Saints are great helpers who, by the inspiration given to them by the Holy Spirit, help us appreciate the present Christmas season we are living in.
For instance, for St Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Christmas is the Feast of man’s maker. Later on this man’s maker will be killed. Yet, through his death we are healed. The bishop of Hippo said: Man’s maker was made man, that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that the Truth might be accused of false witness, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.
Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation of the Eternal One. St John Chrysostom (347-407) said: This day He Who Is, is born; and He Who Is becomes what He was not. Christmas is fruitful when we open our hearts to Christ, the Sun of eternal light.
Thus, St Ambrose of Milan (340-397) stated: Open wide your door to the one who comes. Open your soul, throw open the depths of your heart to see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the sweetness of grace. Open your heart and run to meet the Sun of eternal light that illuminates all men.
Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s humility in his humanity. St Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) said: O Father, in your Truth (that is to say, in your Son, humbled, needy and homeless) you have humbled me. He was humbled in the womb of the Virgin, needy in the manger of the sheep, and homeless on the wood of the Cross. Nothing so humbles the proud sinner as the humility of Jesus Christ’s humanity. Christmas unravels Christ’s humility as He himself became a child among children to teach us, we the unwise, how to love.
St Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) affirmed: Teacher of children became himself a child among children, that he might instruct the unwise. The Bread of heaven came down to earth to feed the hungry.
Christmas is the exaltation of Christ, the Holy One, who became a man among us sinners. St Gregory Nazianzen (329-390) observed: Christ is born, glorify Him! Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him! Christ on earth, be exalted! Sing to the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope.
Christmas is joyous festival because Christmas is our sure pledge for eternal life. St Leo the Great (c.400-461) said: Dearly beloved, today our Saviour is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all.
Christmas points out to us Mary’s role of inviting us to go and adore Christ to be changed by his divinity in his humanity. St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) put the following reflection: Arise, all ye nobles and peasants; Mary invites all, rich and poor, just and sinners, to enter the cave of Bethlehem, to adore and to kiss the feet of her new-born Son. Go in, then, all ye devout souls; go and see the Creator of heaven and earth on a little hay, under the form of a little Infant; but so beautiful that he sheds all around rays of light. Now that he is born and is lying on the straw, the cave is no longer horrible, but has become a paradise. Let us enter; let us not be afraid.
Christmas is the celebration of our Saviour, thus our salvation is at hand. St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) reminds us of this important reality when he exhorts us: Awake, you who lie in the dust, awake and give praise. Behold, the Lord cometh with salvation. He comes with salvation, He comes with unction, He comes with glory. Jesus cannot come without salvation, Christ cannot come without unction, nor the Son of God without glory. For He Himself is salvation, He is unction, He is glory, as it is written, “A wise son is the glory of his father.”
Finally, Christmas extolls our human dignity because God Himself, our Creator, became a creature like us to take us back to our former lost dignity by sin. St Peter Chrysologus (c.380-c.450) said: Christ’s birth was not necessity, but an expression of omnipotence, a sacrament of piety for the redemption of men. He who made man without generation from pure clay made man again and was born from a pure body. The hand that assumed clay to make our flesh deigned to assume a body for your salvation. That the Creator is in his creature and God is in the flesh brings dignity to man without dishonour to him who made him. Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God?
Let us leave these reflections, offered to us by our brethren, the saints, who keep molding us in and through Christ’s humanity in his divinity …