Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Koans for Christmas

A koan is, according to Webster's, "a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment."

These quotations are from Christmas sermons by Augustine, bishop of Hippo, cited in a reflection by Lawrence Cunningham in the Dec. 16 issue of Commonweal.

Born of his mother, he commended this day to the ages, while born of the Father he created all ages. That birth could have no mother, while this one required no man as father. To sum up: Christ was born both of a Father and of a mother; of a Father as God, of a mother as man; without a mother as God, without a father as man.

The maker of Mary, born of Mary ... the maker of the earth, made on earth, the creator of heaven, created under heaven.

Don't be ashamed of being the Lord's donkey. You will be carrying Christ. You won't go astray walking along the way; the Way is sitting on you.


I am no Augustine, and I am certainly not a Zen Buddhist master. But here are a few of my own koans for Christmas.

God became human. Did you miss it? Sometimes you lose your patience a moment too late.

Humans are becoming gods. Will you join them? Don't hold your breath.

You can fast all you want and never learn to hunger for righteousness. Your daily bread is in the manger.

You can keep watch until the late hours and still never see what you would see, the coming of God. Your eyes see upside down and inside out. Look out! A cloud! Look down! The sun! Look in! A rock! Look up! Empty!

God became a human being. So, at last, are human beings.

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