I saw an icon weep.
I did. I can use a search engine and so know what the explanations might be, but I poked about, and I do not believe the naturalistic accounts. The icon was weeping, and the tears healed me. I cannot prove that either to a critic’s satisfaction, but I am not sharing this to answer critics. Instead, I am reflecting on the unseen realities of the world as I have experienced them.
A friend and I have been discussing the “unseen history.” He is teaching me much and sending me to read many great, though obscure, books. There is so much to learn!
At any moment, there are great saints, gods walking the earth, about whom we know nothing. Often, they even irritate us by their other worldliness like the hapless parish council frustrated with Saint John of San Francisco. How could they know after all? After his repose, hearing all he did, we might too easily think: “How could they not know?” We know of Saint John’s life, but there surely are hundreds of other great saints seeing and causing wonders. We look for history in all the wrong places, those great in the Kingdom in the wrong spots. Christmas proves the giants, those acting behind the scenes, are often women in towns like Nazareth, old people thought past their prime, the poor, the oppressed.
Surely, they can be found in any cities: praying, wrestling with the unseen realm, bringing about history.
What would the world look like without their prayers? How often has the appearance of angels or those who intercede for us on the other side of the veil changed history? We cannot be sure of when and where, but we can be sure that they are constantly nudging history Godward. The doom often coming is averted as our free will decisions are persuaded by another greater Will and the powers that serve Him. History truly told would look like the Nativity: the little known more important than the greatly known. The so called great, Caesar Augustus or Herod on his throne, act, but the greater Action comes from the consent of a Lady who hears the word of God and does it. She births God- the Divine and the human made one in the God-man Jesus. She kept her story and pondered for years, finally giving the details to a medical man and Gospel writer.
Picking up this Gospel and reading, this written icon, also can make me weep. The fierce and righteous words of Mary in the Magnificat, the pain of the Crucifixion, and the glory of the Resurrection all happened visibly, but the mythology made visible was a deeper truth. History was being made in the unseen realm: angels proclaimed, demons tempted, and we could see His glory as of the only begotten, full of grace and truth. Jesus reunited the seen and unseen worlds.
The unseen world is complicated and not all the powers favor us. There are diabolical forces nudging us away from Being and towards the nullity they crave. Their actions too are a known unknown. We have seen enough to accept that they act, but not enough to be sure of the result. We certainly cannot blame them, those who have no power if we do not consent. That they do as they have chosen does not give us license to heed their temptations.
So, it goes.
The Nativity happened, but the happening did not end on that Holy Night. The invisible reality broke into visible reality, our realm of becoming, and that greater reality, grounded in God, never begins, or ends. The Second Person of the Trinity, the Word of God, was, is, and is to come. All who find that Word cannot die. The Holy Family was but is. His Mother is in paradise with Him. Joseph is there seeing without needing dreams. Shepherds keep watch. Wisemen have found the end of all philosophy. Angels still proclaim, reveal, and battle. When she sees history, a Mother still may weep for the sins of the world.
The Son of God redeems all over eternity.
That is enough, sufficient, complete, finished this Christmas.