On Christmas Eve after Mass we gather in the Chapter Hall for the Christmas Proclamation sung by one of the chantresses. After a sister (known before hand only by the prioress and/or Novice Mistress) comes up and sits next to the prioress and gives the homily. This year Sr. Joseph Maria gave the beautiful meditation below...and survived!
My dear Sisters,
Saint Luke’s Gospel tells us that “The shepherds went in haste [to Bethlehem] and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.” During this Christmas season, we, too, are given this opportunity to come and see “the Word made flesh and dwelt among us.”
Acknowledging our unworthiness for this amazing gift, we cry out with the psalmist, “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?” How? By coming to Bethlehem, to that humble stable in the spirit of adoration, joy, gratitude and love.
The catechism teaches us that “adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion.” The Son of God who humbled Himself to become man fittingly deserves our sincere adoration. If the elders and the angels in heaven fall down and adore God day and night as described in the book of Revelation, how much more we sinners ought to worship our Savior here on earth?
In offering our adoration to the Infant born of the Virgin Mary, we admit our own nothingness as a creature compared to his Creator. We recognize that this tiny baby, stripped of all His heavenly glory, is our God, our Lord and our Master. Without Him we are nothing; in Him we have our being; through Him we are redeemed. With all humility, we offer our adoration to the all-powerful God who for our sakes became a powerless infant.
In the Magnificat Antiphon for the II Vespers of Christmas we sing, “Christ the Lord is born today; today, the Savior has appeared. Earth echoes songs of angel choirs, archangels’ joyful praise. Today on earth his friends exult: Glory to God in the highest, alleluia.” The long- awaited Messiah has finally come. The hope and joy of all the nations is here. All the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah are fulfilled this day in the Infant of Bethlehem. Since Advent is a period of joyful expectation of the Savior’s coming, it is fitting for us all to sing songs of joy now that Christmas is here; God is with us.
John the Baptist while in his mother’s womb leaped for joy when he heard Mary’s greeting to Elizabeth. He who one day will cry out “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” recognized immediately that the child in Mary’s womb is the Messiah. Saint Paul urges us to rejoice always in the Lord. What better reason for rejoicing than in knowing that Christ is born for us? He will deliver us from sins and will give us eternal life. Let us unite with the heavenly hosts in singing a hymn of joy: “Glory to God in the highest and peace to those whom his favor rests.”
Experiencing true joy leads us to have an attitude of gratitude for the source of our joy. Let us give thanks to the One who is the reason for this joyous season, Jesus!
The Son of God, the eternal Word of the Father “did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at but emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men” even accepting death on a cross so that we might be saved. The more we contemplate and ponder upon this mystery, the greater our gratitude should be for the Son of God, who in obedient to the Father and in his great love for us, deigned to become incarnate of the Virgin Mary to die on the cross for us sinners.
Love was the motivation for the Incarnation. The Father revealed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world to save us. The Son affirms this love of God by laying down his life for his friends. God could have chosen to save us in other ways, but in desiring to teach us how to love, he provided us with an example of the ultimate sacrifice of love: the Son of God came down from heaven as expiation for our sins. As finite creatures, we’ll never be able to return the love of the Infinite Lover, but at least we can endeavor to love Him with all our hearts.
St. Augustine aptly expresses this mystery of the Incarnation as “Man’s Maker was made man, that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breasts; that the Bread might be hungry, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired from the journey…He who on account of us endured such great evils, merited no evil, while we who through Him were so bountifully blessed, had no merits to show for such blessings.” The Incarnation is an immeasurable and priceless gift.
We who are sinners will never be able to comprehend, to appreciate and to repay this gift fully; nevertheless, we should always strive to offer our whole life to God. He should not receive anything less than our whole selves. Let us follow in the footsteps of the shepherds to Bethlehem to pay homage to our Lord.
Holy Virgin Mary, mother of our Redeemer and the model for all Christians, intercede for us. Through your loving examples, you have shown us the way to your Son, Jesus Christ. May you guide us to Bethlehem to that humble stable, so that with you, we will offer to Jesus our heartfelt adoration, joy, gratitude and love.
—Sr. Joseph Maria of the Holy Family