Christmas Day on the 19.
being human,  breath,  embodiment

We Are Beloved

It is Christmas Day and I’m sitting here in a quiet house. I am upstairs; my husband is downstairs. Gifts have been exchanged. Santa loaded up all of the stockings. Mass was attended. Our only child is grown; we celebrated Christmas with my family last weekend, and last night was busy with J’s family. So we are now enjoying the quiet and the cozy warmth of our home while the dogs happily snore at our feet. Sounds lovely for a couple of introverts, right? Mostly it is. Except …

A sadness creeps in. It’s a momentary sadness because life truly is SOOOO good. This sadness is a grieving of sorts … of years gone by … grieving the busyness of Christmas, the joy I felt watching my daughter’s joy on Christmas morning, being in her presence, feeling a completeness in my heart. There is an ache in the quiet today, a wishing things could be the way they used to be.

Feelings are funny that way … keeping us stuck if we let them. “Today is just a day,” I tell myself but talking myself out of sadness isn’t the most effective way of dealing with it. I am thankful for a spiritual practice that teaches me to be present and gentle with myself on days like these, and for a faith that holds and honors both darkness and light. One cannot exist without the other.

Christmas is celebrated as the most joyous day of the year, rightfully so … a savior was born, the son of a human woman named Mary, impregnated by the Holy Spirit … God-man on earth. And this God-man, the person, Jesus, is also the eternal Christ. God and man together, as one. But that is not the end of the story. This God-man was also brutally beaten and crucified at the tender age of 33. Why? How do we make sense of it? And how do we place it into the context of our own human lives? As Christians we’re taught that this was God’s plan for our salvation. Personally I believe it but I’m most interested in what the whole thing means for the world, Christian or not. We are all beloved.

There is joy on earth today in many places. There is deep sadness too … of loved ones lost and children grown, but there are also horrors in the world … violence beyond our imagination, starvation, abuse, and sheer evil at every turn. This knowing pierces my heart while also comforting my temporary sadness. My life is not mine alone. We are one in this big crazy world, and we are called to share in each other’s joy — and despair. As my esteemed teacher James Finley often says, “God protects us from nothing yet sustains us in all things.” Today I choose gratitude for the gift of life I’ve been given, for the darkness and the light.

For Christians who have gone to their own depths, there is the uncovering of an indwelling Presence—a deep, loving “yes” inherent within us. In Christian theology, this inner Presence would be described as the Holy Spirit, which is precisely God as immanent, within, and even our deepest, truest self. God is the very ground of our Being.

Some mystics have described this Presence as “closer to me than I am to myself” or “more me than I am myself.” Many of us would also describe this, as Thomas Merton did, as the True Self. Yet it still must be awakened and chosen. The Holy Spirit is totally given and given equally to all, but must be consciously received, too. The Presence needs to be recognized, honored, and drawn upon to become a living Presence within us.

From this more spacious and grounded place, one naturally connects, empathizes, forgives, and loves just about everything. We were made in love, for love, and unto love, and it is out of this love that we act. This deep inner “yes” that is God in me, is already loving God through me.

We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives. That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, “You are my Beloved” [see Mark 1:9–11].

Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear at my center words that say: “I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse . . . yes, even your child . . . wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.”

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations; Center for Action and Contemplation


  • Angela Shafer

    Sadness indeed. I was feeling it too, between the chaos and happy moments. To go back to the days when my children were little – do we all long for this? It’s bittersweet for sure. Time passes and people grow older and die and things change. I hope you were able to work through it, sit with the sadness, befriend it, lean into it, and then come back to goodness even more fully, having experienced the sorrow. Love you, my friend.