December 24, 2009

FROM THE ARCHIVES: IS, NOT WAS:

CHRISTMAS, 2008 (Fr. James. V. Schall, S.J. | December 25, 2008 | Ignatius Insight)

"Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on this birthday of life." -- St. Leo the Great, Pope, d. 461 A.D., Sermon on the Birthday of Christ, Christmas Office.

The antiphon for the Office of Readings for Christmas Day reads: "Christ is born for us: Come let us adore Him." This antiphon does not say "May Christ be born," let alone, "May He be born 'for us.'" It states rather an "is," a fact. Christ is born. Christ is born for us.

Why does it not say, "Christ "was" born for us?" We know He died on the Cross in Jerusalem thirty-some years after His birth. It is because the Christ who was born of Mary in the time of Caesar Augustus is not dead. He is risen. He was born to conquer death, which He did.

But here on the Feast of the Nativity, we celebrate the birth, the Nativity of Christ. To comprehend it all, we take one thing at a time. Pope St. Leo, speaking of the same event, the same fact, says that a "savior" is born to us. He is identified as "Christ the Lord."

Another antiphon reads: "A little child is born for us today; little and yet called the mighty God." It adds, "Alleluia," almost as if that is about the only thing we human beings could say once we realize what has happened once among us.

Yet another antiphon describes more of the scene: "Joseph and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were filled with wonder at all that was said of the child." They are filled with wonder both because of the Child and because of what was said of Him. If the two persons closest to the event were filled wonder, so are we. This wonder means that we are to understand what is going on. The Birth is also addressed to our minds. We are supposed to think about it.

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[originally posted: 12/25/08]

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2009 12:00 AM
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