Ordinary of the Mass
Madonna and Sleeping Child
Giovanni Battista Salvi (1609-1685)
more commonly known as Sassoferrato.
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Please allow me to wish everyone a very holy and happy
Christmas—the celebration of the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ—Son of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. And also allow me to
thank all of you who have, in any way, contributed to making this celebration
possible—your efforts and your generosity are truly appreciated.
We read in the Book of Wisdom:
“All were foolish who were in ignorance of God, who from the good
things seen did not succeed in knowing Him who Is, and from studying His
works did not discern their Artisan: but instead either fire or wind ... or
the mighty water ... or the luminaries of heaven ... they considered
gods.... from these things let them realize how much more powerful is He who
made them.... For from the greatness and the beauty of created things, their
Author, by analogy, is seen.”
Following this passage in the Old
Testament, and simply through natural reason, the Church has long held that it
is possible for man to know about God through his natural reasoning processes,
without the necessity of divine revelation. We can, know the Author of
creation by studying the evidence in what He has created.
Anyone who has taken an introductory
philosophy course will remember Saint Thomas Aquinas' five proofs of the
existence of God. He reminds us that by considering motion and causality
and perfection, we must realize that these things exist only with reference to
the First Mover, First Cause, and the All Perfect; that the Unnecessary beings
in the world would not exist if it were not for a Necessary Being; and that
the order of things in the physical universe demands an Orderer. All of
these things, we refer to as God.
But, perhaps, it is not surprising
that of those who study Aquinas' “proofs”—while most will agree that
these “proofs” do indeed point to the existence of God, but if they are
already Christians they will notice that something is missing in this purely
rational approach to God. The idea of an “All Perfect Prime Mover and
Orderer” seems a bit sterile. It seems okay if we think about God
being “out there” somewhere in eternity, but it lacks the warmth of the
God we know through the Gospels. And it lacks that warmth, precisely
because it lacks the dimension of divine revelation that allows us to know God
not only in eternity, but as having entered human history in time and place.
The God of the philosophers lacks the
warmth of the God who was born in a stable during the reign of Caesar Augustus
to Joseph and Mary; the God who began His public life during the reign of
Tiberius Caesar and Herod the Great, when Annas and Caiphas held the high
priesthood of the Jews; the God who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose
from the dead on the third day. The God of the philosophers seems
unloving and unlovable when compared to the God who experienced the human
condition and moved amongst His people.
Christians are rather unique in this
idea that our God became man Incarnate. Among the religions that know God to
be the one and only God, we are certainly unique. The Jews and the Moslems
know God as more than the Prime Mover, but even as a personal God, their God
is far off and removed. He speaks only and occasionally through a few chosen
prophets. The Jews enjoyed His presence in the Pillar of Fire that lead
them to the Promised Land and then took up residence in the Holy of Holies in
the Temple. But none, other than Christians, recognize that God became
man of the Blessed Virgin by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. None,
other than Christians, recognize that the same divine Holy Ghost dwells in the
souls of those in the state of grace. None, other than Christians,
recognize that God dwells physically in the tabernacle on the altar.
And today, even among Christians one
can find some, or perhaps even all, of these relations between God and His
people denied. The Mass, the Sacraments, the Blessed Mother, even the
historical reality of Jesus Christ come under greater and greater attack as
time passes. Even where these things are given token acknowledgement,
they often take a “back seat” to the idea of religion being a social or
philanthropic thing—to the idea of religion as being nothing more than
thinking happy thoughts and getting to know each other. For many, Sunday
morning church is little more than a social obligation; an opportunity to
chat; an opportunity to impress neighbors and business associates with a new
suit or a fancy hat. Just ask yourself: How many people do you
suppose come to church on Sunday to worship God above all else? How many
do you suppose are focused on God once again visiting us, and being with us,
and offering Himself for us to the Father as He did two-thousand years ago?
Today, after a relatively long Advent,
we celebrate Christmas—the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ—perhaps even
more than the Annunciation, the most notable observance of the Incarnation. I
would ask you to keep this feast in a holy and Catholic manner; being, as it
were, “a witness” before those who deny the Incarnation, and particularly
before those who would like us to deny the Incarnation as well.
Christmas is not about shopping, not about eating, not about presents, not
about drinking, not about reindeer. Christmas is not “the holidays,”
nor “the season” — it is the Christ-Mass, the Nativity, the birth of
Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary. It is not about Santa Claus, or Chris
Cringle, or Macy's and Gimble's—it is about the birth of Jesus to Mary and
Joseph in Bethlehem, the Incarnation of God in the history of His people.
The Incarnation sets us apart from all
non-believers in a profound and essential way. It is the Incarnation that
makes God something more than a force to be feared. It is the
Incarnation that gives dignity and natural rights to human beings. It is
the Incarnation that raises us above the level of physical creation, making us
adopted sons and daughters of God. Without the Incarnation there is no
“peace on earth,” and very few “men of good will.” Civilization
depends upon it: Keep a holy Christmass in honor of God's Incarnation.
shall call His name Emmanuel, meaning 'God is with His people.'"