25 December – The Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Today the Church celebrates the Birth of Jesus Christ, the first day in the octave of Christmas. Throughout Advent the Church longed ardently for the coming of our Saviour. Today she celebrates His birth with unrestrained joy. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” The Son of God became man to give us a share in that divine life which is eternally His in the Blessed Trinity. Christmas time begins on 24 December with the first Vespers of the feast and ends on the feast of the Baptism of Christ. White vestments reappear in our churches as a sign of joy.
The Christmas feast is a festival full of joy. The Eternal Word has become Man and dwells among us. The longings of the patriarchs and prophets are fulfilled. With the shepherds we hurry to the manger and adore the Incarnate Son of God, who for us and for our salvation descended upon earth. The purpose of the Christmas feast is beautifully expressed in the Preface of the Nativity: “For by the mystery of the Word made flesh the light of Thy glory hath shone anew upon the eyes of our mind; so that while we acknowledge Him a God seen by men, we may be drawn by Him to the love of things unseen.”
Christmas says to us – alone we can’t profoundly change the world to remedy it. Alone, we can make the world better or worse but we can’t save it. Christ came therefore, because left to ourselves; we couldn’t escape the ‘mortal disease’ that has enveloped us from the first moment of conception in our mother’s womb. This gives us hope, true hope and true Christian optimism: I can’t do it but He is there! This is the mystery of grace synthesised in the human figure of God incarnate.
Christmas Eve and Christmas day are moments of contemplation. We consider, in many dimensions, the mystery of love that was incarnated for us. First of all, we contemplate the light and joy, without forgetting Jesus and Mary’s sorrows and sufferings and the many difficulties that had surrounded them: the cold, the uncomfortable place, the dangers….. It would be good to accompany these thoughts by reciting and meditating slowly on the Holy Rosary, preferably in front of a crib. ‘Blessed grotto of Bethlehem that testified to the wonders! Who, in this hour would not turn our hearts? Who would not prefer the opulent palace of the King?’ (Abbot Guéranger, L’Anno Liturgico, Alba 1959 [orig. franc. 1841], I, p122).
Listen to the way that St Bonaventure, the seraphic doctor, invites us to contemplate this scene in his ‘Meditation on the life of Jesus Christ’: ‘You have also lingered, bent your knee, adored the Lord God, venerated His Mother and greeted Joseph, the holy old man, with reverence. Therefore, kiss the feet of the baby Jesus, who lies in the manger, and pray that the Holy Virgin will allow you to hold Him. Take Him between your arms, hold Him and see His lovable face, kiss it with reverence and rejoice with Him. You can do this because He has come to bring salvation to sinners and He has humbly conversed with them, finally giving Himself as food’. (cit. in Guéranger, pp 136-137)
Christmas also reminds us of the great mystery of God’s people, of the Church acquired through Christ’s blood, animated by the life giving Spirit, governed by the legitimate shepherds in communion with the successor of Peter. On this day in which the Word came to earth, assuming human nature, body, and soul, how can we not think about His Mystical Body that is animated by the Holy Spirit? ‘For this reason, by no weak analogy, [the Church] is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body’ (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n.8).
Holy Christmas also reminds us of the mystery of Mary as Mother of God, mother of the Incarnated Word and mother of His mystical body, the Church. Christmas encourages us to contemplate Jesus together with Mary, reflecting on Jesus with ‘His mother’, as recounted many times in the Gospels. If our faith must be fully evangelical, it can not neglect a sane and profound devotion to the Mother of God, as she shows us the easiest way to reach Jesus.
Happy Birthday Jesus, our Lord and our God!
For a post on the Tradition Bible Time From the Creation to The Birth of Jesus go here: https://anastpaul.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/25-december-the-solemnity-of-the-birth-of-our-lord-jesus-christ/