Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas 2005

1) Is Christmas a tradition that we remember as an historical event, or is it an ontological reality that keeps occurring? Can it happen today, and to me and to you? In the case of the Eucharist, we believe that every Mass is the ontologically the same sacrifice that took place on the Cross 2,000 years ago. It is the same “I” of the Logos of the Father who make the gift of himself as eternal “I” that never left the “side” of the Father while in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth He said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (Jn, 38). The “I” of Jesus Christ is not human but divine and therefore is both divine and in time. In fact, the action of the “I-Gift” of the divine Person of Christ is precisely what is instantiated every time the words of consecration are intentionally repeated over valid matter. Because of this transcendent “I,” every Mass is ontologically Calvary since it is the same ontological Person. To substantiate this, recall chapter 8 of St. John’s Gospel where three times Jesus uses the equivalent of Yahweh translated into the Greek “ego eimi” (“When I am lifted up from the earth, you will know that “ego eimi” [I Am], {Jn. 8, 24}; “If you do not believe that “ego eimi,” you will die in your sins” [I Am] {Jn. 8, 28}; “Before Abraham came to be “ego eimi” [I Am] {Jn. 8, 58}.

The conditions for this ontological recurrence is the apt matter and form as receptivity: the bread and wine with the ministerial priests intentionally wanting to do and doing what the Church does. In the case of instantiating the birth of Christ, the apt “matter” is the radical gift of self of the Virgin. Any one who hears the word of God and does it is my brother and sister and mother: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk. 8, 20-21).

2) The two states of John the Baptist are revealing. John saw Christ and recognized Him as Messiah. At the baptism, he heard the words of the Father (“This is my beloved Son…”) and saw the Spirit descending on Him as dove. He preached the fiery revelation of Christ setting things definitively right in the society. The ax was to be put to the root of the tree, and the threshing floor was to be swept clean of the chaff. He did the same to Herod and was imprisoned.

From the prison, John hears nothing of the ax and the sweeping. Things continue much as they had before. The visible transformation that he had expected was not taking place. He becomes scandalized, falters in faith; he sends messengers to ask Christ: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Lk. 7, 19). Christ sends back the message: “Go and tell John what it is that you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them…. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me”? (Lk. 7, 22-23). John Paul II comments: “Love is present in the world.” The redemption is taking place in the darkness and ambiguity. Then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: Christmas 2005


Then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “This was probably the final task set the Baptist as he lay in prison: to become blessed by this unquestioning acceptance of God’s obscure will; to reach the point of asking no further for external, visible, unequivocal clarity, but, instead, of discovering God precisely in the darkness of this world and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed. In point of fact, we cannot see God as we see an apple tree or a neon sign, that is, in a purely external way that requires no interior commitment. We see him only by becoming like him, by reaching the level of reality on which God exists; in other words, by being liberated from what is anti-diving: the quest for pleasure, enjoyment, possessions, gain, or, in a word, from ourselves. In the final analysis it is usually the self that stands between us and God. We can see God only if we turn around, stop looking for him as we might look for street signs and dollar bills, and begin looking away from the visible to the invisible.”[1]

3) There is only one Christmas. It consists of a sign: “`Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Lk. 2, 12). This is still the sign for us too, men and women of the third millennium. There is no other Christmas” (Benedict XVI, December 11, 2005[2]). Christmas has a “secret.” The all powerful Creator of the world who is neither more because the world exists, nor less if it did not, enters into His creation. He becomes a part of it, but is not “of” it. To recognize the Creator in His Creation, we must become like Him, since like is known by like.

Therefore, to recognize Jesus Christ – as John the Baptist did not – the experience of a conversion has to be gone through, not merely externally – materialistically – but internally with the experience of self-giving. This is the meaning of faith and the divine maternity that can and must be repeated by the men and women of the third millennium. Benedict XVI suggest that we make the crib scene, the liturgy, and get involved in both; also that we get involved with the others and make the gift of ourselves to them because they are the way to God for us..

St. Josemaria Escriva wrote in 1974: “My children, God teach us to abandon ourselves completely. Look where Christ is born. Everything there bespeaks unconditioned self-giving. Joseph, whose life is a succession of hardships mixed with the joy of being Jesus’ guardian, risks his honor, the serene continuity of his work, his tranquil future: his entire existence is ready availability for whatever God may ask. Mary shows herself to be the handmaid of the Lord (Lk 1, 38), who by her fiat transforms her entire existence into an acceptance of the divine plan of salvation. And Jesus? Suffice it to say that our God reveals himself to us as a child. The Creator of the universe present himself to us in an infant’s swaddling clothes [“swaddling” clothes are bands in which an infant is wrapped so as to restrain it: hence another image of the subjection and lowering of the Logos in becoming man], so we may never doubt that he is true God and true Man” (Letter, February 1974, 2).


[1] Josef Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching Franciscan Herald Press ((1985) 76-77.
[2] L’Osservatore Romano, N. 50 (1923) – 14 December 2005, p. 1.”[1]

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