Tuesday, December 23, 2008

GLORY TO GOD IN THE MANGER

Reprinted from: The Point
December, 1953
Edited Under Fr. Leonard Feeney M.I.C.M.

Nineteen hundred and fifty-three years ago, we were confronted with something new. We had never seen its like before: nor have we since. Angels deserted their heavens to shout and sing about it. Shepherds abandoned their sheep on the hillside because of it. Kings left their kingdoms behind to journey in search of it. For, nineteen hundred and fifty-three years ago, God became man, and was born in Bethlehem of a Blessed Virginal Mother.

Since the coming of God-made-man was something unprecedented in our midst, we could never have predicted what its consequences would be. Certainly, we could never have reasoned to the fact that it would mean bloodshed — that seventy-two holy and innocent babies would immediately be put to death as a result of such a birth. And certainly, we had no idea that if God were to be born into His own world, that world would demand the shedding of even His Blood, thirty or so years later.

Because we were totally inexperienced in the matter of an Emmanuel, a God-with-us, we had no way of telling, left to ourselves, that the memory of Bethlehem would go on more securely than ever, after the disgrace of Calvary. Nor, indeed, could we have guessed that by a perpetuation of this very Calvary, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, God was arranging to abide with us as our Emmanuel, in the consecrated hands of His Catholic priests.

Fittingly, the Holy Sacrifice that is offered on the twenty-fifth of December, during which God comes to our altars on the anniversary of His coming to Bethlehem, has long been regarded as especially “Christ’s Mass” — which has abbreviatedly come to be Christmas.

The Christmas we are about to celebrate will be the nineteen hundred and fifty-third. And although its survival is ultimately secure, its challenging truth will suffer countless attacks.

Here in Boston (a town reputed to be well-disposed toward such considerations as birth and Divinity), Christmas will come as a foreign extravagance to our primeval Puritans, whose grandelders could recall how the December twenty-fifths of their childhood were dismissed as “popish feasts.”

From the more recent denominations of Boston Protestantism, Christmas will get a varied reception. The followers of Mrs. Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy, for example, who believe there is no such thing as death, will be quietly disturbed — realizing that if they allow Jesus to be truly born at Christmas, He will grow up to be a serious threat to their theology when He truly dies on Good Friday.

And we can count on local manifestations of the older, more artful rebukes to Christmas: those of the Masons and of the Jews.

Still — however much it will be scoffed at as the Birthday of God-incarnate from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, this year’s Christmas will not be a failure. It will be a nineteen hundred and fifty-third commemoration of a Happy Birthday for Jesus.

For at “Christ’s Mass” this December twenty-fifth, Jesus, welcomed anew at the words of Consecration, will be wrapped in the swaddling clothes of bread-appearances, and laid in that most precious of mangers, a Catholic child’s Holy Communion heart.

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