Sunday, January 8, 2012

Into the Darkest Places

At Christmas we encounter the tenderness and love of God, who stoops down to our limitations, to our weakness, to our sins -- and He lowers Himself to us. St. Paul affirms that Jesus Christ ‘though He was in the form of God ... emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men’ (Philippians 2:6-7). Let us look upon the cave of Bethlehem: God lowers Himself to the point of being laid in a manger -- which is already a prelude of His self-abasement in the hour of His Passion. The climax of the love story between God and man passes by way of the manger of Bethlehem and the sepulcher of Jerusalem
Let us live this wondrous event: The Son of God again is born "today"; God is truly close to each one of us, and He wants to meet us -- He wants to bring us to Himself. He is the true light, which dispels and dissolves the darkness enveloping our lives and mankind. Let us live the Lord's birth by contemplating the path of God's immense love, which raised us to Himself through the mystery of the incarnation, passion, death and resurrection of His Son… Above all, let us contemplate and live this Mystery in the celebration of the Eucharist, the heart of Christmas; there, Jesus makes Himself really present -- as the true Bread come down from heaven, as the true Lamb sacrificed for our salvation.
General Audience, December 21, 2011
Reflection – “The climax of the love story between God and man passes by way of the manger.” Today the magi come to this manger. They represent us—all of humanity, coming from the ends of the earth, to behold and adore, fall down and worship this baby in the manger.
In the Eastern Church (and in Madonna House this day we celebrate the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Church) the focus is on the baptism of Christ in the Jordan. But this too is part of the same mystery—the true light dispelling the darkness. In the visit of the magi, we see the light dispelling the darkness of paganism, all of humanity separate and ignorant of the God of Israel. In the baptism, we see Christ plunging into the depths of darkness, the darkness of sin and death, symbolized by the waters that cleanse even as they kill.
We could almost legitimately put the feast of Corpus Christi right after this Epiphany-Baptism cycle. Christ shines light to the gentiles; Christ shines light to the sinful heart of man; Christ in the Eucharist shines light into the depths of your heart and mine.
This is our God—a light shining in the darkness. And what a light! Gentle, unassuming, non-violent, non-aggressive. God the baby, God the man humbling himself to be baptized by John, God giving Himself as food and drink to all who receive Him.
In MH today, after the divine liturgy we will process to the Madawaska River and throw in a crucifix. This is a ritual found throughout the Eastern Christian world. Symbolically, all the waters of the world are blessed in this simple rite, since of course all waters flow to the ocean and are connected together.
God has penetrated his world. The depths of the ocean, the innermost heart of reality, the darkest places of human sin and depravity, the hidden recesses of the human soul and everything that is found there—God has permanently and wholly immersed himself in our world.
His presence is hidden and gentle. He forces Himself on no one. But He is there, He is here, and because He is here, we have hope. Hope for everyone; hope for the silly people who have given up on any depth of meaning in life and plunge themselves into ephemeral pleasures and trivia; hope for the power brokers, the movers and shakers, the people who ‘count’ in the eyes of the world; hope for the evil-doers, the ones who embrace the path of violence and crime and hate. Hope for everyone—even hope for me and you, eh? The baby, the man in the water, the man on the Cross, the bread and wine which is not bread and wine at all—hope! So, once more for this Christmas season, O Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

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