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Colleen Roy – Home Front

Signs, symbols tell the story of salvation

Voices Dec. 22, 2018

Every day of Advent one ornament is added to the Jesse tree, symbolizing a person or event of the Bible, writes Colleen Roy. “Each one builds on the other as it takes us closer and closer to Christmas.” (CNS photo)

One of Scott’s favourite shows to make me watch is Lost. I know, it’s so last decade. We watched the series on DVD a few years back, and have watched it a few more times since. I won’t tell you how many more times, because it’s embarrassing ... but it’s more than six. We don’t have cable. That’s my excuse.

Despite its secular flaws, the story is really good. One of our favourite things about the show is how small details that seem trivial prove to have a great meaning at a later date. There are no coincidences; all of the names and dates and numbers have a meaning in some way. There are people confronted with mystery and miracles who cannot bring themselves to believe in a greater power, yet the power persists in pursuit.

My guess is  the reason Scott loves it so much is one of the same reasons he loves the Catholic faith so much: no coincidences, beautiful meaning and fulfillment in all of the small details, and God’s eternal pursuit of our love. Our Catholic faith is one of signs and symbols, only hidden until we have the eyes to see them.

Did you know that Dec. 24 is the feast day of Adam and Eve? It’s no coincidence that we recognize the fall of man into sin and slavery the very day before we celebrate the Incarnation that frees us from that fall. It’s as though only a moment passed between Adam and Eve’s sin, the fruit of a tree, and Christ’s rescue, the Fruit of Mary’s womb. How many thousands of earthly years passed by? But to God, our salvation was a plan already in motion, only ever a moment away.

I love how this comes to mind by simply looking at liturgical dates on the calendar. The two dates are the sign of a circle finally closing, a tragedy finding its triumph. As soon as the darkness of sin set in, a new day was already dawning. But what’s even more amazing is the entire Bible is like this. Each book of the Bible gives a remembrance that leads into the next. Ultimately and inevitably we are taken to the fulfillment of everything that happened along the way.

An Advent tradition in our house is the Jesse Tree. We take a sad, little, fake tree without any decorations, and every day of Advent we add one ornament that symbolizes a person or event of the Bible. Each one builds on the other as it takes us closer and closer to Christmas.

Every year that we do it I am struck by the meanings hidden within each story that I missed the year before. The tree starts as its own symbol: creation. Creation was not needed or missed by God. God creates the world for no purpose other than beauty and love. But man chooses himself, and sins.

Day two, we add the apple. God frees the world from immorality with water, a sign of baptism – Noah’s ark. But the very first thing Noah does when he gets off that boat is sin.

As the days go by we tell the stories of Abraham and Isaac, people  chosen and set apart. Isaac becomes a sign of the Christ to come. The Israelites fall into slavery. Once again they are saved from immorality through water. Moses takes them through the Red Sea, but once again, they fall into sin, almost immediately.

Each of the symbols builds upon the last, proving man’s inability to save himself, and showing God’s new dawn rising. He sends priests, prophets, and kings. There are dreams and visions. The plan unfolds bit by bit, God continues to pursue his creation, until at last there is, sitting alone in prayer, a young girl who has heard these stories from the beginning of her life. She knows the signs and the symbols, and is on watch for their fulfillment. She herself is part of their fulfillment, but it doesn’t even occur to her. In a quiet moment of intimacy with God Mary speaks the “Yes” that conquers all of the “no” responses throughout history.

And a tiny life is created in her womb and given to the world. The Christ Child, weak and defenceless, the Symbol of all symbols is given to us, if we only have the eyes to see.

May God bless your Christmas season.