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Monday, February 1, 2010

Groundhog Day: Christ Presents Us to Ourselves

The Presentation of Jesus at the TempleImage via Wikipedia
©2010, Randall A. Beeler
And I will lead the blind into the way which they know not: and in the paths which they were ignorant of I will make them walk: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight: these things have I done to them, and have not forsaken them. (Isa 42:16, DRE)
At my alma mater, the University of Dallas, a Catholic liberal-arts school, we have a curious tradition: every February 2nd, we enter the live-oak thicket, dig a barbecue pit, line  up kegs of beer, and, for 24 hours, eat brisket and drink brew, to celebrate … uh … um … Groundhog Day?

I wish I could say that the bacchanalia began as an homage to Candlemas and the Presentation of the Lord. But it didn't.

Long ago, before MLK Day, UD observed no holiday between the beginning of the Spring Semester and Spring Break, a long desert of a time in which college students could find no purchase for celebration in the stilly watches of the night. So, a personage, now only known as the Groundhog (his true identity is known, but kept secret out of respect for tradition), dressed up as a groundhog and gathered his friends in the woods. Thus, on February 2nd, UD alums across the world gather in their own local woods (or watering holes) to lift a mug in honor of … yep, the Groundhog.

Like Punxsutawney Phil, the point of Groundhog Day is to brave the cold, to dance in the dark, to raise the blood into our nether capillaries, and … to see our shadows. To see if we're still here.

At the Presentation of the Lord, we celebrate the Presence of the Lord amidst His people. The God of all creation, a struggling infant, is submitted by His Mother and Foster Father to the badge of his community—circumcision, the foreshadowing of the cuts-unto-death that He will bear on the Cross.

God really is Emmanuel, long after the Christmas wrapping is moldering in the dump and the bills have rolled in. Winter is deadlocked in our marrow now, and it may never end: Winter and never Christmas. Unlike Punxsutawney Phil, Christ does not peep His head out of the manger at Christmas only to see His shadow from the Cross as He is broken in Spring.

Christ is with us in the shadow of our winter. Christ sees our shadows—and embraces them. Thus, February 2nd is also Candlemas, the official close of the Christmas season and the welcome of an impending Lent. In the starkness of what is left of Winter, God bids us not to merely burn a candle but to bless all the candles for the year—for Lent, for Easter, for Pentecost, for Advent, for Christmas.

Punxsutawney Phil may see his shadow. But, regardless of the fact that our shadows are ever present to us, Christ presents Himself to us to show us that we must present ourselves to Him, must allow ourselves to be cradled in His Mother's arms and borne to Him, the Great High Priest, Prophet, and King—and to know that we will not be cut open but made whole.

So raise a glass of beer, wine, Dr. Pepper against the dark. Snatch a hunk of brisket and dance. Winter does not last, and even if it would, Christ is present with us to make us present to ourselves:
We see now through a glass in a dark manner: but then face to face. Now I know in part: but then I shall know even as I am known. (1Cor 13:12, DRE)

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