On a clear, cold, and starlit night, a star brighter and more mysterious than
the rest led three men and their retinue across the desert sand. They were traveling
from afar to find He who was to be born the King of the Jews. Though they had not
yet reached their destination, something stirred deep within their souls. In a way that
only God can reveal to the human heart, they knew tho One whom they sought was
now living among us as True God and True Man. The Prince of Peace had come into
this world, and soon all of those belonging to Him would bear His mark.
At the foot of a mountain in the city of David, another light filled the midnight
sky with its brilliance. Shepherds of the tribe of Judah who had been tending their
flock were now prostrate on the ground before God's holy messenger. An angel of
great power appeared to the startled men and announced that what had been promised
of old was now fulfilled. Christ the Lord was born in Bethlehem. The Messiah had
come! Suddenly a choir of the heavenly host descended from on high and sang a
joyful song of praise on this first Christmas night -- "Glory to God in the highest: and
on earth peace to men of good will."
As the Magi continued toward their goal, a small number of Abraham's descendants hastened to a lowly stable where only farm animals dwelled. Both Gentile and Jew
did so for the same purpose; to render worship and thanksgiving to almighty God. The
redemption of mankind promised to our first parents after the fall was at hand. The
wood of the Tree of Life was now the wood of the Crib. In a place not too far from where
our Lord peacefully slept, it would also become the wood of the Cross.
The immolation of Christ at Calvary, that great act of love which is re-presented upon our altars during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is the ultimate consequence of the Incarnation. Our Lord took on human flesh so that a sacrifice of infinite value could be accomplished and reconcile fallen humanity with God. This belief forms the basis of our Catholic Faith.
In his essay entitled The Christian Ideal, Jesuit theologian Martin D'Arcy has said that despite the perfection of the Catholic faith, men are often blinded to this perfection and seek to establish their own private religions in order to satisfy the longings of the human heart. These efforts ultimately fail because they are based on the false assumption that man must be perfectly happy, content, and at peace throughout life. There is no notion of sacrifice, redemptive suffering, or of the battle that rages between Heaven and Hell for the souls of men. While there are many contributing factors to this, I would submit that one reason for the spritual blindness now plaguing Western Civilization is that the meaning of Christmas has been lost.
When the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary during the Annunciation, all of salvation history hung in the balance. Though God had preserved her from all stain of original and personal sin in anticipation of her serving as the Ark of the New Covenant, Mary had free will and could either accept or reject the Lord's plan for the redemption of the human race. To our eternal good fortune she said yes. When she brought forth Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem, all that was spoken of by the prophets of the Old Testament began to come to pass. The humble shepherds and the Magi understood this. The reason for the great joy expressed by them and by millions of others throughout the centuries is that everything that happened at Bethlehem was directed toward the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ which would open the gates of Heaven for us. Without Christmas, there is no Easter. Without the Nativity, there is no propitiatory sacrifice and no salvation.
In modern culture, Christmas has become a commercial enterprise. The enemy of mankind who led Adam and Eve astray has once again appealed to our lower nature and prompted us to turn away from God. Rather than preparing for the coming of Christ through prayer and a certain degree of penance as prescribed by the Church, the season of Advent has been abandoned in favor of an economic orgy. Money, pleasure, and self-indulgence are now the order of the day. Our Lord and Saviour has been removed from the day that bears His name and has been replaced by a host of secular figures. In essence, Christmas and the season of spiritual preparation that precedes it have become one lengthy pagan holiday.
What is most ironic is that this quest for man-centered happiness often leaves its proponents feeling empty and depressed. Deep inside they know something is missing. The merchandise, the money, and the revelry have not filled the empty spaces inside their hearts. Only our Lord Jesus Christ can give man the peace that he so desperately craves; and even then our desires cannot be completely satisfied on this side of Heaven. This is what prompted St. Augustine to utter those words which echo so deeply inside each one of us: "You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You." Jesus is our Lord and our Saviour, our King and our God, and He should be our truest and most special Love. But He who purchased us with His blood has been largely forgotten as the day of His birth has become an occasion of sin.
The effects of our treason extend far beyond the Christmas season and the foresaking of this Holy day, for God has been removed from every aspect of our lives, both public and private. We have removed Him from the family and have suffered abortion and divorce on a massive scale. We have removed Him from education and have become a generation of faithless rationalists. We have removed Him from business and are plagued by greed and corruption. Finally, in government we have constructed a Masonic barrier between Church and state that has separated nearly every Western nation from the service of God. Today, publicly proclaiming Christ to be our sovereign King is increasingly viewed as unlawful behavior. While laws are enacted protecting homosexual unions and the killing of the helpless, Nativity scenes, Crucifixes and the Ten Commandments are banned from government property. A Roman style persecution of the faithful (especially Catholics) may not be far behind.
Viewed through the lens of history, it is clear that modern man must return to God. But when a people has drifted so far away from their Creator, how do they begin the long journey home? The answer is to be found beside the manger in Bethlehem and at the foot of the Cross on Calvary. For in each place stood a humble Maiden who cooperated more fully with God's grace than any other creature. She who is the beloved Daughter of God the Father, the immaculate Mother of God the Son, and the pure Spouse of God the Holy Ghost knows better than anyone else what is pleasing to the most Holy Trinity. In the order of grace and by her free consent, she has become the Heavenly Mother and Queen of every person who has ever lived, or ever will live, upon the face of the earth. She gave to Jesus the flesh and the human nature in the Incarnation whose sacrifice she consented to at the Crucifixion; and the pain that Mary was spared in giving birth to Christ at Bethlehem she would suffer at Calvary in giving birth to all of us. She is our Mother, and her only desire is to lead her adopted children back to her Divine Son.
We have once again entered into the holy season of Advent. Let us therefore ask our Lady to remove us from the distractions of this world and to help us prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord. If we do so with sincerity and humility, she will not fail to bring us to the crib of Jesus where, like the Wise Men and shepherds before us, we too can worship and adore Him.
When the true meaning of Christmas penetrates our hearts, perhaps then we shall return to the service of God and to the work of Heaven.
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spritu Sancti.