…every other person who ever came into the world came into it to live. He came into it to die. -Fulton Sheen
Christmas reveals how much I ignore what I’ve been taught. All these years I had been placing myself in the crowd watching the trial. Though I knew it, I never considered that Jesus was condemned to death before His birth not in the early hours of a Friday morning.
Conducting an interview with Christian Wiman, Anthony Domestico said that Christian poets could be separated by those who stress the Incarnation and those the Crucifixion. A few years ago, inspired by Joseph Brodsky’s Nativity Poems, I wrote my first Christmas poem, “Carol.” That poem showed me where I fell.
I am a Crucifixion poet.
In the poem, no sooner had I mentioned the Babe in the crib was I writing about the destruction of the temple. I was immediately in Holy Week. I had often meditated on the Crucifixion but even when saying the Rosary my meditation on the Incarnation hadn’t gone much beyond the surface. After rereading that poem in the North American Review, what I’ve discovered is that Good Friday starts Christmas morning, and is a passion all its own.
I don’t remember much about Good Friday 2014, but I remember being jolted to attention when I heard my priest read this passage from St. Faustina’s diary during a Divine Mercy version of the Way of the Cross:
That Easter week I began reading the diary. Over 700 pages of Jesus calling St. Faustina to unite herself to His Passion and St. Faustina surrendering daily. Since that Way of the Cross, uniting to the Passion of Christ has been the devotion that has most intrigued me. But what compares to being “covered with wounds”?
I love this particular episode of Mother Angelica Live. The entire episode is powerful, but towards the end of the episode she describes a Christmas in the hospital as one of her best. My recount couldn’t do her story justice, but the point she makes is that spending Christmas in a lonely hospital room left her alone with the Divine Infant and brought her the most significant understanding of Christmas she’s experienced.
In the Crucifixion, we’re shown the torture. We know there was blood. This is how Jesus emptied Himself, but the total self-sacrifice of the Incarnation, giving up His divinity, couldn’t be any less than the Crucifixion. Though the physical pain isn’t as great or gruesome, pain is still present: homelessness, poverty, cold. And that is in addition to the complete sacrifice of infinite power and glory. The two events are so similar that even in the stable in the house of bread He sleeps in a feeding trough, food for the sheep and an indication of what is to come at the Last Supper.
Though any experience of mine pales in comparison, I can at various times connect more closely to the cold, the helplessness, the vulnerability, and poverty Christ experienced that first Christmas. Uniting myself to the passion of the Incarnation is how I’ve been able to unite myself to the Passion.
Once, Jesus requested St. Faustina to meditate on His Incarnation. He said, “Although My greatness is beyond understanding, I commune only with those who are little. I demand of you a childlike spirit.” The solemn can’t be separated from the Solemnity. Our heightened sensitivity to our own little lonelinesses, worries, and mortality, an understanding of our own helplessness this time of year isn’t Christmas blues as much as a Christmas spirit. An invitation. The more I meditate on the Incarnation the more Christmas looks like Good Friday. It’s joyful. A deep piercing joy.