By: Fr. James Loughran, SA
A favorite quote of many Christian scholars of the Incarnation is one written by Saint Augustine, the great Father of the Western Church. In his Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, he writes:
Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun. . . .
In [the Father] He remains,
From [His mother] He goes forth.
Creator of heaven and earth,
He was born on earth under heaven.
Unspeakably wise, He is wisely speechless;
filling the world, He lies in a manger;
Ruler of the stars, He nurses at His mother’s bosom.
He is both great in the nature of God,
and small in the form of a servant,
but so that His greatness is not diminished by His smallness,
nor His smallness overwhelmed by His greatness.
The very paradoxical nature of the two natures of the Son of God and Son of Mary, lends us a spirit of awe every Christmas at the birth of Jesus. This awe is shared not only by Catholics but by all who bear the name Christian. We are in full communion, as it were, in our unity by faith in the mystery of the Incarnation. Our sad separations seem to blur in the face of the unity within Christ of Himself and, in turn, in His unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit as One God, undivided.
This gift of unity in the Trinity and in the two natures, remind us forcefully of our call as Christians to become one with God by grace. If we truly become one with God, then it follows we can truly become one with each other. God is one with humanity already by the Incarnation, life, death, resurrection and glorification of the man Jesus. It is a unity that can never be divided, yet blessed in wondrous diversity.
Each of our families has their own traditions and customs during Christmas, yet we say Merry Christmas to all we meet. Our diversity of celebrating Christmas never divides our spirit of kindred feelings for all humanity, particularly our brother and sister Christians who directly share the blessings of the feast. If every day were Christmas, we Christians would probably never be divided. You see, we trust each other on Christmas in a way that we don’t particularly do the rest of the year. It is a trust based on mutual appreciation and admiration for the many ways we keep the feast.
This is all a result of our faith in God’s becoming man and dwelling among us, a “man like us in all things, but sin.” The sin of our divisions the rest of the year is bluntly before us. On this great day of Charity, it seems to fade. Would that we could keep that spirit of unity alive for the whole year. But at least we have a shared touchstone that calls us back into unity. Merry Christmas.