What Does this Time of Year Mean to You?

Hannukkah, Christmas, and Winter Solstice share the theme of bringing light into darkness. However, before illuminating the external world, we must first embody that light within ourselves, even though it may sometimes be concealed.

I firmly believe that all humans have the capacity to be spiritual [1], [2], [3], accessing an inner “flame” that radiates goodness and light into the world. This manifestation becomes evident when someone lives virtuously and acts accordingly, as opposed to merely acknowledging the concept. 

Our identity, originating from God, is grounded in the divine image we bear (Genesis 1:26–27). Spirituality connects us to “phronesis,” a higher state of consciousness or spiritual intelligence. This intelligence provides guiding principles and insight, shaping us into who we are and driving us towards our “Telos” or divine purpose.

Aristotle conceptualized phronesis as the practical wisdom guiding us to achieve the good end (or telos) using the right means. Phronesis transforms what is seen into insight and that which is perceived into truth. Pope Francis urges us to seek truth, beauty, and love.

Rabbi Joshua Boettiger, a friend and teacher of Mussar, challenges each of us to reflect on bringing more light to those around us. We embark on a quest to rediscover our unique divinity, sharing universal Agape Love “Until God (Love) is all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). The scriptures emphasize that everything, including the world, life, death, present, and future, belongs to us, for we belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God (1 Corinthians 3:22–23).

Etty Hillesum, despite facing the tragic reality of Auschwitz in 1943, accepted the “cruciform nature of reality” and consciously chose love. Her life and words inspire me to become a better version of myself in relation to my telos, my divine purpose.

“Something has crystallized. I have looked our destruction, our miserable end which has already begun in so many small ways in our daily life, straight in the eye and accepted it into my life, and my love of life has not been diminished. I am not bitter or rebellious, or in any way discouraged. I continue to grow from day to day, even with the likelihood of destruction staring me in the face. I shall no longer flirt with words, for words merely evoke misunderstandings: I have come to terms with life.…

“By “coming to terms with life” I mean: the reality of death has become a definite part of my life; my life has, so to speak, been extended by death, by my looking death in the eye and accepting it, by accepting destruction as part of life and no longer wasting my energies on fear of death or the refusal to acknowledge its inevitability. It sounds paradoxical: by excluding death from our life we cannot live a full life, and by admitting death into our life we enlarge and enrich [life].

So let this be the aim of the meditation: to turn one’s innermost being into a vast empty plain, with none of that treacherous undergrowth the impede the view. So that something of “God” can enter you, and something of “Love,” too. Not the kind of love-de-luxe that you can revel in deliciously for half an hour, taking pride in how sublime you feel, but the love you can apply to small, everyday things.”[4]

Moments of awe, wonder and beauty are right in front of us.

In moments of awe, wonder, and beauty, we find opportunities for flourishing in life. However, true alignment with our divine purpose, opening our eyes to wonder and awe, may not necessarily coincide with mere happiness.

During this season, with short days and long nights, we are called to deep introspection and a new awakening. Saint John of the Cross, a Carmelite priest and a great mystic, taught the monks a humble exercise; to sit and contemplate where they could view the open sky, hills, trees, fields, and growing plants, and to call upon the beauty of these things to praise God. This simple meditation on Nature reminds us of the Divine Power, wisdom and goodness that exist in Her.

What brings joy and amazement to you?

St. Francis of Assisi’s perspective on animals and nature as spiritual beings highlights the interconnectedness and necessary harmony in the world. He found wonder in everything, preaching even to the animals, emphasizing their gratitude to God.

St. Francis found wonder in every aspect of life, maintaining a perpetual sense of awe. His profound connection with nature led him to even deliver sermons to animals. In one such homily addressed to birds, Francis expressed gratitude on their behalf, acknowledging their freedom to soar, their vibrant plumage, and the melodic gift bestowed upon them by their Creator. He emphasized how these creatures neither toil in fields nor harvest, yet God provides for them. From flowing rivers to towering trees, nature offers a bounty of provisions. St. Francis urged the birds not to take these blessings for granted but to consistently praise God for His abundant love and care..[5]

This beautiful prayer by Carlo Carretto, who was a member of the Little Brothers of Jesus, a community of contemplatives who lived and worked among the less fortunate in Northern Africa. emphasizes the transformative power of love, slowly turning us into God. Sin, resisting this transformation, underscores the importance of being judged based on our ability to love.

God does not hurry over things; time is [God’s], not mine. And I, little creature, a man, have been called to be transformed into God by sharing [God’s] life. And what transforms me is the charity which [God] pours into my heart.

Love transforms me slowly into God.

But sin is still there, resisting this transformation, knowing how to, and actually saying “no” to love.…

You will be judged according to your ability to love.

Applying Kenosis or “self-emptying” to our daily lives opens us to divinity within and around us. To be the light, we need the courage to reflect cosmic consciousness, shining the light to all, irrespective of circumstances.

As we soften ourselves towards others and believe in the possibility of transformation, full salvation leads to universal belonging and connecting—our concept of “heaven.”[6] The prayer echoes the beginning of our world’s awakening from darkness to cosmic consciousness through the words “Let there be Light.”

May each of us find the light within, shining it for all to see, bringing love and goodness to all. As we enter the new year, may you discover and embody your telos.

[1] Emmons, R. A. (1999). The psychology of ultimate concerns: Motivation & spirituality in personality. New York: The Guilford Press.

[2] Moberg, D. O. (2002). Assessing and measuring spirituality: Confronting dilemmas of universal and particular evaluative criteria. Journal of Adult Development, 9(1), 47-60. doi:10.1023/ A:1013877201375

[3] Wigglesworth, C. (2013). Spirtual intelligence. In J. Neal (Ed.), Handbook of Faith & Spirituality in the Workplace: Emerging Research & Practice. New York: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-1- 4614-5233-1_27

[4] An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941–1943, trans. Arno Pomerans (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), , 131–132.

[5] The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Companions16,in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents,vol. 3, The Prophet(New York: New City Press, 2001), 469–470.  

[6] Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2014), 226.

   Send article as PDF   

2 Replies to “What Does this Time of Year Mean to You?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *