Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Nativity of Our Lord (Mass during the Day)

Hebrews 1:1-12 / John 1

When parents first see their newborn infant, the world that but moments before was confused and confusing, filled with moral ambiguities and anxiety, in an instant makes sense. People happily married for years can look back fondly on that instant when they knew that he was the one, that it was the sake of meeting and marrying her that every other event in his life had collaborated in benevolent and delightful conspiracy. At these moments, and countless others like them, we assert to the world that in seeing the face of this or that person whom we love, and who loves us beyond our deserving, the whole of the universe falls into place and makes sense. There is, for lovers and beloved, behind the veil of things neither emptiness, nor chaos, nor malice, nor void, but fulness, order, love inexpressible, Logos.

En archĂȘ ĂȘn ho Logos. In principio erat Verbum. In the beginning was the Word.

Today we hear voices, urgent, proselytizing, strident voices, angry voices telling all who would hear and countless others who would not that the lovers' intuition is mistaken. The world, they insist, is a brute, raw fact. However orderly and intelligible its processes, however wondrous the patterns it expresses, there is nothing, and more crucially no one behind it all. Finding meaning in things, they would tell us, may be an unavoidable, even evolutionarily advantageous trait of human beings, but it is a projection into the abyss, a neurotic discovery of patterns and persons in the faceless, impersonal universe.

And why are these voices so strident? They worry that patterning our lives after the image of the face of Love, however sincere and well-meaning, is false, and will inevitably lead us to make sacrifices contrary to our flourishing, and the flourishing of our neighbors here and now. Adolescents, they remind us, can protest that they have found everlasting love, and they speak what they indeed feel to be the case, but we would be wrong to allow them to pattern their whole life around such affections, since we know, as they do not, how easily such feelings pass, no matter how strongly felt and asserted. Writ large, seeing in the universe the work of Love, alarms such self-styled defenders of rationality as the dangerous concession on a global scale to a collective, and worryingly self-destructive, adolescent desire to love and be loved.

On this solemn celebration of the Lord's Nativity, we must refuse the worries of these false prophets of a sham and insubstantial rationality and embrace with joy the Logos, the Word, the heir of all things, by whom God made the world, the brightness of God's glory and the figure of His substance, who upholds all things by the word of His power. We bend the knee before the Word who was in the beginning, the Word who was with God, the Word who was God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was made nothing that was made: in Him was life. On this happy day we embrace the logic of love, the logic that enlivens and enlightens reason, and sees persons, persons who are bound and abide in love, not as the pleasant trappings of a merciless, mechanical universe of fundamentally inert bodies, but as the very foundation of all that is. More than that, we tell with joy to all who would hear, and even to the world of this present darkness, that the same Love that makes sense of all things, brings all things together, and binds us all in one, has indeed drawn up our human life into his own. In short, we see, in the infant of Bethlehem nothing less than the very meaning of our lives, of all that has been, is, or ever shall be, and that meaning is a Love beyond all telling, a Word of unassailable Joy.

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.

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