Overflowing Wonder




“We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life” (1 Jn. 1:1-3).


On the third day of Christmas, we celebrate the life of St. John the Apostle. John the eagle, as he is portrayed in art. He had the spiritual sight of an eagle. His eyes were open wide to reality. Christmas is a time of wonder. It is a season for straining our eyes towards God’s piercing light around us. It is most fitting that now we remember John the eagle. We too must open our eyes to God’s presence.


It is ironic how the serpent tempted Eve.


“You will not die.” He whispered to her. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened” (Gen. 3:5). Of all lies this is most painful. Indeed, no one wants eyes shut so firmly as this serpent. No one is so skilled in casting spells of spiritual blindness.


The English poet, Henry Sutton, wrote the line:


“Man doth usurp all space, stares thee, in rock, bush, river, in the face. Never thine eyes behold a tree; ’Tis no sea thou seest in the sea, ’Tis but a disguised humanity. To avoid thy fellow, vain thy plan; All that interests a man, is man.”


God crafted together all the beauty of the world so that, in the beauty, we could get a glimpse of his beauty. Every sunset, every flower, is an icon of the creator. Every moment a seedling sprouts is a proclamation of the wonder of God. Yet, and it is such a tragedy, so often all we see is man’s world. In some ways, Adam and Eve’s banishment from Eden is an allegory of human eyes shutting. We are blinded. Christmas comes to open our eyes.


Plato tells an allegory of a cave. Souls are chained up in darkness from the moment of birth. They sit in gloom, and see nothing but shadows from distant flames. One day, a man breaks loose. He leaves the cave and discovers light, trees, grass, and the splendor of creation. At once he returns to the caverns to tell his peers, but they do not listen. All they know is shadows, and all they will have is shadows.


On Christmas day, that man was born, the Messiah, the eye-opener. He is the man proclaimed by Isaiah:


“I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” (Is. 42:6-7).


Christ has come and he will open our eyes.


St. John’s words run deep.


“We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life” (1 Jn. 1:1-3).


Faith is not about blind belief. Faith is about living wakefulness — hearing, seeing, touching, and contemplating. God asks us to have faith because he wants us to be alive.


“Question the beauty of the earth,” St. Augustine proclaims, “Question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air, amply spread around everywhere, question the beauty of the sky, question the serried ranks of the stars, question the sun making the day glorious with its bright beams, question the moon tempering the darkness of the following night with its shining rays, question the animals that move in the waters, that amble about on dry land, that fly in the air…Question all these things. They all answer you, ‘Here we are, look; we're beautiful!' Their beauty is their confession. Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not one who is beautiful and unchangeable?"


We are not meant to escape this world. We are meant to be transformed in this world. We are not saved from creation, we are saved in creation. During Advent, it was our duty to fast. We gave up meat and food and the things we enjoy. Now, through the twelve days of Christmas and all Epiphanytide, it is our duty to feast — not to gorge ourselves, but to cherish all of God’s gifts. This is the season to savor every bite you eat. To enjoy the beautiful color of wine in your glass or to inhale the smell of roasting meat. It is a religious obligation. Every holy pleasure ought to be savored. Then, while savoring each pleasure, offer up worship.


The Psalter prays: “I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will speak of all thy marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee; yea, my songs will I make of thy Name, O thou Most Highest” (9:1-2).


Adoration is life. Through these twelve days of Christmas and all Epiphanytide, strain the muscle of your heart called “gratitude.” Be fanatical. Let your neighbor think you have have lost your mind. Aspire to fill your heart with overflowing worship. God has laid out the whole banquet table for us to relish, and waits to hear our thanks.


His eyes were opened — Blessed John the Eagle. Through his prayers, and the prayers of the heavenly host, may God use this Christmas season to open our eyes and fill our hearts with wonder.















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