December 24, 2016

The Birth of Christ - a mystery for our hearts

"The Word of the Father constantly desires to be embodied" declared Saint Maximus the Confessor.  This is what Fr. Cantalamessa preached for Advent and his message lifts us up into the mystery of Christmas.  Christ born of the Virgin Mary in history now desires to be born in our hearts by mystery.   This is the grace of the mass - the Christmas - that we celebrate tonight and tomorrow.

In Christ's birth in history, there is a new birth for humanity in mystery. Such is the new life that God begets in us because He was born as one of us.  To celebrate Christmas is to say "yes" to this birth in one's own life.  By a simple movement of faith, one can claim this new birth for one's own. A humble assent of the heart to this inestimable gift is all it takes to share in this joy.

What we sanction with our hearts must be lived out - or we have not really sanctioned it. Good intentions must be acted upon - or they die hidden away where they do no good. To sanction this mystery is to be open to a deeper trust in the loving plan of the Father.  He has given us everything we need in giving us His Son. When we possess Christ by faith, we possess all that we need to live by love and for love.

This kind of faith means, on an even deeper level, cleaving to Jesus and relying on Him, just as He cleaved to his Mother and learned to rely on her as a new born. When we turn away from power struggles in our relationships with each other, this mystery helps us accept our poverty before God with the hope that comes from Him.  Because of His generous goodness, we can let go of anxieties. With His life in us, we can silence our righteous indignation and be amazed at the mercy of God.

Faith in the Son of Mary born for our sakes empties us of "self" just as He emptied Himself of His Divinity.  This is a pathway of humility up which we progress by a simple act of trust  - choosing to fill this present moment with all the love we can even when love seems impossible. In particular, to participate in the mystery of Christmas is to be, like God, ready to forgive, and this divine readiness in us should make us even more ready to seek forgiveness.

For those who know this new birth in their hearts, Jesus's birth is no artifact. Instead they, like Emmanuel, entrust their new existence into the loving arms of Mary until her "Fiat" informs their own.  In the swaddling clothes which bound the Savior, they find their new freedom. In the first cries of the Word made flesh they hear that mysterious jubilation that animates all that which is truly Christian.