DECEMBER 25, 2002, CHRISTMAS DAY MASS: HOMILY- JOHN 1.1-18 

IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD…AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US. Whereas the Vigil Mass at midnight of Christmas has as its central theme the humanity of the new born Christ, this Day Mass focuses our attention primary on our Lord’s divinity. The infant lying in the manger is truly God made flesh. More precisely, he is the Word of God, who comes out from the bosom of the Father from all eternity. This is certainly the crucial dogma of our Catholic faith. All the other mysteries depend for their efficacy in the plan of salvation upon the fact that the son born of the Virgin Mary is truly human in his nature, while being the person of the Son of God.  

All of us believe in this teaching which is set forth in today’s Gospel so clearly and forcibly and proclaimed in numerous churches on this day when we commemorate our Savior’s birth. Today as it is set before us in the presence of the crib that displays this divine person as an infant, as yet unable to utter a word, we are invited to penetrate more deeply into the implications of these two facts. The very reason why John introduces his Gospel with this account of the actual identity of the infant born of the Virgin is that the significance of every other event and activity of this divine-human being is determined by the divinity of his person. The birth we commemorate is a beginning of a life whose every act has both human and divine significance for this child has two natures even while being but a single, divine Person. 

The whole of his life is for our salvation. That is the meaning of the words of the liturgy, taken from the prophet Isaiah so often taken up by our Cistercian Fathers: ‘A child is born for us, a child is given to us.’ He became man for us because only a divine person could adequately reconcile us to the Father. Of our self we were helpless to restore the loving relation to God that was disrupted by the original sin we inherited. Unless we appreciate these two fundamental facts we cannot know the true spirit of Christmas joy. We are unable of our selves to attain to the one goal for which we have been created on the one hand; on the other God loves us so much He has freely chosen to become one of us in order to create the possibility of our eternal happiness.  

Whether we actually do realize this transcendent purpose of the Incarnation and the birth of Christ depends on how we receive him not only today, on this memorial of his birth but every day of our lives until we appear before him in judgment. Let us recall for ourselves that this is the purpose of our Christmas celebration: to show our gratitude to God for the love He offers us in giving us His Son as our Redeemer and to ask the favor of His grace that we might receive this surpassing gift worthily, with faith that expresses itself in lives of obedience to His will. 

These are the purposes for our making the Eucharist the central act of our Christmas feast. In order to give fuller expression to these truths all priests have the privilege of offering three masses today. May we so participate in this Eucharistic offering as to become more strongly united with our Lord in faith, more grateful to him for all he has done and continues to do for us and finally may we show our gratitude by a daily fidelity to our vocation. In this way we shall give effect to the purpose for which this child, God and man, is born into this world that treated him so harshly. Our redemption and sanctification is what he seeks in becoming man; may we respond with a faithful love and gratitude for his goodness to us. And may we live in this world as holy children of God, wholly dedicated to the One who alone can bring us to the eternal Father. l    

 

  Abbot John Eudes Bamberger


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