This is the final instalment of a four-part homily. In the 1st instalment, I spoke of salvation in terms of the "already and not yet". Christ already reigns through His Church but all the things of this world are not yet subjected to Him. Even if that may be the case, the Vigil Mass was considered joyful because we were anticipating the coming of Christ. We dared to celebrate because we acknowledged and trusted God’s providence. The focus of the 2nd instalment was on the "already" whilst we kept the "not yet" at bay. We broke into the midnight celebration of Christ’s birth. We lingered, marvelled and rejoiced at the birth of our salvation. In fact, the appropriate posture was silence before the manger of the helpless Child Jesus. Our reverential silence allowed the mystery of God made Man to emerge. The 3rd instalment explained the significance of the ox and the donkey in the imagination of the crib. They were there because Isaiah spoke of the draught animals as the ones who recognised their owner and their master’s crib.
Let us continue in this final instalment to deepen our experience of recognising God our Lord. The Gospel Reading which consists of eighteen verses is taken from the Prologue of John. It is not an Infancy Narrative like those found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The Prologue starts at the very beginning of time and Creation is presented as the framework for announcing the Incarnation. John makes a connexion between Genesis and his Gospel because he echoes the first verse of the Book of Genesis. “In the beginning was the Word”. It is a profoundly beautiful poem that the custom from the early Church was for the priests of the Church to read it over sick people after anointing them and over newly baptised infants. John’s Prologue was written down and placed in lockets which the early Christians then would wear around their necks, especially in times of danger or when travelling.
With the Prologue, the Mass of the Day is a profound reflexion on why we celebrate Christmas. It is not surprising that the symbol of John’s Gospel is an eagle because soaring above the celestial heights he looks from the vantage point of the mystery of God to illustrate how this same mystery penetrates the stable and enters the flesh and blood of man. “The Word became Flesh, and dwelt among us”. (John 1:14) In fact, the Credo which we will profess shortly will include the same words et verbum caro factum est and at about that time, we fall on our knees—much like the carol O Holy Night—in humble acknowledgement that the mystery of the Word made flesh, this Divine condescension, this holy exchange between divinity and humanity, symbolised by the use of a drop of water at the Eucharist, is the only explanation we can give for why we can be saved. And so at the preparation of the wine, we say, “By the mystery of the water and wine, may we come to share His divinity as He humbled Himself to share our humanity”.
We are celebrating not just any birthday; not least of all a great man, a great guru or a great prophet. We are celebrating the birthday of our Divine Lord in time and according to Pope Benedict, “He came as a child in order to break down our pride. Perhaps we would have capitulated before power and wisdom, but He does not want our capitulation. He wants our love. He wants to free us from our pride and thus make us truly free”.
We, who come, are here to behold His glory, the glory that was His with the Father from before time. As we behold Him, as contemplate Him and as we gaze at Him, we truly see ourselves. So, before we leave the Church today, get close to the crib to stare in wonder and behold in amazement at the Son of God who came to be like us and pray that you may walk out like Him so that you may according to the first reading radiate and let His glory be manifest for all to see.
In summary, Christmas commemorates the dawn of our salvation. As we savour the mystery of the Incarnation, it is also a hopeful reminder of what we can be. Come, let us adore Him.
You know the Taoist custom of writing on pieces of yellow paper (fu), folding it and placing it in a locket to be worn? We did that too. However, here I am make a distinction between an amulet and a sacramental. There is a thin line between magic and faith. An amulet is considered to contain power in itself whereas a sacramental works on the basis of faith.