Noche Buena

25 12 2019

My last memory of my grandmother took place on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t the last time I saw her by any means, but it is what I remember most about her now. It wasn’t all the times she dragged me to the charismatic prayer meetings, or told us to go play outside because we were making too much noise. It wasn’t her rubbing a tomato on her feet for some weird reason, or her watching telenovelas (though watching them with her was fun). I don’t think about how she would make me my own little hard cakes of sweet dough because I didn’t like the pumpkin filling of her empanadas though I liked the dough. It wasn’t even the last Thanksgiving I spent with her when she told us about how when she was growing up she didn’t have shoes, just huaraches made of wood that would leave her feet bloody from splinters at the end of the day. The last memory I have of her is from the last Christmas I spent with her. She began the rosary on the night of Christmas Eve, we muddled through some villancicos, and at the end of it, she picked up her little Niño Dios, maybe no more than four inches long, and began rocking Him like a real baby. She had dressed Him in new clothes, and placed Him in the crib decorated with lights. Of all the memories I have of my grandmother, that’s the one that sticks. That’s the one that stays with me.

I don’t know a lot about love, honestly, but I suppose I have learned that love binds. Reading stories of the baby Krsna, among the most famous and important of His infant pastimes is when His mother Yasoda was concerned about His running off, getting in trouble, and possibly hurting Himself. (Think of all the little toddlers you see now in public places running around on leashes.) So she looked for rope to tie Him to a pillar, but being the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna decided to have some fun with His mother so that every time she brought a rope to bind Him, it was just a little too short. This went on all day, with Mother Yasoda panting and sweating trying to find a rope long enough to bind Him. Finally, after seeing how His mother did this out of love, He let her find a rope that could bind Him. He allowed Himself to be bound.

In the Orthodox liturgy, there are lots of allusions to He Who is wider than the Heavens being contained in the womb of the Virgin Mary. There are also allusions in the Liturgy of the Nativity to God being bound by the Virgin in swaddling clothes as a prelude to His Death and Resurrection. The idea here again is being bound by love. I used to wonder why, for example, Jacob could wrestle an angel (that is, God), win, and become Israel (“strong against God”). It was only in the story of Krsna, here in His childhood pastimes, that I sort of figured it out. Krsna had his gopa or cowherd buddies who He would challenge to wrestling matches. In Vrindavan, His “hometown,” although everyone is attracted to Krsna in what we would find an abnormal way, no one thinks of Krsna as God. (“That’s just Krsna, Yasoda’s boy, always getting into trouble…”) So when Krsna wrestles His friends, He “lets them win,” but of course, they don’t know that. To them, He’s just their friend.  Krsna has to carry the victors on His shoulders, saying that He let them win (as boys often do but no one believes them), and promising that He’ll win against them in a re-match. The creature is not stronger than the Creator in the material order, but in the order of pure love, it’s a different story.

That’s probably weird to you, and it’s weird to me, because I’m a no-good rascal. But it looks like to my grandmother, what was God’s was hers, and what was hers was God’s. She had ceased to see that porcelain chipped statue as anything other than the Baby Jesus Himself. She dressed Him and cared for Him like she had her eight children, including one she had lost when he was only two. When I think about the Catholic afterlife or Vedic samsara, all I can think about is myself, because I’m scared. I am driven by fear. I saw a video of a Hare Krishna initiation recently, and the initiating guru said to his initiate that when he first met Srila Prabhupada, all he wanted was mukti, liberation, freedom from pain and suffering, and now all he wants is to serve Srila Prabhupada, his guru, no matter where he goes after he leaves this world. I am not there yet, I may never get there in the foreseeable future. But when I think of my grandmother, I think she got there. God wasn’t just an opportunity for her to write or showboat, He was real, and God showed Himself to her. And I miss her. That’s all.




2 responses

28 12 2019


27 12 2019

I learned about your website from Rod Dreher’s Blog a while ago and like to check in every few days.

May I ask if you now consider yourself a Catholic or a Hari Krishna? I find your postings eminently fascinating.

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