The Nativity message is the message not only of joy but of the joy; the great joy which all the people of the world have always expected without fully realizing what it was.
-Thomas Merton, Love and Living
When I was an adolescent, the Evangelical Protestants hit me up with messages of fear. Most of the Catholics I’ve known came out of their youth bearing much guilt. Merton is the first I’ve known to appeal to a universal expectation of great joy. That’s cool.
It fits better with my experience of salvation. I didn’t fear the wrath of my father. I bore no great guilt for my childhood transgressions. I couldn’t empathize with my Catholic friends and the Evangelical promise of damnation somehow didn’t scare me. Maybe both should have been effective, but they weren’t.
The promise of God’s love came to me through my parents, First Day school teachers and inwardly in my heart. The Catholics and Evangelicals I got to know well also held it there for me.
Before I accepted this great joy I had to work through other stuff, such as my intellectual resistance to losing control and a fear of losing status among my college educated Friends. Maybe those are just guilt and fear dressed upper crust clothing.
I’m not sure where this leads now. Anybody else got an idea?