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The Inestimable Gift of Joy and Wonder
  • Beauty
  • Formation
Sarah Stieglitz

Everything about Christmas pulls at my heartstrings: the sparkling lights, the sweet sound of voices caroling, wafting aromas of cinnamon and clove, candles flickering in semi-darkness as we celebrate the Nativity of Christ. For a brief moment in time, I shed the hardened shell of adulthood and soak in moments of pure joy, wonder, and contentment. It is bittersweet when Epiphany arrives, and I carefully put away all of the trappings of the season: the ornaments, the Nativity collection, the festive trinkets, my sense of joy and wonder. It seems that as each year passes, the worries and cares and responsibilities become just a wee bit heavier, leaving little energy for indulgences such as delight and awe.

Since coming to The Saint Constantine School in August, however, I have noticed a gradual lightening of that heavy load. Each day as a kindergarten teacher, I must engage with the world through the eyes of a young child. Thus, I have exclaimed over the varied colors of chicken eggs. I have filled my pockets with “treasures” such as feathers, interesting rocks, and ever so many leaves. I have taken crayon rubbings of tree trunks and squealed with excitement over a crawling centipede. I agreed to name a tree “Leafy Tree,” and I liked it. This daily engagement with the simple beauty of nature and wonderment at what God has created has slowly been chipping away at that coarsened layer of “grown-up” that has long weighed down my soul. How sweet it is, how healing it is, to be immersed daily in the world of a young child

Perhaps the most miraculous thing is that it is not only young children at The Saint Constantine School who experience the world in this way. With the loving tutelage of their teachers, infants to college students embrace the beautiful and joyful. I first experienced this with the college astronomy class on a star gazing adventure. My husband and I lay on our backs in the blissfully quiet countryside, surrounded by college students, all of us gazing at the heavens while listening to a reading of Phaenomena by Aratus. To hear their laughter and joking become subdued and move into a state of true awe of the beauty above us almost broke my heart. The other morning during prayers, a three-year-old nursery student stood up straight and proud and belted out every word of our sung responses in perfect pitch. That was extremely sweet, but the part that pierced my soul was the sight of two fourth grade boys and half a dozen sixth grade girls, who all watched this little singer with shining eyes and tender smiles, completely entering into the beauty of that moment.

There is magic in seeing the world through the eyes of a child. Children don’t wait until Christmas to dive head-first into the pool of joy and wonder. They live there. There is an excerpt from a poem by Mary Oliver (The Ponds) that exactly captures the thoughts of my heart:

 

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled --
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing --
that the light is everything -- that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

 

My wish for you is all of the happiness this season has to offer. But more than that, I wish for you the opportunity to boldly enter the world of the young child, to be dazzled, to accept the Divine gift of joy and wonder that can soothe our weary hearts.