HODIE CHRISTUS NATUS EST: HODIE SALVATOR APPARUIT!Today Christ is born: Today the Saviour of the world has appeared!CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
Dear Family, Brother Priests, Friends:
The other day I was in the soup kitchen where I volunteer. It was a day when the extreme and prolonged cold spell could be seen in its harshness on the faces of the men, women and children for whom the streets are the depths of the poverty within which the Holy Child is born.
Within the dining room hot stew, but especially the warm hearts of the Staff and Volunteers, gave comfort and shelter to each of our homeless Brothers and Sisters personally, and to Christ within them.
Usually in a letter such as this I would insert an image of the Holy Child in the manger or of the Holy Family – but this year because of an encounter with the Holy Child and His cut finger in the person of a homeless man I found myself spending the last week contemplating the image of Christ in the Breadline, contemplating Christ Himself within the poor.
Actually this particular emphasis in mediating upon the oneness of Christ with the poor [and before Him everyone is poor, that is in absolute need of Him but I was moved to contemplate Him in the poorest of the poor, the homeless] started while reflecting on the words of Pope Benedict spoken recently in a General Audience at the Vatican:
“A Eucharist without solidarity with others
is an abuse of the Eucharist.”
For the entire month of December, even today as I write this, the temperature has hovered between minus 20 and a windchill approaching 39 – at those temperatures exposed skin freezes quickly. Life itself is at risk.
Under such conditions something which for the rest of us might be a minor irritant, such as a cut, even a severe one tended to by a doctor, becomes a major problem, great suffering, for as raw as exposed skin becomes in the deep cold, an open wound is even more painful.
I was asked to tend to such a wound on the hand of one of our Brothers and, with the help of a Volunteer did so, cleaning the wound, applying salve and a bandage.
Because the man was sitting it was easier for me to tend to his wound kneeling.
At one point I looked up into his eyes and was struck by the light, the kindness, as looking into the eyes of Christ.
In that moment I truly understood the specific use by Pope Benedict of the word “solidarity”, a word made globally familiar in another time when the working poor struggled to throw off the yoke of oppression.
Christ was born historically at a time of great unemployment in His native country, a country and people under the yoke of oppression. He was born poor amongst the poor.
Oppression, poverty, fear, war, we can all list the sufferings of others and our own and it may seem Christ is born yet again today more into the constancy of suffering than into any ‘real’ change from over two millennia ago.
Of course the real change IS that Christ IS born, that God Himself has entered the fullness of solidarity with every human being, with all history.
Love Himself IS our solidarity with each other.
The Child born today is born to reveal the name of God is Abba! Father!
The Child born today is born to wash away our sins in His own blood, to conquer sin, darkness, death.
The Child born today is born to become and IS the very Eucharist wherein we are gifted again and again with life, light, love, hope, resurrection, as Pope Benedict also teaches:
“…..the solemn liturgy is the centre of everything, because there takes place in it what we are unable to accomplish and of which, however, we are always in expectation. He is present. He enters into our midst. Heaven is rent, and this makes the earth glow.”
Yes, Christ in the Breadline is not the usual Christmas image – yet look closely and see the glow!
Christ IS in our midst!
Christ IS born!
In the words of the Servant of God Catherine Doherty: “ Let this Christmas be for us a turning point….Let us become small enough to kneel at the crib and big enough just to reach the level of the Baby’s eyes. Let us look into them – and catch sight of Love Incarnate! Then we shall be made whole again, and our hunger will be filled.”