+Christ is risen and ascended!
This post may seem cliché, but it’s true in this present moment. My family welcomes to the world Gabriel Macarius. He comes just two years after the loss of his older brother, Anthony Paul. To express in words the happiness and joy at Gabriel’s arrival would trivialise the real meaningfulness within us.
Sadness is more common than it ought to be. Stuff happens. Illness, disease, suffering, woundedness and yes, death – they all happen. Sometimes it’s obvious that it is because of a bunch of choices someone or someones made, other times, it just happens. Irrespective of the cause, the philosophies, the reasonings – irrespective of the consoling words that people try and offer, there is a lingering cold ring in the inward parts. There’s the reality of pain.
But there are moments that bring a joy indescribable. Our Lord captured this reality when He spoke of the woman in labour:
When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:21-22)
There is no denying the reality of those painful moments. He spoke of the pain of giving birth, as well as the pain of separation. He acknowledges them as real. He doesn’t say to them, “when you have that irrational feeling of sorrow or pain, then do/say/think such and such”. He simply acknowledges the reality of those moments, the realness of those feelings, and the antonym of consolation, whatever that word may be.
But it’s not usually a word that brings us peace, it’s the moment when we meet that person or that event that brings it to us. To the mother, it’s the new life that came. To the one sorrowing, it’s the reunion.
Gabriel. Hebrew for the Lord is my strength. Yes, sometimes our strength, actually always, to be honest, our strength isn’t in us. It’s someone else who is strong because we are not. It’s in someone else who is a consolation. It’s existential. It’s intrinsic. It’s real. We often find safety, strength and courage in another person because within ourselves we are incomplete. That is why we need community.
On the battlefield, there are always those soldiers who bring courage to the rest by simply being present. It’s also true on the basketball court. At work, there’s that person whose smile brings joy to everyone. There’s that friend whose face you only have to see to find relief. These are the people we boast in, these are the ones of whom we can say, “I don’t have this ability, but I know someone who does.” This person that we can brag about is our God, and He manifests Himself in and through us. Through the community.
Gabriel. How fitting that it’s this angel who usually brings good news. He’s the one who will come and tell people, guess what, you’re exile is over. You’ve been sad, rejoice at this. He’s the one who says, you’re stumped with interpreting these words, I’ll explain it for you. He’s the one who gets to say, yes, you’re old and thought you could not have children, but I am here to tell you that you will. Most importantly, it’s him who after 400 years without a prophet, says, guess what? God is here.
This is the good news that our baby Gabriel brings to us: God is here. The night of sorrow is done, not because that sorrow wasn’t real, but because we have had a visitation of grace in spite of it. We have the strength of the Lord manifested in the flesh. Just like there was sorrow in the barrenness, the birth of John brought meaning to it. Just like the Lord seemed distant from His people, the announcement of Christ’s birth brought closure. And as our Lord promised us to reunite to those we miss, He has also sent us a joy in our midst until we meet in the Resurrection.
The Lord is not ignorant of the exile, He’s not ignorant of the separation, but at last, here He is, in our midst. The Lord is our strength, and Gabriel Macarius is the Lord’s manifestation of that strength, who has showered us with blessings. In the smallness of his body, he has brought us joy greater than himself.
At night there may be weeping, but in the morning: joy.