Sunday, October 01, 2006

Littleness and the Little Way

The topic of littleness has come up in numerous places for me in the last few weeks. A few days ago I actually wrote out a list of the places the idea kept coming up in. Now on the feast of St. Therese, I thought I'd try to pull all these tidbits together. Since we went to Mass at our local Carmelite Monastery today, we also heard special readings appropriate to the feast - including the Gospel from Matthew 18:3 -
"Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
Anyway, here are some of the pieces from the list I made (in the order I happened to come across them):
"Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 18:3-4). This saying is a particularly compact expression of a whole theology of littleness, of the little ones, and of childhood that we find in Jesus. It ultimately has - like this entire series of words - a christological content pointing to the inner biography of Jesus himself. It is Jesus who became totally small (Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism by Cardinal Ratzinger)
The rest of the quotes (all that I have time for tonight - I've been dragging this post out all day) is from The Everlasting Man (the chapter on "The God in the Cave") in which Chesterton is discussing Bethlehem and the Incarnation...
A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end, has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded. (pg. 202)
Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether he likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars. (pg. 203)
It might be suggested, in a somewhat violent image, that nothing had happened in that fold or crack in the great grey hills except that the whole universe had been turned inside out. I mean that all the eyes of wonder and worship which had been turned outwards to the largest thing were now turned inward to the smallest. (pg. 205)

it is true in a sense that God who had been only a circumference was seen as a centre; and a centre is infinitely small. It is true that the spiritual spiral henceforward works inwards instead of outwards, and in that sense is centripical and not centrifugal. The faith becomes, in more ways than one, a religion of little things. (pg. 205)

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