Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Christmas—Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ—25 December AD 2007

Ordinary of the Mass in Latin and English
Christmas Masses-English
Christmas Masses-Latin

    Please accept my warmest wishes for a holy, happy, and healthy Christmas.  I hope that the celebration of our Lord’s birth will be a source of spiritual refreshment for all of you, and that you will spend a peaceful and happy day with your friends and relatives.  And thank you—all of you who in any way made this celebration possible.  May God bless you for your help.

    I have a small gift for each household in our parish.  No surprise—it is a book as it is every year—I hope it will help you to understand our Catholic Faith just a little bit better.

    In order to better understand exactly what it is that we celebrate on Christmas, I would like to call your attention to something we do at the altar, not only on Christmas, but during each and every Mass throughout the year.  As you know, just after the Creed we sing or recite an Offertory verse—usually a little snippet from the Psalms.  After that verse, the priest takes a wafer of unleavened bread—like the matzo of the Last Supper—and offers it to God the Father as a victim in sacrifice.  The word “host” comes from the Latin “hostia,” and means, literally, “victim.”  We are referring, of course, to the fact that the host will become the body and blood of our Lord, and that it will be consumed in the Eucharistic renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross.  The priest also offers a chalice containing a little wine, which will also be changed into the substance of our Lord’s body and blood, and consumed as part of that sacrificial renewal.

    But before the chalice is offered, the very brief ceremony I alluded to is performed.  The priest pours some wine into the chalice, and then recites a prayer as he pours just a drop or two of water into the wine.  He adds water to the wine because that is what our Lord would have done at the Supper—it was the custom all around the Mediterranean, where the wines tend to be strong and even syrupy.   But the priest adds the drops of water also to express an important symbolic relationship.  The rich and fragrant wine reminds us of the divine nature of God in all His power and splendor.  The water represents our humble human nature, which when added to the wine mingles so completely as to be indistinguishable from it, suggesting that through the power of the Holy Sacrifice, our human nature will in some way be intimately united to God’s divine nature.

    As the priest adds these few drops of water he says:  “O God, who didst establish human nature in wondrous dignity, and even more wondrously hast restored it, grant that through the mystery of this water and wine we may become partakers of His divinity, who humbled Himself to partake of our humanity, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord....”

    This, precisely, is the amazing gift of Christmas.  Fallen mankind is again raised up to friendship with God.  We do not become God or gods as some of the more extreme Modernists suggest.[1]  But we are given the opportunity to become the adopted sons and daughters of God through Baptism and the graces we may then receive through the Mass and the other Sacraments.

    Given this perspective, we come to recognize three aspects of Christmas that touch each and every human being, down to the depths of his soul.

    Christmas is, first of all, the birth of God into the world.  The Second Person of the Trinity existed with God before all ages, but it is only with the Annunciation and the Nativity that He became Jesus the Christ, the Incarnate Son of God in the physical form and nature of a human being.  God had involved Himself with human affairs before, uniquely entering into human history through His revelations to Moses and the Prophets.  He even had a visible presence in the pillar of smoke by day and pillar of fire by night.[2]  But now He had a fully human presence in the Person of Jesus Christ, true God and true man.  So, today we celebrate the birth of God into the world.

    Secondly, Christmas is the birth of the true Son of Mary.  It is vitally important to understand that the Virgin Mary was not just some sort of receptacle into which God placed His Son.  Those of you who were here for Mass this past Wednesday heard the words of the Angel Gabriel:  “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee ... thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son and call His name Jesus ... the Son of the most High.”[3]  Mary “conceived in her womb”— by the power of the Holy Ghost, through the natural materials of her body, she conceived the Child, giving Him life and substance.  He is flesh of her flesh, bone of her bone, and so forth for every single cell in His body.  When we see Jesus, we see Mary—today is the birthday of her true Son.

    Finally, Christmas is the birthday of what we have come to call the “Mystical Body of Christ”—those souls who, with Christ as their Head, preserve sanctifying grace in their souls and do the work of God here on earth.  Those who glorify God through prayer and Holy Mass;  those who do for God by doing for the poor, the sick, the widow, and the orphan;  those who bring souls to God by recounting His Word and by showing their good example.  This is the birthday of those about whom we read in the Apocalypse:  the “great multitude which no man could number, out of all tribes and nations and peoples and tongues.”[4]  Today is our birthday if we are united with Jesus Christ.

    So today we rejoice that God became man;  we rejoice that Mary became the true Mother of God;  and we rejoice that we are reborn as the adopted sons and daughters of God through the waters of Baptism and the fire of sanctifying grace.

    Pope Saint Leo the Great—that gentle man who turned back Attila the Hun at gates of Rome—took this rejoicing yet a little further.  Let me close with Pope Leo’s words:

Sadness should find no place amongst those who keep the Birthday of Life.  For as of this day Life came unto us dying creatures, to take away the sting of death, and to bring the bright promise of joy eternal....

Rejoice, O saint, for thou drawest nearer to thy crown! 

Rejoice, O sinner, for thy Savior offers thee pardon! 

Rejoice, O Jew, for the Messias is come. 

Rejoice, O Gentile pagan, for God calls thee to life!

    Now is come the fullness of time, fixed by the unsearchable counsel of God, when the Son of God took upon him the nature of man, that he might reconcile it to its Maker.  Now is come the time when the devil, the inventor of death, is met and beaten in that very flesh which had been the field of his victory.[5]

    God bless us all.  A holy, happy, healthy, and a merry Christmas to everyone!


[1]   E.g.  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and his claim that mankind is evolving the “Ω-point” of divinity.

[2]   Cf. (Exodus 14:24 sqq.; 33:9; Numbers 11:25; 12:5; Deuteronomy 31:15; Psalm 98:7).

[3]   Gospel of Ember Wednesday in Advent:  Luke i: 26-38.

[4]   Apocalypse vii: 9.

[5]   Pope Saint Leo I, sermon I on the Nativity, Lesson iv at Matins of the Nativity.


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