The Awesome Truth about Christmas

The Nativity Scene at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, Ky.

The Nativity Scene at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, Ky.

Are we so accustomed to Christmas that we overlook the shocking truth of what we’re actually celebrating?

Christmas, “Christ’s Mass,” marks the birth of Our Lord. What a startling fact: God has become man to redeem us! God the Son, the Eternal Word of the Father, holds His arms out to us as a newborn baby!

Pope St. Leo the Great (d. 461) describes the mind-boggling awesomeness:

He comes down from the throne of heaven…Invisible in His own nature, He became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, He chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time began, He began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the universe, He hid His infinite glory, and took the nature of a servant. Incapable of suffering as God, He did not refuse to be a man, capable of suffering. Immortal, He chose to be subject to the laws of death.

Leo’s words are recalled especially for our March 25 celebration of the Annunciation, when the Blessed Virgin Mary accepted her role in salvation history, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, and she conceived Jesus — the precise instant of the Incarnation, the enfleshment, of the Lord.

God went to such extraordinary lengths to seek us out, cultivate a relationship with us, and save us so that we may enjoy eternal life with Him.

That in turn calls for a response from us, to welcome the Lord into every aspect of our lives. Can’t we respond with greater love and fidelity to the One Who has loved us infinitely?

Engaging the Gospel – Fourth Sunday of Advent

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Gospel – Luke 1:26-38

The Annunciation marks the turning point in all of history: when the Eternal Son of God descends to take on our human nature, our flesh, becoming incarnate in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In recognition of this sublime mystery, we bow during these lines when we profess the Creed.

At this moment, God and Mary are entrusting themselves to each other, as St. John Paul II observed in Redemptoris Mater:

For it must be recognized that before anyone else it was God Himself, the Eternal Father, Who entrusted Himself to the Virgin of Nazareth, giving her His own Son in the mystery of the Incarnation (39).

And Mary surrenders herself totally to the Lord, freely consenting to become the mother of the Savior:

The mystery of the Incarnation was accomplished when Mary uttered her fiat: ‘Let it be to me according to your word,’ which made possible, as far as it depended upon her in the divine plan, the granting of Her Son’s desire.

Mary uttered this fiat in faith. In faith she entrusted herself to God without reserve…And as the Fathers of the Church teach – she conceived this Son in her mind before she conceived Him in her womb: precisely in faith! (13).

Thus in a sense Mary as Mother became the first ‘disciple’ of her Son (20).

While Mary’s faith is an example to us, she continues to exercise a much more active role on our behalf. Jesus gave Mary to us as our mother too:

Along the path of this collaboration with the work of her Son, the Redeemer, Mary’s motherhood itself underwent a singular transformation, becoming ever more imbued with ‘burning charity’ towards all those to whom Christ’s mission was directed.

…In response to this interior willingness of His Mother, Jesus Christ prepared her ever more completely to become for all people their ‘mother in the order of grace’ (39).

Thus, in her new motherhood in the Spirit, Mary embraces each and every one in the Church, and embraces each and every one through the Church (47).

Question for reflection: How does the Blessed Virgin Mary help me to be a better disciple?