Christian faith lives on the discovery that not only is there such a thing as objective meaning, but this meaning knows me and loves me, I can entrust myself to it like that child that knows all its questions answered in the ‘You’ of its mother.
Introduction to Christianity, 48
Reflection – As Christmas draws near we can all easily contemplate the image of ‘mother and child’ Ratzinger references here. It is indeed the feast of Christmas when we see most clearly that not only is God real, not only is there an Ultimate Reality that is behind everything, but that this reality ‘knows me and loves me’.
‘Truth is a child,’ wrote Catherine Doherty in one of her Christmas-centered poems. Truth is a child; God made himself a baby, a child, a helpless creature, for love of us. God put himself into our hands so that we could do with him what we will. Herod tried to kill him; Pontius Pilate succeeded a few years later.
‘Truth is a child, bread and wine,’ is the full first line of the poem. This ‘helpless God’ we behold in the manger in our crèche scenes and carols comes to us in fleshly reality at every
“Truth is a child, bread and wine/Truth is fed by the breasts of Mary/Truth is cradled by the hands of Mary/Truth is helpless as only a child can be/Truth is helpless only as bread and wine can helpless be/The keynote of Truth is helplessness.”
So runs the first stanza of this remarkable poem. It is an unfathomable mystery of God that He makes Himself so for us. For God is not helpless – He plays with the stars and the galaxies, and holds every quark and quanta in its place – but this God perpetually presents Himself to us as a beggar, as a poor man, as a helpless baby, as bread and wine. We can receive Him in faith and love, or cast Him on the ground and tread Him underfoot.
There’s something very deep going on here about the mystery of love, the mystery of generosity, of mercy. And because it is about those things, all this ‘helplessness’ business has to be reflected in our own lives somehow.
“Unless [truth] becomes as helpless as a child/Or piece of bread that is lifted up, or cup of wine/It will not be the perfect love that I am./When you have become as utterly helpless/As I became for love’s sake/Then you will be like I Myself.”
It all comes back to this child entrusting himself to his mother. To knowing that objective reality, ultimate reality ‘knows me and loves me.’ So I can abandon myself to Him who so abandoned Himself to me, allow myself to be borne along by His will in my life, gobbled up by the demands of love, cast aside by the heedless or loveless, disregarded and forgotten, or drowned in a sea of obligations and hard labor.
Bread and wine. A child. A Christian. Such is the truth of our faith. Such is the quality of perfect love. And in Christmas, beholding the beauty of the manger, the mother, the child, such is the renewal of our hope that in this faith and love, we enter a realm of light and joy, smelling of straw and animals, but filled with the sound of angels’ wings and song.See you there.