• January 6, 2012

The mysterious joy underneath the sadness
of being so far away from home

Madison visiting her friends at an orphanage

18-year-old Madison A. - vol­un­teering in the Heart’s Home Ukrainian Center- talks about her being away from her family for the first time during Christmas season:

Recently my com­mu­nity along with our friends at St. Clement Center in Kiev pub­lished and pre­sented Fr. Thierry De Roucy’s book ‘Christmas, a Mystery’. I wish I could say that I received “spir­i­tual and Christmasy inspi­ra­tion” from reading this book, but unfor­tu­nately I am not able to under­stand all of the texts, as I am obvi­ously still learning Ukrainian. Presenting the book, while not under­standing the con­tent of it, brought me to think about someone who is very impor­tant in the Christmas story: St. Joseph. He could not have, as we do not, under­stand how Mary could bear this Son of hers by the power of God. He could not have com­pre­hended why God had chosen him to leave his life, his rep­u­ta­tion, his hopes and dreams to carry out a life­long task that was a mys­tery to him. He entered into a “spir­i­tual poverty” and emp­tied his heart of any desires for con­trol or per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion. With this poverty and with the grace of humility that was given him through this poverty, Joseph embarked on a journey that took him far away from home. He trav­eled a great dis­tance away from both his phys­ical home, and the home in his heart, a place where he had the com­fort and peace of a normal lifestyle. I can only imagine what was going through Joseph’s mind as he stood behind Mary and the Newborn when the shep­herds and wisemen came to give homage to this Mystery that he embraced without under­standing. The con­fu­sion, sorrow, and heav­i­ness he must have felt at this task of being a father to Jesus and leaving his home; but also the peace he must have felt, the joy he must have expe­ri­enced from the inte­rior mys­tery which was given to him to con­tem­plate in his own heart.

St. Joseph is a won­derful example to me. I have gladly chosen to embrace a new cul­ture, to learn their ways and their lan­guage. When I left home, I didn’t expect to have to embrace a new Christmas! I see now, that by embracing these tra­di­tions, these new ways of life for myself, I am not being asked to change my own tra­di­tions. I am not being called to carry out my own tra­di­tions either. I am being invited to con­tem­plate a mys­tery—two actu­ally! One, being the mys­tery of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions between cul­tures; how to find a new gaze upon a new custom when per­haps all I want is to run to the com­fort of my home, whether that be in my heart and mind with my set tra­di­tions or to my phys­ical home back in the States! The second mys­tery I am invited into is indeed—the mys­tery of the Christmas! What is the joy of this Newborn bundle of light? How can I come to under­stand this great event better? In the dif­ferent encoun­ters I make with my friends here in this far away place, where is the Newborn joy, or the sim­ple­ness of the stable and shep­herds, or the grandeur of the wisemen?

Madison A. – Lviv, Ukraine

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