Folds of the Swaddling Earth

view from Blue Ridge Pkwy cloth

If you stand on top of one of the mountains around where I live and look out, you see other mountains and hills. It can almost look like the soft folds of a big cloth. Like a big swaddling cloth, ready to enfold a newborn baby.

immac-concepMaybe you can relate to this: When I was a kid, my grandmother’s house out in the country felt to me like a cozy place of peace. At home, in the city, I had my worries: doing my homework, becoming good at sports, dealing with my difficult friends. But at my grandmother’s house, I didn’t have those worries. And no Metrobuses ran up and down the street day and night. And my mom never came to my grandmother’s house, because they didn’t get along. So I never had to overhear my parents fighting at my grandmother’s house, either. Just peace and quiet, and my grandmother giving my brother and me chocolate milk pretty much whenever we wanted it.

My dear grandmother passed away nearly 20 years ago, long before I ever even saw southwest Virginia. But when I first came here to serve the Lord, out here to these beautiful mountains, the very first feeling I had was: I feel like I am back at my grandmother’s house, with these folds of mountain wrapping me up in a cozy little bed.

When the Lord Jesus was born on Christmas, and our Lady wrapped Him in a swaddling cloth and lay Him in the manger for a crib, He looked up at her and gazed at her peaceful, beautiful face.

As we read in the Scriptures, many generations of strife had passed, in order for this moment to arrive. And the Lord still had a hard pilgrim life ahead of Him, with a bitter and painful climax.

But for a moment on Christmas morning, it’s as if time paused, in order to show us what the earth really is. The constant wheeling of the great axis paused, and for a moment we could see this land we live on for what it is. It is our swaddling clothes, enfolding us for the beginning of our glorious lives with God.

The thing to do is look up. Like the baby Jesus did—like all babies do. We do not look up at a blank and meaningless sky. We look up at the omnipotent gaze of infinitely tender love.

One thought on “Folds of the Swaddling Earth

  1. Father Mark,

    When I was at the University of Texas in Austin, 1967-1969, someone posted a sign, in Spanish, to the general effect of “Viva el llano escabedo!” (or something like that; I’ve never been able to get an exact translation), with an argument that all of value in the history of humanity has come from the high plane country, and Jesus Christ in particular.

    At the time, I thought the idea a bit grandiose. Subsequently, I’ve come to believe that mountains, seas, large and/or powerful streams, city-scapes, the sky, and a number of unusual natural events, such as earthquakes, all serve a useful purpose for humanity. They humble us; and God knows we need it. Living near them, as a constant reminder, rears a different race of people than flat-landers.

    In God we trust.



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