Q: During this time when giving has so much to do with emptying shelves and wallets, what is the contemplative dimension of giving?
A: When I reflect on the word “contemplative,” I immediately connect this with “gift”. A contemplative is well aware that all is gift, even when we create or give something like a Christmas present or an act of kindness. The gift emerges from a dimension that was present before the act emerged. Presence begets presents!
Let’s look at various aspects of giving. Giving can be an action, the preparation of and delivery of an item or gesture or a word. Giving can be laced with an attitude of attachment – I give expecting something in return, or I give in total freedom, or a mixture of both. Giving can be a habit that flows from one’s being. Giving can also be a virtue, motivated by love of God and neighbor, so much so that it is the Christ in you giving to the Christ in the other. Our commitment to a daily prayer practice bears the fruits and gifts of the Spirit into the world; the incarnation of Christ continues in us, as us.
Likewise, all of this applies to the receiving of a gift. Do you receive freely and joyfully, or is a gift wrapped in low esteem or concerns of reciprocating?
As you go about this Advent and Christmas season conscious of the mystery of the incarnation, engage in an examen of your list -- the action, the attitude, the habit, the virtue, the receiving -- that is contained in every gift, gesture, word and prayer. Consciously notice the events of your life as giving, and celebrate the gifts of receiving healing, forgiveness and life, for it is also a gift to learn how to receive graciously.
Come Lord Jesus, come! - Fr Carl