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Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Abstracts from the homilies of the Patriarch

Venezia, 25th December 2010

Card. Angelo Scola

Patriarch of Venice

1. «The Word was made flesh, he lived among us» (Jn 1:14, Day Mass). «Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger» (Lk 2:11-12, Midnight Mass).

The incarnation is the process of the new creation which the Lord has come to establish in the world as well as in history. It is the process of salvation for all men («all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God» Is 52:10, Day Mass) which includes the prospect of right, justice, and peace («Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end, for the throne of David and for his royal power, which he establishes and makes secure in justice and integrity» Is 9:6, Midnight Mass).

2. «He lies in a manger, but embodies the whole universe; he is wrapped in swaddling clothes, but he clothes us with immortality; he does not find shelter in an inn, but he builds his own temple in the heart of every faithful. In order to strengthen weakness, the stronghold  took the form of weakness» (St. Augustine, Sermon 190).

The central feature of Christianity is paradox: the Son of God – He whom the Father «has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is» (Heb 1:2, Day Mass), without whom «not one thing had its being but through him» (Jn 1:2, Day Mass) – is born, as any other son of man, through a young woman, in an obscure angle of the earth, he is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid «in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn» (Lk 2:7, Midnight Mass). He leaves behind him his glory and embodies the human form of a tender and fragile child. God comes down  from heaven to earth to such an extent that in the last tract of his descent we can no longer  follow him [«Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be  exploited, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbles himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross» (Phil 2:6-8)].

3. The liturgy of the Mass of the Day offers us the most profound message of Christmas. The readings change the narrative form inviting us to draw our attention from the characters of the event to the Protagonist: who is the newly born-child? He is the Word of God made flesh: «At various time in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he spoke to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is. He is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature, sustaining the universe by his powerful command» (Heb 1:2-3 Day Mass).

For there is a child born for us, the son, as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed; He is the only one to  reveal to us the face of God the Father for ever (cfr Is 9:5, Midnight Mass) and He opens to us the opportunity to become sons in the Son: «To all who did accept him he gave the power to become children of God» Jn 1:12, Day Mass).

4. Therefore, the retelling us again who we are, to whom do we belong and towards whom we are tending suggests the necessity of good relations which constitute us. In this perspective, the mystery of the Birth of Christ the Lord opens to us the way to those virtuous practices which allow us to share in the needs, the difficulties and the solitudes of others and to contribute to the building of  good life.

The newly established humanity brought forth through the mystery of Christmas encourages us to make ours the suffering of those who have no work and this fact serves to highlight the primacy of the dignity of the working subject also regarding the fair-profit; to participate to the anxieties of the young generations who have the sensation that their future lacks reliable hopes; to feel ours the pain of those who pass these festivities in a sick-bed in hospital and making ours also the sorrow of the separated families, very often, hurt in their affections; to assume our duty to activate in society, everyone according to his own specific vocation, a constructive contribution to recover from the situation of crises which marks economy and policy; to make ours the fear of the Christians and of all those who are persecuted violently for their faith in certain Counties where the free practice of religion does not exist; we should not forget the great number of men, especially in the Southern part of the planet, who suffer hunger and live in miserable conditions.

If we men and women overwhelmed by a frenetic routine of life, live this Christmas only as a break from our activities we would betray the essential invitation which Christmas proclaims; therefore it is necessary to make space to God in our life, to belong completely to Him and to open ourselves to others. «He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good» (Tit 2:14, Midnight Mass).

5. «He came to his own domain, and his own people did not accept him» (Jn 1:11, Day Mass): even today we are faced with this terrible challenge. And yet the condition to recognize him is not difficult, it is not impossible, on the contrary it is easy to reach. It is called simplicity, the same simplicity with which the shepherds, after the extraordinary announcement received by the angels, without any hesitation said to one another: «Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that had happened which the lord has made known to us’» (Lk 2:15, Dawn Mass).

Only amazement acknowledges (Gregory of Nyssa) and amazement leads to adoration.May the Blessed Virgin Mary and her  husband Joseph open – on this Christmas – our hearts to a new birth!

Happy Christmas!

(trad. Léonard Azzopardi)

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