I was listening to the radio on Christmas Eve (24 December in Austria) and was surprised that the moderator said it was Christmas Day; in German: Weihnachts Tag.
I immediately pointed out to Josef that it was not Christmas Day but Christmas Eve. How confusing for foreigners and ex-pats! Here they celebrate on Christmas Eve and they call it Christmas Day. Some people here still go to church on Christmas Day even though they went to the midnight mass the night before. Apart from that, I think Christmas Day here is insignificant. Like today, Boxing Day; another public holiday, the Feast of St. Steven. For Roman Catholics, another holy day of obligation. Why I don’t know. Oops, just looked that one up. Not December 26, the feast of St Steven/Boxing day! Boxing day is not a day of obligation, so no wonder I didn’t know why it should be!
But the Catholic Church here is just a relic and cultural determinant, not really an institution of corporate faith. When Josef and I met he said he was catholic by tradition. I was Catholic by faith and conviction. Joining the Unification Church did not change that at all for me. But it changed how others saw me. So when the Bishop of Hobart ruled that I could not receive Holy Communion, I took it to heart.
Why I mention it? Well it does preoccupy me. As an ardent catholic growing up, I was very serious in my faith. Then when I joined the Unification Church I became even more serious. Forty-five years later I am just as philosophical and perhaps even more faithful. Faithful in trusting that all will be well and every-one will find their path. I’m sometimes amused and sometimes offended when others presume to understand my faith and misjudge my words or actions. However, largely I must say that I have come to understand that there is a great Parent of us all who unconditionally loves all of his children to embrace us all. There have been so many people, platforms, movements that have taught me that people everywhere are finding their way and coming to terms with a universal source of love. Sure, I call him God and I believe he is father and mother God. Even Josef talks about it in the presentation he made about the significance of the family at the Family Peace Blessing just a couple weeks ago – I have not translated this. Many people today express it as being spiritual and not religious. In other words, they no longer identify with an organized denomination or church, but are deeply faithful and believe in a universal source of eternal love.
Ten years working for the United Nations and I have become even more culturally sensitive. Some of my colleagues/friends celebrate on January 6. Others are celebrating Hanukkah. I was happy to see the FaceBook post about all the various religious feasts being celebrated at this time. Yes, of course I still said “Merry Christmas” and a couple of times I wrote “Season’s Greetings”. We didn’t really talk about religion at work. Even though my Israeli colleagues both wished me Merry Christmas without pomp or prejudice! One explained to me that this year Hanukkah coincides exactly with the Christmas feast. And I really know we are all growing closer and closer.
It was a fascinating assignment for me this year to complete the editing of the translation of Johannes’ Stampf’s book, Life and Eternity. Johannes and I had hours of discussions as we sought the best way to express the thoughts in the original German book in alignment with the Unification Thought principles. Such a fascinating project! Even though, from my perspective, I had completed it three years ago, when I had a six month break from the UN, we just spent another six months reviewing the whole book in the six months since I really retired from the UN. I really don’t know how many times we have gone through it, again and again. We keep finding little things to correct, to change, to clarify every time! Now I am so excited and looking forward to share it with all my English speaking friends once it gets published!
And not without trepidation. It is NOT my book. It is my editing job. Many concepts from Unification Thought which I subscribe to, which may sound controversial, yet I really sense an opening up and a general universal consciousness gradually accepting, embracing and teaching these very same principles.