Friday, December 26, 2008

Reflection on the Gospel of Christmas Day: John 1:1-18

It is not so hard to believe that God became man. That is, once understood that God took on human nature and did not change His divine nature to do so, the philosophical objections to the Incarnation subside. No, rather the most difficult thing to believe about Christmas, I think, is that "from his fullness we have even recieved grace on top of grace" (ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν, καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος)... "χάρις" the greek word for "grace"... but I think perhaps in he west we have gotten too used to the idea of being able to merit grace. Though it is true that we can cooperate with grace, I would not deny that, it is often the case that we subtly think that we can merit grace, that grace is based on what we have done or not done. At least it seems that is how we want to present ourselves to God as "wholely and immaculate" and worthy of His favor. But the word "χάρις" denotes not only a gift, not only a favor, but a free one at that. That is, it means that the gift was wholely unmerited.

It was not to the religious elite that the child at Bethlehem was revealed as being messiah and son of God, but rather to poor and lowly shepherds and to the impure goyim in the persons of the Magi. At the well of Sichar, it was not someone of virtue that Jesus revealed his deep thirst to satiate our thirst, but rather to a five time adulteress.

So the question for us this Christmas season is not whether we bought the right gift, or whether we are singing the right carols, or to whose house we should go to for Christmas dinner or for other parties during the holdays, but whether we have truly accepted in faith that God's love is un-merited, whether we have presented to Jesus the gift of our stone cold hearts sure that he will not spurn to enter in them since he did not disdain to be born in a cold stone grotto in Bethlehem or to be placed in a stone cold tomb after his passion, choosing these places to be the sites where He manifests His glory. Have we turned over to Him our pretenses, our reservations of how we want to prove ourselves worthy of His love so that we can still think that it is somehow due to our own abilities and capacities that we are called into communion with Him (that ever so subtle idolatry that really looks for nothing other than an exultation of one's self)? Have we given to God that darkest deepest corner of our hearts, the very places we have considered unclean because there our human thirst has led us to seek our fulfillment in sin? Have we said to God, "I trust that you came to redeem me... not because I am worthy, but because You are a giver of all that is good... and I trust that you do not look to only cover up my woundedness and sin but to heal it completely"? Have we accepted God's gift? Have we recognized it as that which fills the very hunger and thirst of our souls? Have we placed our trust in it so that we surrender in loving trust to the will of God to fill us? Trusting, have we turned our selves completely over to God so that He can continue to fill us and transform us? Encountering so great a love, have we let ourselves be overwhelmed by the joy of our salvation and so adopted a cheerfullness that endures despite the changes in our mood precisely because we are firmly rooted in God's gracious... and I do emphasize "gracious"... gift?

This is the mystery of Christmas... saying "yes" in such a profound and intimate faith in God that one, overwhelmed by God's love, like Mary, conceives Jesus in faith and brings Jesus to term and bears Him in the world, becoming a fountain of love and salvation for others... but only because one has said "yes" completely to Him and drunk of that fountain of salvation and, not being able to contain it, burst forth with streams of living water for others.

Merry Christmas, and may you accept the "gracious gift upon gracious gift" that is the Love of God, pour out for you in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post! It is something that we all need to hear and to Jesus said, "Anyone who has ears for listening, should listen!"

Pia said...

Hey was great meeting you the other day! Hope you had an enjoyable day in Lanciano! Sorry I had to rush it, but you know, duty calls... Best wishes to Giacomo, too.

Brother Charles said...

I came back to your post, today because this Gospel comes back tomorrow morning as we conclude the octave. Thanks so much for the reflection, and happy new year!

Chris Dickson said...

Thank you for your wonderful blog! I love your Province Website as well...fantastic!

Pace e bene!