One afternoon, I brushed my teeth after lunch and then walked back into the dining room. (Not the most brilliant idea.) I had a few minutes before my shift at the bookcenter so I decided to have an orange. Have you ever eaten an orange after brushing your teeth?
toothpaste + orange = Not(a_good_combination)
Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking. I wonder if toothpaste was made to taste the way it does to prevent us from eating anything after brushing our teeth. Hmmm... Anyway, after eating that first piece, I didn't think I could eat any more of it. I thought about throwing away my orange but that would be wasteful. So I asked Theresa, who saw the disgusted face I made, if she wanted to have some of my orange. Now, I wasn't really being nice by sharing my orange with her as you can tell. Nevertheless, she had just finished her lunch and was kind enough to “consider” relieving me of having to throw away my orange.
But then she comes back to table with a tangerine (or was it a clementine?) and started to peel it. I was a tiny bit disappointed and expressed it in all honesty. She commented on my pale looking orange - that she thought looked sour to begin with. Sigh...
And then she says, “Here, try a piece of my tangerine and I'll try a piece of your orange.” I was surprised not by her gesture but how I felt much joy from her simple act of kindness. And she didn't stop there. She broke her sweet tangerine about half and with a smile on her face said, “There, you can have some of my tangerine and I'll have some of your orange.”
Believe it or not, I started to feel teary-eyed as I expressed my gratitude toward her. And I thought to myself, “What was that all about?!” For a few days, I let it sink in and I pondered why I felt so strongly about it. Was I just being overly sentimental? Or is there something else there?
On our retreat day, I began to pray with Mary as she received the message from the Angel Gabriel that she would conceive in her womb the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit, and towards the end of the day, I continued to pray with the beginning of Mark's Gospel where John the Baptist proclaims to all, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” As I was meditating on this, I suddenly felt a joy that seemed familiar. Aha! Jesus became human so that we can share in his divinity. Just like Theresa took some of my sour orange and let me have some of her sweet tangerine. Our “orange exchange” was very much like Christmas and Easter Joy! The joy that comes from giving and receiving unconditional love.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there is a section on The Christmas mystery that talks about what is called the “marvelous exchange”.
(CCC 526) To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom. For this, we must humble ourselves and become little. Even more: to become “children of God” we must be “born from above” or “born of God”. Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us. Christmas is the mystery of this “marvelous exchange”:
O marvelous exchange! Man's Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.
Jesus, open our hearts to see you in the face of those around us. Open our hearts to see you also within us. In this season of Advent, may we wait with expectant joy for your coming and may our eyes be open to the empty mangers in our lives, disguised in the simple, the meek, the humble ways that you want to let us experience your extravagant love.
Have a blessed Advent!