Cradled by God

Cradled by God

So frequently I cradle my phone. I just can’t seem to get away from it and have so many excuses, said and unsaid, as to why I cannot do so.

My phone has my calendar and email which I can so easily access as I am on the go; you know… the busy work of ministry. Texting is such a more efficient way of communicating with people without actually investing in a full conversation with them. Plus, it is so much easier to post pictures of myself and my interests on social media right from my phone. (Social media is so important, right?! How else would I seek affirmation in life?!)

I was reflecting upon this fact in spiritual direction the week prior to the Advent season. My spiritual director asked me, “What do you desire this Advent?” I somewhat quickly responded, “A greater intimacy with Him.” (Isn’t that what we all want?? lol)

At that moment, my spiritual director and I entered into prayer and he further asked, “Where in the Nativity scene is the Lord drawing you? Where do you see intimacy there?” Almost immediately my mind and heart went to the image of Mary cradling Jesus – the Mother of God gently holding and caressing the Son of God.

We know from TOB that we were created in and for an Original Unity. In the beginning, God created us for perfect self-donating love, a true embrace with the Other — ultimately, an embrace of God through man. The tell of Original Unity is the human-divine gaze of wonder and awe, rather than the stare of consuming desire and lust, known after the Fall.

At what moment was the gaze of wonder and awe better portrayed than in the tender embrace of the Theotokos and the Christ-child? This was truly a moment of supreme intimacy. Jesus, being cradled by Mary after his birth, is an icon of the restoration of Original Unity. In definitive time and space, the New Adam and the New Eve were unified in a pure, grace-filled, and restorative embrace. As the carol goes, “Silent night, holy night / All is calm, all is bright / Round yon Virgin, Mother, Mother and Child / Holy infant so tender and mild.” Everything was calm and bright. Everything was being restored through Jesus and Mary by the Father.

After I shared this thought, my director asked what the Lord was calling me to remove so as to experience this greater intimacy. Of course, my mind went back to my smartphone. How often do I cradle my phone seeking to fill the void of a greater intimacy? When I pick up my phone what do I want? Mindless entertainment? Pleasure? Affirmation? Distraction? “Productivity”? Strangely, my phone, with its pantheon of applications and mental rabbit holes, can help provide all of those things, can easily and quietly, all without needing anyone or anything else.

This may seem stark, but in a way, the smartphone can easily become a cradle of self-destruction, rather than a cradle of self-donation and new life. In this technological embrace, we find ourselves in a donation to our device, but what does our device really donate back to us? Is our phone, and anything that takes its place, ultimately a true “helper” on the way to a sanctified and redeemed unity?

Certainly, the phone is not evil in and of itself (good can come from it). But so often the Evil One wants to take something good within the created order and just start twisting and distorting. All the sudden we can find ourselves following his temptations and having become twisted within the earthly object of our desires and within our own selves.

Just as Advent is a preparation for our heavenly destination, we can also acknowledge and reflect more deeply on the opposite possible destination. Hell: our ultimate self interest. Hell being the final enclosure of our own seemingly self sufficient, yet eternally lacking, state of being. Hell is the opposite of the self-donating and unifying embrace of the Christ and the God-Bearer. In my phone, I am increasingly unified to myself, while being dis-unified from others and the rest of reality.

So in this Advent season of preparation, what in our lives will truly work to satiate our desire for Original Unity? What do we cradle to fulfill our longing for Original Unity, for an all consuming embrace with God? What are we seeking in those finite things? Where do we allow God to cradle us? Do we allow God to cradle us through his mother Mary? What if, instead of our earthly attachments, we desired to be wrapped in and lost within God at all moments of our lives? 

In lieu of stepping away from the cradle of my phone, I have sought to enter into a deeper period of examination at the end of my day. This is a fruitful moment where God just wants to cradle with me in prayer and I seek to gaze upon His face. In the remainder of this Advent season, may we contemplate where the Lord is calling to a greater Unity so that at Christmas we may receive Him – body and soul – with a deeper wonder and awe and a greater peace and joy.

Fr. David Stavarz is a priest of the Diocese of Cleveland, ordained in 2019. He loves discovering God’s fingerprints in creation, particularly through music — on vinyl or guitar; in the outdoors through running, camping, and snowboarding, and in the work of the Church in the world, especially in the Theology of the Body. He attended the Institute’s TOB 1: Head and Heart Immersion course in November.