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“I am propelled along by my activities, for I am merely a cog in their great machinery.”

Benedict XVI, The Blessing of Christmas

Benedict has a paradoxical way of writing at times.

I guess that makes sense: all truth is ultimately paradoxical (the Divine Man, the Crucified God, the Almighty Baby), but he has a way of “bringing it home.”

In this passage, he flips around activities and motivation.

We commonly think that we undertake our activities. “I do this. I do that.”

But no, says Benedict. Our activities tell us to do this or that. We are “propelled along.

On top off that, Benedict says our activities constitute a “great machinery.”

Odd claim, that. Gardening, golfing, small talk at the coffee shop, laundry, shopping: great machinery?

I wouldn't think so, but Benedict is saying that, for all practical purposes, they are. We treat them like they are great: important, compelling, absorbing. And so they propel us along like they are.

Benedict encourages us to escape this great machinery during Advent.

He suggests that we treat greet Advent like we might greet an illness. During an illness, we are drawn out of the great machinery.

I am obliged to be still. I am obliged to wait. I am obliged to reflect on myself; I am obliged to bear being alone. I am obliged to bear pain, and I am obliged to accept the burden of my own self. All this is hard.