The Birth of Our Saviour, the Light of the Nations

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, He saved us (Tit. 3:4). ⧾

Today, with great joy we celebrate the manifestation of the grace of salvation in the Birth of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour. The offer of salvation is made to all people and so we rejoice on this great Feast and we pray especially for all those who do not yet know Him for God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Tim. 2:4). This saving truth encompasses all of reality: God, man, the world, the entirety of our existence. St. Paul reminds us: Beloved, the grace of God appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright and godly; while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great  God and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:11-13). We have in these few verses of Scripture a whole program of life, a purposeful life filled with meaning and joy, a life that benefits others as well as ourselves, a life that yearns for endless life in the embrace of the Most Holy Trinity.

A visual program of life is also right here before us in our Sanctuary, our Holy of Holies which we must approach with great reverence, for God Himself abides here in the Tabernacle where He is truly our Emmanuel, God-with-us. See, before you the Christ Child, Our Saviour, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Behind Him is the Altar of Sacrifice; and on it the Tabernacle, our own Bethlehem, our House of Bread for this is the meaning of Bethlehem. Lastly, you see the Crucifix, whence Our Saviour continues to draw all people to Himself. ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself’ (Jn. 12:32).

To believe that Jesus is the Son of God; that He was born of the Virgin Mary means that we worship Him, true God and true Man, and that we model our life on a God who is humble. This is the message of the whole of Divine Revelation: The humility of the Creator in becoming incarnate and the humility of the creature in welcoming Him. Hence, St. Bede the Venerable declared: Those who refuse to humble themselves cannot be saved. A straight path is set before us; it is the narrow path of salvation that leads to Heaven. This is the path of devout humility which Our Lord Himself became for us. What this means is that what He asks us to do, He has already done. We need only to imitate Him; and when we do with sincere conviction and effort, we become cooperators of the truth cooperatores veritatis.

The path of salvation is the path of the Ten Commandments, the first of which command us to acknowledge and to adore the living God, including the observance of the Lord’s Day, Sunday. We deceive ourselves and our children most especially if we presume to neglect these commandments. The road of salvation then is closed to us for we have fallen into a dark and lonely pit of human and spiritual misery caused by the illusion of moral self-sufficiency, the illusion of radical autonomy proudly and loudly peddled by the world today; yet only to great anguish and destruction. It is an illusion that alienates us from God, from others and from ourselves. Our Saviour comes to deliver us from all this and to shed the light of His truth on this land of deep darkness. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shone (Is. 9:2). The path that is set before us is also the path of the Beatitudes, the first of which blesses the poor in spirit, the humble of heart. So Our Lord Himself encourages us: ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Mt. 11:29).

Out Lord’s yoke is the Cross. You also see it before you and it is a necessary element in the path of discipleship, the path of devout humility: ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’ (Lk. 9:23). The Cross is essential to Christian life because it reveals to us the powerful mystery of sacrificial love without which, our lives are empty, cold and barren. Love that is willing to suffer is life-giving. This is the lesson that Our Lord Himself taught us through His Passion and Death, and a lesson that the godly people in our life continue to teach us. The little Child born for us, truly God and truly Man will offer His life on the Altar of the Cross for our salvation. That very same Sacrifice is re-presented for us on the Altar each and every time the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated. What we receive with reverence and love is the Sacrament of the Lord’s Passion, the fruit of His Sacrifice. The effect of this Sacrifice in us enables us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright and godly… [so that we become]…a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds (Cf. Tit. 2:11-14).

All of this is set here before us. The Catholic Sanctuary properly ordered is rightly understood as a place of sacrifice. It is all set here before us in a visual lesson that we learn again and again, never exhausting its truth because it is the truth that enlightens our life at its every stage. Love that is willing to suffer is life-giving. At Holy Mass we endeavour to conform ourselves to this Mystery of Love that becomes a living Reality on our Altars. Just as the Altar teaches us what we are, and how we become what God wills us to be, so the Tabernacle speaks to us of where God’s abiding Presence may be always be found. It is a Presence that beckons us to divine intimacy.

On this beautiful Feast of Our Saviour’s Birth, God wills to renew us in His love (Zeph. 3:17); so that Christ may be formed in us (Gal. 4:19). Let us look to Our Lady and to Saint Joseph as examples to imitate in both welcoming and in serving this Mystery of God become Man; and with them, adore the God of Salvation. During the Canon of the Mass, Jesus will once again become truly present on this Altar in the poverty and humility of the Eucharistic species – bread and wine, to become the living Bread of Life. The Mystery of Christmas is ever-present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist which Jesus the Bread of Life has left as a memorial of His living Presence: Emmanuel, God with us. That first Christmas when He came to us in Bethlehem of Judea, He came as the true light, which enlightens everyone (Jn. 1:9). In grace, He comes to us on this Holy Day to renew us in His love (Zeph. 3:17). With joy and thanksgiving let us celebrate this Feast by which the human race has been renewed, and let us generously share this love and grace. May the life of Jesus direct and rule yours (St. Marie of the Incarnation). ⧾