Friday, December 4, 2009

Buddha and The Manger

Several years ago, while studying comparative religion, I read a Buddhist prayer.

“I take refuge in the Buddha.
I take refuge in the Buddha’s teaching.
I take refuge in the Buddha’s community.”

The prayer moved me.

It lead me to ask myself, “Can a Christian make less of a commitment to the Lord Jesus? What do we say about the Lord’s teachings? What do we say about His church – his community?”
So I adapted the prayer and often pray it, usually with considerable feeling:

“I take refuge in Jesus.
I take refuge in His teaching.
I take refuge in His church.”

If you think about it, the prayer describes the meaning of authentic theology, to “the study of God.” Studying God involves listening to God speak through the scriptures and His church. It involves coming to know Him through prayer, worship and obedience.

Today is my wife Trish’s birthday. We have been together for thirty-six years now. That’s a long time. When I married her, I had no idea that my reactions to her would gradually mold my own personality and make me into a different person. However, that is what has happened.

When we were newly married, I found comfort and pleasure in her company, especially in erotic life which was a new experience for both of us. As the years went by, we had children and formed a family which became a different kind of comfort – a place to root my soul in the deepest kind of human love possible. As we continued our journey, we discovered knew things about one another – some things that we liked and others we did not. Each discovery provoked a response and molded our lives in a different way.

I am a different person than I would have otherwise been because of who I married. Where one takes refuge gradually creates him or her into a new sort of person.

Some people have claimed that Martin Luther wrote the carol, Away in a Manger, for his children. That’s very unlikely. The carol is not that old. It doesn’t matter though. The idea is that even one of Christianity’s most influential theologians might well have written such a simple childish song, is important.

It is a song about taking refuge in the family of Jesus, into which we have been invited. We don’t have to be Roman Catholic to feel deep appreciation and honor for the Mother of the Lord who is, in some sense, a mother to all those who believe. We learn from her to say “let it be done unto me according to your will.” We can all feel secure and safe with an example of Joseph the carpenter who will guard and defend the world’s most precious gift with his life.

So we join the holy family in our hearts and imagination. We take refuge in the gift of all ages and commit ourselves to learn the ways of God and to follow them, even if it takes us – like it did the three kings – through field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.

This little child came to “fit us for heaven,” as the older lyrics claims, not just “take us to heaven,” as the newer (and poorer) version puts it.

We comfort ourselves in this refuge, the family of Jesus, to which we now belong. In their company we are being fit for heaven and delivered from evil. We feel such things in the depth of our soul as we sing the simple lyrics:

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And fit us for heaven
To live with Thee there


Anonymous said...

Veneration to the blessed Mary requires much more than simply saying it.

True devotion to the Mother of God would necessitate, at the most, a change in Theology -- and at the least, a change in perception and thought.

For instance, the song, "Mary, Did You Know," would suddenly become theologically incorrect. (I'm not saying that it is; I do not yet know. But, some would contend that it is.)

I wish Christianity could find a balance between the Roman Catholic's belief of Mary's perpetual virginity and her immaculate conception and the fact that she (like Jesus) was born without sin, and the seemingly-Protestant view of not giving Mary enough worth and credit.

Although, I find comfort in the "Hail Mary," I assure you I will NOT be saying it at the "hour of my death." (This is not a lack of respect for the blessed Mary; but, simply an acknowledgment that I do not believe she has the authority to let me into Heaven.) It is my belief that only God has that authority.

On the other hand, if a person feels comfortable praying to her at the hour of their death, or alternatively praying to the Buddha, then that is their decision to make.

I believe the journey of faith is a very personal one.

Anonymous said...

This is not to say we don't share our faith with others, if asked.