The Visitation: Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth, who rushes to greet her and cries out with mysterious knowledge: "whence does the mother of my Lord come to me?" Mary blooms into a prayer that echoes Hannah. In Elizabeth's womb, the forerunner leaps for joy! Flesh-and-blood recognizing flesh-and-blood, but alive with something more, something as yet undefined. The human family is yet mystical, and God's own, shouting out in discovery of oneness.

The Nativity of Our Lord: And then there is a crack in history as the God of Israel does something unthinkable; he becomes enfleshed and sets his tent with us. He does not come as an oddity, as a "better," or as something unrecognizable, demanding the fear and obsequiousness of all in his path. He is born of flesh, born of blood; Mary's own blood runs in his veins and he is wholly her own, yet wholly the world's.

He condescended to enter into the pain and fear, the tumult and whirlwind of the world and he "set his tent among us," not merely "dwelling" among us as lofty king, but literally "with" us, with hunger, the capacity for injury and doubt.

God entered in, not with a cacophony of noise and a display of raw power, but as the humblest and most dependent of creatures: a baby, lying in a manger, a place for the feeding of animals. He, who became Food for the World, entered with silence, as though he had put his finger to the quivering mouth of a troubled, sobbing world and said, "Shh . . . it is all right, I'll keep you company . . . "

God submits to Creation, in order to save it. No wonder the heavens were rent with a joyful song. No wonder shepherds and kings were amazed.

The Presentation: Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple. Imagine how difficult it was to stay hydrated while traveling even a short distance, especially for a new mother who is nursing her babe. One needed to know where all of the wells were, and to have water nearby. The Creator is dependent upon the very thing upon which his spirit moved in the beginning. God-made-Flesh is brought to the priests; Jesus is circumcised like every Jewish male, his foreskin shed. Even he, Son of Mary, Son of God, must be vulnerable, sensitively exposed to God and the world, in this way. Flesh is cut, blood is stanched, the baby yelps and is quickly embraced and consoled by his mother.

The God of All Consolations cries out in pain, completely vulnerable, allowing humanity to succor him. Anna and Simeon have been awaiting his appearance; they recognize the Incarnation, and Simeon speaks words that must simultaneously soothe and grieve Mary's heart. Her heart, after all, is his heart, too. He is us.

The Finding of Our Lord in the Temple: We jump ahead twelve years; the adolescent Jesus has stayed behind in Jerusalem. Three days he is there, mirroring the three days in the tomb.

I love that Mary and Joseph, who love Jesus and live with him, and who know him well, must still seek him out, like the rest of us. Flesh seeks after flesh and cries out, "where?" and then, "why do you? How could you?" Flesh seeks after God, and God is found, but not fully understood. Not only is God found, but God submits, because this God, over and over again, tries to teach us by his own example. As God yielded to Israel's obstinacy and gave them a King, so he yields to Mary and Joseph.

Later he will submit, again, flesh and blood surrendered, once for all; heart pierced, for the life of the world.

The lesson, over and over, is that fulfillment and completion lies in surrender, in the fiat, in the "yes," in the detachment to all else; the submission of flesh and blood, mind and heart, for the wholeness of the soul. Flesh cries out, "O Love, where, why?" God cries out, "Here! O Love, know!"