About a month ago, I went to see Frozen 2. I honestly wasn’t thrilled with the original; it was that new trendy Disney princess movie with a very catchy belt-it-at-the-top-of-your-lungs ballad. But this time around my hopes were raised because I’d heard all around pleasant murmurs about the sequel. I went in expecting a decently average movie experience. But guys, I was absolutely captivated! I was captivated by this film for a few reasons.First, because of Olaf, who is the most adorable and innocent snowman stole the screen with his comical summary of original Frozen. And second, I relate to Elsa SO MUCH. A snow queen with a desire for independent adventure? Um, yes. That’s the kind of Disney character my heart can get behind.
It’s this desire for independent adventure that I want to expand on here. It’s been reminding me of the idea of wonder, especially around this holiday season.
Before I go into the depth of it, I think starting with a simple definition of wonder will be helpful. Wonder is the feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.
In short, it’s a feeling of admiration when encountering something beautiful and mysterious. (My own words, not Webster’s).
Wonder (and awe) is a gift of the Holy Spirit, also known as fear of the Lord. St. Thomas Aquinas has clarified that this isn’t like a servile fear of punishment, but rather like the respect a child has for their mom or dad. So this gift of wonder is to help us relate to God as a child, rather than a slave. When we encounter a beautiful mystery that we cannot explain, our response of admiration and awe is what allows us to draw closer to God through our childlike respect for Him.
How does this relate to Frozen? Throughout the film, I was struck by the differing attitudes that both Ana and Elsa had toward nature and adventure into the unknown. There’s a scene at the beginning that shows the innocent delight in storytelling as their father, tells the story of his journey into an Enchanted Forest. As the story progresses and the two sisters venture into the Enchanted Forest, Ana and Elsa pursue the mystery of the Forest’s history in ways that reflect their personalities. Ana is the very obvious childlike expression of delighting in circumstance alongside people. She’s captivated by relationships and adventure and driven by loyalty, desiring to experience this journey alongside her sister. She very clearly values her relationships highly. The journey into the unknown means nothing without her sister.
Elsa, on the other hand, is enchanted by nature, by the unknown, and particularly by the mysterious voice that she hears calling out to her. She prefers to experience the journey alone, not because of her dislike of those around her, but due to her own unique ability to perceive the mystery around her. Two women experiencing the same awe in different ways. Like I’ve said before, I relate more to Elsa. As an introverted and independent woman by nature, I’m more likely to want to pursue wonder in my own way, in the midst of creation. Mystery appeals to me. It’s not the adventure itself that motivates me, but the desire to know more. To pursue mystery out of wonder, like Elsa who is motivated to know the origin of the melodic voice. I’m sure there’s many who can relate more to Ana, that experiencing the journey with someone else is part of what captivates you. But regardless, we have two women pursuing a journey in wonder and awe. As I pondered why this movie has stuck with me over the following few days, it occurred to me the appropriateness of the current liturgical season and the themes of wonder I saw in Frozen 2. We just experienced the season of Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year, as we waited in anticipation for the coming of Christ. Bringing in the current season, the season of Christmas, we have a beautiful opportunity to view the Christmas story through the lens of wonder.
What at first glance is a simple human birth in the midst of the night in a lowly stable, when we allow ourselves to open our eyes in wonder, becomes miraculously a story of redemption, mercy, and humility. Our own ability to look deeper, to see more, to ask why and how of the Christmas story, produces a narrative of mystery and a window into the infinite goodness of God.
Aristotle has said, “All men by nature desire to know.” What a gift we’ve been given! However, without wonder, all God would be is an idea. We would never be able to encounter the mystery through revelation.
Without the ability to wonder, to be in awe at God revealing himself to us, the Nativity is just a birth of a child by a mother, in ancient Israel, during a census. We wouldn’t ask why our God would reveal Himself in such a way. We wouldn’t want to know or conceive such a mystery.
But because we can see more, and we desire to know more, the story of Christmas, the story of the divine revelation is the story of God coming to man, God becoming man. It is an invitation to know Him personally and deeply.
Like I’ve said before, like Ana and Elsa, we each respond to this divine revelation differently. Whether you’re an independent one who prefers to journey solo, or take joy in experiencing the mystery next to those you love, I invite you to respond to the mystery of the birth of Jesus this Christmas. To make use of the gift you’ve been given to wonder at the mystery of God Incarnate. It’s a big deal, that Jesus came to us the humble way He did, let’s honor Him by marveling at the goodness and mercy of His birth.
“…although incapable of suffering, suffered; and, unable to die, died; and, eternal before ages, was able to be shown in time.” St. Isidore of Seville