“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given!”
For the last few days before Christmas I put my iPhone music app in a constantly repeating loop, treating me to an endless play of the chorus of Handel’s great rendition of that verse. Every time I hear it, there is that little burst of joy: He is coming. He is coming more deeply into my heart, I will be more deeply His! Of course, there’s a lot more to it than just listening to divinely inspired music. Would that it were that simple!
The gift of Christmas is the ultimate example of the great invitation description given to us in Revelation: “I stand at the door and knock!” The ball is now in our court, but it does not start there. It always starts with Him! Deeper union with the Lord Jesus is always His idea and is always intimately connected with the Cross itself, since He promised: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32). All of us, without exception, are invited. No one is excluded. I never need waste a nanosecond of time wondering if that includes me. If we are human, we are included!
Our great Catholic mystics have been echoing that Biblical truth for the last two millennia. As the great St. John of the Cross so eloquently put it: “In the first place it should be known that if a person is seeking God, his Beloved is seeking him much more.” (Living Flame of Love). He stands at the door and knocks; He is the ‘Hound of Heaven’ Who relentlessly pursues us. Christmas is the great, public manifestation of that invitation taking flesh. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords comes among us personally to invite us into union with Him, Who then brings us to His Father and fills us with His Spirit.
This is His First Coming, His Coming for us, to live for us and to die for us and to rise for us, by His saving acts restoring us to relationship with Himself, His Father, and Their Holy Spirit. We also long for His Second Coming, when He restores all things, coming in Glory as King of Kings and Lord of Lords—not as the ‘helpless’ Babe this time, but robed in majesty and splendor.
We live between these two Comings, and so for us, what is, in a way, the most crucial, is that third Coming, the one St. Bernard of Clairvaux speaks of as the path between the two Comings. This coming happens in our hearts when we say ‘yes,’ and open that door to the One Who knocks. For us it begins with the gift of Baptism, when the Triune God first indwells our souls. It takes even more concrete reality with our cooperation when we say ‘yes’ to the Eucharistic Lord for the first time, receiving Him into our hearts, hearts newly cleansed by the gift of Reconciliation. Then we say another, even more public ‘yes,’ when before the Lord and His People we ask to be Confirmed with the gift of the Spirit that we may truly be empowered to live for Him! As we cooperate with our ‘yes,’ these great Sacramental moments configure and empower our very souls to be His disciples.
Then each year, as we celebrate the great liturgical cycles of the Church, we revisit these great Feasts, each with its own special grace, and so are constantly called into deeper and deeper union with the King. In a certain way, they all come together with Christmas, when, especially as we receive the Eucharistic Lord on Christmas, the King Himself is born more deeply into us as we receive His very Sacred Heart, the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation! Thus He is born for us and more deeply in us, as we say yes, yes to the One Who loved us first! — Fr. Ed