“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Notice this secret in the first words: “I am the Way.” This does not mean a series of difficult rules to be obeyed, but “a new and living way” – a way of living love.. The Sevenfold Secret
The story is told about a teacher in a mission school in the Philippines. She loved the young children who came from a variety of home situations: some from the local villages; others from missionary families. It was always a challenge to accommodate the range of backgrounds – but never more than at Christmas time. Knowing that some children could not buy gifts for their own families – much less their teachers – she tried, to no avail, to discourage them from giving her gifts.
The last day before Christmas break, she stayed late to finish grading papers. She looked up from her desk to see a young pupil holding a package wrapped in brown paper and tied with a string.
“This is for you,” he said, placing the package on her desk.
“You didn’t need to give me anything!” she said knowing that he of all the children had the least resources.
“Open it,” he commanded his eyes shining with anticipation.
Carefully she unwrapped the package and lifted a seashell of extraordinary beauty from the folds of brown paper. She knew such shells could be found only at a certain bay several miles away and then only when the tide was out. “It’s gorgeous! Where did you get this lovely shell?!”
“At the bay where the shells wash in,” he replied softly.
“It’s wonderful – it’s exquisite – but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me!”
A smile brightened his little face. He replied firmly, “Long walk part of gift.”
My first reading, many years ago of the account of the “double gift” was, for me, transformational – and since has taken on legendary significance in our family. As much as I loved the Advent Season, rich in activity and meaning, implicit in all the added festivity was added work for me. Even as I pulled out Christmas CD’s and filled the house with familiar carols, I took a deep breath anxiously considering all the season-related chores: greening of the house, writing and posting of Christmas cards, buying and wrapping of gifts (many to be mailed), baking of Christmas cookies, the final countdown to Christmas Eve and Day with the meals and last-minute preparations that entailed. And all this in a month crowded with additional activity. There were moments that I seriously asked myself: “Is it worth it? Does anyone really appreciate my contributions much less all the work that went into it?!”
The simple concept of “the double gift” brought fresh perspective to all my efforts. They became more than the particular task of decorating the house, writing Christmas cards, wrapping presents, baking and cooking for family and friends. Each act and activity, potentially, could be transcended and multiplied by the spirit in which it is performed. “Long walk part of gift.”
Advent – the season of preparing our hearts for God’s greatest gift to us – is aptly celebrated, in response, with the giving of gifts. But the idea of giving continuing beyond the season has its own rewards as one’s spirit transforms the tangible offering. Having articulated this thought repeatedly to my family I am, at times, recipient of their variations on the theme. A child may perform an undesirable task, commenting with a twinkle in his or her eye, “Long walk part of gift.” Even my husband has emptied the trash cans in August with the teasing refrain “Long walk part of gift.”
Lilias, in her book for the Sufi Mystics, The Sevenfold Secret, referred to Christ words: “I am the Way.” She goes on to observe in this particular “secret” a “new and living way” – a way of living love.
Christianity is far more than its creeds or set of rules. It is a way of life – a way of love – that God made tangible for us in the gift of His Son. Jesus came to earth. He walked with us. He showed us how to live by love. And then, He empowered us, through His Spirit to do it. Jesus Christ: God Incarnate. “Long walk part of gift.”
Painting: Travel Journal 1900