Christmas - Year End Issue
December 22-31, 2003
volume 14, no. 41

Christmas Message from
Jacob Michael

A Meeting Point between Time and Eternity

         As the Holy Feast of Christmas approaches, I wanted to offer you a few thoughts to assist in your Advent preparations for this great holy-day. This sort of more "pastoral" or "homiletic" approach is somewhat different from my usual apologetic/polemic approach, so I trust you'll bear with me.

         As I sifted through the various texts of Sacred Scripture that I might use as my springboard text, it slowly became clear to me that I could have the best of all worlds if I just used the Rosary itself as my guide. So we will look at several texts, in light of the Joyful Mysteries, and try to approach these things from a more meditative and contemplative perspective.

         We begin with young maiden, a virgin from "a city of Galilee named Nazareth," who has just been confronted with an angelic apparition. The "shock and awe" of this meeting is hardly one-sided. Certainly, Our Lady "was troubled at his saying and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be," but it was the angel who first exclaimed, in wondrous amazement, "Hail, Full of Grace!"

         It is the angel who now contemplates the absolute purity of this holy virgin, who has (it now becomes clear to him) been prepared by God from the foundation of the world to serve as the tabernacle of God's presence: "et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis." The word "habitavit," which we translate as "dwelt," or "inhabited," comes from a Greek word meaning "to fix one's tabernacle, have one's tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent)." We must let the Old Testament imagery fully illumine our understanding here, for it was precisely in a tabernacle, in a wilderness, that God first chose to dwell among His people Israel.

         Now it is Our Lady who is His tabernacle, and the angel makes this perfectly clear when he says, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee." We cannot help but see the Old Tabernacle, being filled and overshadowed with the glory cloud of God's presence, now fulfilled in this holy virgin who has been preserved, from the very moment of her conception, so that she might be a fit dwelling for Him Who is All-Holy.

         In Mary we see Eve, and we see the two virgins moving parallel to each other: they both approach the angel, Eve to Lucifer (the angel of Light), Mary to Gabriel; the angels speak, Lucifer inviting Eve to a world of autonomy and independence from God's dominion ("you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil"), Gabriel inviting Mary to humility and voluntary submission to God's rule ("Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word").

         So it is with us. Every moment of every day is (in the words of one writer) "claimed by God, and counter-claimed by Satan." Every beat of your heart is a confrontation with one of two angels, and the decision must constantly be made: will you reach out in independence to take the forbidden fruit, and thus conceive death in your soul, or will you speak the humble fiat of Our Lady, and conceive life?

         We carry on from this scene to the Visitation, where Our Lady traces out the path we all must follow, if we are to be her children. Much is said today in our modern parishes about social justice and reaching out in love to others, so much that sin, judgment, grace, mortification, virtue, etc., are excluded. I will beg your patience, then, while I speak a little bit about true love of neighbor, knowing that I will have to use terms and phrases that have, unfortunately, become loaded with modernist sentiments.

         Our Lady hastens at once to the house of St. Elizabeth, who is also carrying a child in her womb, a child who is there because of God's intervention. At the greeting of Our Lady, we learn that the Holy Ghost filled St. Elizabeth, and our Holy Faith points to this as the moment when St. John was sanctified ("as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy"). What is this, but a picture of Our Lady, in the simple act of rendering her corporal works of mercy to St. Elizabeth, mediating Divine Grace to the Forerunner?

         Note the Charity of Our Lady. She is now carrying Our Lord in her womb, but her first thought is of her already six-months-pregnant cousin, an elderly woman, no doubt in need of much assistance. We too, in reaching out to help those in need, must also bear Christ and bring His grace to the world. Often this can be accomplished in silence, without the need for cleverly crafted arguments. Conversely, "if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity," the Charity which manifests itself in good works ("So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven"), then "I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." A bad example can all but send a soul to Hell, for a scandalous action on the part of a Catholic can cast a shadow over the whole Faith. How many souls will never receive the Faith of the Church today, all because of the recent scandals that have rocked the body of the clergy?

         Let it not be so with you. As you must say "be it done to me according to thy word" along with Mary, and so conceive life in your soul, so you must also walk the path of self-giving Charity with Mary, and bring grace to the world through your works of mercy.

         At long last, we come to Bethlehem, to the scene of the Nativity. We come near to Christmas, to the moment in time and history that millions of souls waited for throughout the Old Covenant.

         Have you ever stopped to consider how great a grace it is that you were born in this age? You well could have been born in the years of Babylonian Exile, or in the years before Noah and the Flood. You could have lived your life waiting for the Messiah to come, but because of a singular grace of God, you live here and now, not to yearn and long for the Christ-child, but to celebrate the accomplishment of His birth. Do not let the significance of this escape you. If Abraham was able to be faithful to God, to walk the path to holiness and sanctity, while he looked forward in time to the birth of Christ, then what excuse do we have, who live after His birth, and to whom Heaven is nearly handed on a silver platter? With the abundance of graces which are offered to us on a daily basis (apart from the Holy Mass, we have a plethora of devotions, including the Holy Rosary, which are capable of calling down a flood of grace from Heaven), have we any reason at all to be anything but saints?

         This is the consideration we must make during Advent, as we prepare for the coming of Christ at the feast of Christmas. Have we advanced in holiness since last year's feast? Are we still struggling with the same besetting sins? Have we become so distracted by the destruction of the Modern Church that we have forgotten to care for our own souls? A personal story is in order here, to draw the analogy:

         Months ago, I was driving my car on the highway, on my way to an appointment. A large semi-truck in the right lane was obviously having trouble. The back wheels were enveloped in white smoke, and it seemed obvious that I would have to be dodging pieces of tire in a matter of moments. As I kept a close eye on the situation, I forgot to watch the road in front of me, and thus I did not see that we had entered a construction zone, and all of the traffic had come to a dead stop. You know what's coming. I barely had but a fleeting moment to turn around and see the back end of a really nice Mercedes before I slammed into it at full speed and was blinded by my own airbag.

         You may wince with me, and you may laugh at the irony of the story (I was trying to avoid flying tire pieces, and I ended up destroying two cars in the process), but are you currently in the same situation, spiritually speaking? Have you become so morbidly interested in the latest jaw-dropping scandals of the Novus Ordo Church, that you do not see the traffic that has stopped in front of you, and now risk even greater wreckage yourself?

         Then come with me to this manger scene. Come with me into the little village of Beth-lechem, the town named, literally, "The House of Bread." Come with me to this manger, this mangere, this "eating trough," in which is laid the living Bread from Heaven. Do you think it a coincidence that He was laid in a trough from which animals eat?

         Now hear the multitude of angels, singing in chorus, "gloria in altissimis Deo et in terra pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis." That should sound familiar to you. It is a part of the Holy Mass, wherein we pray, "Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis; laudamus te, etc."

         The occasion for the first singing of this hymn was the Incarnation, the Son of God coming to earth as flesh and blood. And so it is with every other occasion of the singing of this hymn at the Mass, as we prepare for the Son of God to come to earth once again, in His body, blood, soul and divinity, in the Holy Eucharist. What the Incarnation was in Bethlehem, it still is today in the Holy Mass: a meeting point between Time and Eternity, and a source of Grace for us sinners.

         See the "woman" standing over the manger, wrapped up in meditation and contemplation of the mystery before her eyes. Ask this "woman" to help you, at the Feast of Christmas, to help you contemplate and assimilate the mystery that is before your eyes on the altar. In each case, a great deal of Faith is required, for reason does not admit the possibility that this baby, so very small and so very helpless, or that this thin wafer and chalice, once created the universe and all Life within it. Still less does reason admit the possibility that these weak and frail signs of nature are dispensers of real Grace, and that they can in fact save your soul. This Baby can save your soul, if you look past His flesh and see Him - with the eyes of Faith - as God Almighty. This wafer and chalice, as well, can quench the stirrings of sin in your soul, and lead you to eternal Life, if you look past the bread and wine and see Him - once again, with the eyes of Faith - as the Messiah, the Christ.

         These are staggering mysteries. "The Word became flesh." The Eternal is clothed with the Mortal. But therein lies the hope for you and for me and for anyone else who is taking a mental inventory and realizing that there has been far too little spiritual progress since last Christmas. He took on human flesh precisely so that my human flesh, and your human flesh, could be taken up into His Immortality, into His loving Vision.

         So approach Him this way when you celebrate Christmas in 2003. Approach the Living Bread, both on the altar and in the manger, and ask His holy Mother to accompany you there. With the help of this serpent-crushing woman, lovingly contemplate the Holy Face of the newborn Babe, and request that His birth be more than just an occasion for a secular holiday for you. Like His Mother, take Him with you into the world, to mediate Grace to others, and in the process, pray that this same Grace captivates your own soul.

         These are just a few thoughts to keep in mind this Holy Season.

         God bless you and yours, and have a very Merry Christmas.

      Jacob Michael

      For columns to date by Jacob, see Archives.

    Christmas-Year End Issue
    December 22-31, 2003
    volume 14, no. 41

    Jacob Michael's Christmas Message