The Common Good
November-December 2001

An Advent Meditation

by Rose Marie Berger | November-December 2001

This is to all who serve on the human front, wearing any mask that will get you home. A word: While we are all dying to get out, there is one who died to get in.

This is to all who serve on the human front, wearing any mask that will get you home. A word: While we are all dying to get out, there is one who died to get in. Disguised as one of us, this one came creeping over enemy lines, across the DMZ, relying on our infatuation with innocence just long enough to secure the passage. An instant later the yapping jaws snapped shut in a slaughter of all innocents—cutting the tongues off all to silence the one.

This is to you who wake up daily on the front lines of life, in the dystopia of the modern world where each one ticks like a clock or bomb; where young ones cut themselves on the fractured edge of a post-modern morning; where Gens X, Y, and Z trade their parents' headlong linear flight into oblivion for the virtual rush of binary bungee jumping. Just how deep does this rabbit hole go?

And to you broken ones who wander the front lines picking rags and plastic bags; who hoard IRAs and modest portfolios and chances at the Daily Double. And it's to you in the second wave up all night stringing together code to bind up the mainframe, twisting it into a safety net to keep us from breaking our necks in the fall. (Or is it a trip wire and we'll all go together when we go?)

Homo sapiens have evolved. Now we are Homo sapiens sapiens. We are two-headed like Eng and Chang the Siamese Twins—but our heads are from different countries with no common tongue. Our symbols flash like broken traffic lights, or fall through our teeth like abandoned cars, condoms, a passed-up penny, only to the level of the collarbone. They lodge there, useless, against the lump in our separate throats.

Busted. It's all busted. "The repairman," repeats the recorded message, "is out of cell phone range."

WE WEREN'T CONSCRIPTS to civilization. We volunteered. Certain that God was on our side, we wielded sword and scythe for the greater good, for the less fortunate. We fought the good fight. We picked up the hitchhiker, sheltered the homeless, and visited the prisoner. We tried to love neighbor, love God, stay within the speed limit, and pay our parking tickets. And yet the Tin Man—who holds high his award for good deeds, a ticking clock in the shape of a heart—is still a golem; only now something keeps him up at night.

Even you nihilist Nephilim riding shotgun on the "civilizing" project with your Glock .40s, AK-47s, or trigger-rigged lap tops; you who let your eyes be plucked out so as not to see a human soul, how's that lifestyle working out? You still spew black spit, rotting from the inside out? Remember when mornings came like a stay from the governor? Now they are another practice mark on the tender flesh of the wrist—foreshadowing death by a thousand cuts. This letter is addressed even to you.

And to you little ones, anawim, refugees from our shifting architectures of moral adjustment; you with a leg or arm or child trapped under the collapsed facade of Christendom; you who are relegated to roll-your-own welfare lines who wake every morning in this bloody horror. (Can't someone make that child stop screaming?)

"THE ADVENT OF CHRIST in history is not essentially bound up with the development and progress of Christian ‘civilization,'" writes Thomas Merton.

A heartbeat. A breath.

In the dark someone is brooding over us. Someone from home has smuggled a word across enemy lines, over the burning barricades, under the iron grate. It says only this: You are not alone.

That light in the east is a signal flare, flashing "Follow me. Follow me. Follow me." On the smoke-laden horizon there is a tiny string of lights, barely perceptible, bobbing. Tapers perhaps, hand-held, and a faint erratic melody. Flesh of my flesh.

Rose Marie Berger, an associate editor at Sojourners, is a Catholic peace activist and poet.

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