Christmas with Chödrön VIII

This Christmas, a friend gave me The Pocket Pema Chödrön, which includes 108 brief insights from the books of the beloved Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön. I’m committing to blog on Chödrön’s wisdom for each of the twelve days of Christmas. Because the number 108 held such energy for me, I have decided to limit my reflections and comments to 108 words, which is really not very much at all! But it will be a good Christmas challenge. Since God was able to limit the Infinite to one tiny baby, I can at least try to limit my ramblings to 108 words…

Chödrön: “We think that if we just meditated enough or jogged or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect. But from the point of view of someone who is awake, that’s death. Seeking security or perfection, rejoicing in feeling confirmed and whole, self-contained and comfortable, is some kind of death. It doesn’t have any fresh air. There’s no room for something to come in and interrupt all that. We are killing the moment by controlling our experience. Doing this is setting ourselves up for failure, because sooner or later, we’re going to have an experience we can’t control: our house is going to burn down, someone we love is going to die, we’re going to find out we have cancer, or somebody’s going to spill tomato juice all over our white suit…

…to be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh” (Selection 68: When Things Fall Apart, 71-72)

Sometimes, I can develop a nice, healthy and productive schedule that I am eager to follow and actually do follow for a little bit. But then, something or someone always comes up and interferes my perfect recipe for happiness. It could be a raccoon that breaks into my house in the middle of the night or an old friend who stops by to visit out of the blue or a friend who really needs a listening ear. All these “guests” tend to interrupt my agenda, which can be frustrating. Chödrön reminds me of St. Benedict’s Rule for monks: “All guests to the monastery should be welcomed as Christ.”

The Feast of the Holy Name in 108 Words…

The shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known.” So they went with haste and found Mary, and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel. (Luke 2:15-21)

Reflection on the Holy Name in 108 Words…

In the midst of rules restricting monks from any outside interference, Benedict writes, “All guests to the monastery should be welcomed as Christ.” Chödrön and St. Benedict believe “Hospitality is one form of worship,” as the Jewish rabbis teach. In her commentary on the Rule, Benedictine nun Joan Chittister explains, “The message to the stranger is clear: Come right in and disturb our perfect lives. You are the Christ for us today.”

In today’s Gospel, we know that Joseph’s agenda was inconveniently interrupted with the arrival of this young “guest.” Like Joseph, we are invited to name this interrupting guest as “Jesus,” to welcome the guest as Christ.


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