They heard stories about the miraculous birth that took place in this darkness in the distant past: God’s son was born in a hidden place in order to liberate humanity from the darkness.
The light that would soon become stronger again was a sign of this birth. It was not only an external light but could also be experienced as an inner light that pierced the darkness of everyday life.
Christmas has always been interpreted in a spiritual way in the Christian mystical movements. It is not so much important whether the son of God ever came to be born on earth or not; what matters is that his birth is going to take place within us.
This tradition emphasizes that we should make a radical distinction between the outer and the inner man. We are the outer being, as it is functioning in our daily lives. Our attention is constantly drawn to our sensory experiences. But above all we are governed by the incessant flow of our thoughts, feelings, fantasies and desires. Although we believe that we ourselves are the source of this continuous flow, we are unable to stop it.
Consequently we are determined by this stream, rather than the opposite. Since this condition is comparable to the dream state, most traditions emphasize that we are not awake in our daily lives, but rather still asleep. The only difference between daytime sleep and the ‘normal’ night time sleep is that during the former we do respond to all kinds of sensory stimuli. And just as during sleep we believe to be awake, even in our so-called waking state we are still in a kind of sleep.
What good does Gabriel’s “Ave, Mary” doUnless he give me that same greeting too?
Living in our darkness, but awakened by these messengers, we learn to say in complete self-surrender: let it be to me according to your word. Therefore, Angelus Silesius said:
Be silent, silent, dearest one,
Only be silent utterly.
Then far beyond thy farthest wish
God will show goodness unto thee.
Usually, however, we have already made up our minds before the other person has finished speaking and we do not really listen to what he or she is telling us. Only rarely do we let ourselves be surprised by what presents itself to us in the world. For we have seen it all so many times; by now we know what the world looks like. A receptive mode of perception, however, suddenly allows the everyday things to present themselves to us in new and refreshing ways. That is the beginning of the return of the light!
When we are waiting, being quiet and receptive, then the light can penetrate into the darkness of our waking consciousness; then the moment of the inner Christmas has arrived. The outer human being lives mainly from the head; hence the incessant stream of thoughts that constantly drags us along. On the other hand, in the tradition of the Rosycross, the heart takes the central place, often symbolized by the rose. The heart will open, to the extent that we learn to live our lives with attention.
As Angelus Silesius said:
Thy heart receives God’s dew and all that with Him goes
When it expands toward Him as does an opening rose.
If He should live in you, God first Himself must die.
How would you, without death, inherit His own life?
The outer man is composed of dust and will return to dust. This ‘dust’ refers not only to the physical body but to our entire personality, to everything with which we usually identify ourselves.
We should learn to let go of all this, because:
Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem were born,
but not within thy self, thy soul will be forlorn.