In my last post, I shared with you a reflection from Tuesday’s Magnificat on finding the Christ Child in the moment from Reed of God by Caryll Houselander. I pulled out my copy of Reed of God and read the passage. The very next sentence caught my eye. I would like to share it with you (pgs 151-152):
The next act of faith is in Christ in other people.
It is very easy to believe in the indwelling presence of Christ in the souls of imaginary people; to believe in it in people whom we do not know; but it is very difficult to believe in it in the case of our own relations and our intimate friends.
Somehow it is difficult to believe that the Holy Spirit abides in people who are not picturesque. When we think of Christ in the workman, we think of Him in a special kind of workman who wears an open shirt and is assisted in carrying the burden of social injustice by a truly magnificent physique. We do not think of Him in the man who delivers the milk or calls to mend the pipes. We do not think of Him in the porters in the apartment houses. Recently, in a big block, a frail little porter fell down dead. Everyone agreed that the heavy luggage he had been in the habit of carrying for the tenants was too much for him, though only after a postmortem was it realised. No one was struck by the idea that in this little man a scene from the Passion had been lived again; he had fallen under the weight of the Cross.
It is easy to believe in Christ in the refugee when he is on the road, easy to believe when the refugee mother arrives at an English port with a shawl round her head and a baby in her arms; but how hard to believe in the presence of God in the same refugees when they have got good work, are housed and fed, and possess hats and gloves.
They must be quite without vision who are not reminded of the flight into Egypt by the road from Dunkirk; but we are all apt to forget that the Holy Family lived in Egypt for a time and must have got work and lodging and been glad of friends; and there must have been some who looked upon them with the incredible suspicion that every race has for foreigners when the foreigners become independent.
Just as we cannot depend upon feelings to know that Christ is in ourselves, we cannot depend upon appearances to know that He is in others.
That which is true of the Host is true of people. We cannot discern God’s presence through our senses, but faith tells us that we should treat one another with the reverence that we give to the Host.
We need to bring to other people faith like that which we bring to the Blessed Sacrament.
It is really as easy to believe in one as in the other. We have exactly the same reason for believing in both: the word of Christ.
Both are miracles of love which, like God’s peace, pass understanding.
We have no difficulty in believing that Christ is in us when we receive Holy Communion, or that He is in all the others who come up to the altar rails, from the old Chelsea pensioner in his red coat to the child of seven, opening his mouth like a fledgling for his ration of heaven.
We believe easily in the presence of Christ in the Host because it is an idea with which we are familiar. We have made daily acts of faith in it, and we accept it easily.
If we made daily acts of faith in the presence of Christ in other people, we should soon accept that, too. It would be the first step in discovering the lost Child.
An old man whose love for his fellow creatures endeared him to them all confessed that whomsoever he met – before greeting him out loud – he greeted Christ within him in secret.
Such a practice as that, begun darkly in faith, would soon teach us to believe, too, just as genuflecting before the tabernacle teaches babies to believe that God is “in there”.
Faith simplifies the search. We do not have to discover in which of several people Christ is to be found: we must look for Him in them all. And not in an experimental spirit, to discover whether He is in them or not, but with the absolute certainty that He is.
I don’t know about you, but this convicts me to the core. How quick to judge, slow to forgive, rash to speak, and selfish in thought we all can be. Seeking Christ in the other would transform our miserly hearts into hearts that lead with love.
So today, I invite you to join me in greeting Christ first in every person and situation the day presents, so that love will lead the way, because “love never fails” (1 Cor 13:8).
Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner! Anne