At the Christmas Vigil, Prelatic Church of Santa Maria della Pace (Rome), December 24, 2023

Once again we try to enter into the journey of Our Lady and St. Joseph towards Bethlehem. They are forced to travel at an unforeseen, uncomfortable moment. And when they arrive, the only place they find is, from a human point of view, inadequate. But, in fact, they prepare the place. And so, the stable at Bethlehem becomes for us a place of contemplation, admiration and affection. We read in the Gospel that, while they were there, “when the time came for her to give birth, she gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk 2:6-7). In the life of the Holy Family, joy and suffering are present at the same time. And we, Lord, in our prayer, want to contemplate you in this way: giving yourself through suffering, from the very beginning.

Let us now enter the stable with our imagination. As our Father said to us: “We must look at the Child, our Love, in the cradle. We must look at Him knowing that we are in front of a mystery” (Christ Is Passing By, 13). Let us look at him now with our imagination and with our mind, and let us ask him to show us how to be more contemplative.

Christmas is a time to feel the security that God is with us. In spite of our littleness, our limitations and mistakes, the Prince of Peace, the mighty God, has been born for us. The shepherds, while keeping watch over their flocks, have received this announcement. And we, Lord, also want to keep watch over those around us. It is traditional to see Christmas as an occasion to treat people better, to be kinder and more attentive towards others. We should always do this, but today, of course, is a time for us to ask you, Lord, to show us how to keep watch like the shepherds.

Isaiah, in the Vulgate version of the Bible, refers prophetically to the Incarnation, saying that God “has fulfilled his word and has shortened it” (Is 10:23). In Christ incarnate, in the manger, the same Word proclaimed by the prophets is made present. The eternal Word has become a child. And the Lord pronounces and fulfills this Word on redeeming us, on giving himself for us to free us from all iniquity. And so we can contemplate the newborn child already as a Redeemer, because his whole life is redemptive.

As Benedict XVI once remarked, the Logos “becomes a child and puts himself in a situation of total dependence proper to a newborn human being.” The Creator, who holds everything in his hands, on whom we all depend, becomes small and in need of human love. This is a reality we will never tire of considering.

Today’s Gospel ends: “Suddenly, all around the angel, a legion of the heavenly host appeared, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to those whom the Lord loves’ ” (Lk 2:13-14). May we receive this proclamation of peace as a desire, as an exhortation, so that we too may be the peacemakers of whom the beatitude speaks; those who will be called children of God, those who produce peace, those who transmit peace. We want to pass on a peace that is Christ himself, as St. Paul says: “He is our peace” (Eph 2:14). You, Lord, are not only the prince of peace, but you are peace itself. And to have you is to have peace.

The Gospel goes on to tell how the shepherds hurry to see the Lord. And we too want to run like that. Not with human haste, but with a deep desire to see the Lord, to contemplate him, to know how to discover him in the circumstances of our ordinary life: “Vultum tuum, Domine, requiram” (Ps 26:8). I will seek your face, O Lord. I want to see you with greater faith. Our Father used to remind us that there comes a time in prayer when we do not speak, we look. We want to look at you, Jesus, and also to know that we are being looked at. How beautiful it is, and how necessary! We want to know that we are looked at by God at all times. And we want to bring the great light of Bethlehem to this darkened world.

The shepherds arrive at the place where the newborn Lord is and find him with Mary and Joseph. It is good that the Christmas season urges us to deal with Our Lady and St. Joseph more, so that they teach us to love Our Lord, and to contemplate Him with admiration and gratitude. Knowing, as our Father says, that we are observing a great mystery, but that it is the mystery of God’s immense, infinite Love for us. Our Lady and St Joseph can help us to contemplate Him and thus learn so many lessons that our Lord gives from the cradle.

Romana, n. 77, July-December 2023, p. 185-186.

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