall do, too - we'll ponder all these things in our heart - so if you are able on Christmas Eve at 11 pm, please join us. Afterwards, we'll feast on French Canadian meat pie and wassail. More and more, the calling of living as a sacred fool has captured my heart.
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