Christmas Day Homily
Fr. Cassian OCSO
This is a homily preached on Chrismas day by our Fr. Cassian. He is a good speaker, and always shares something that is worth pondering. At this time I am using it for my Lectio in the mourning.--Br.Md
Preached December 25, 2019
Merry Christmas! On behalf of our abbot, Dom Augustine, and all the monks, I wish you all a most blessed Christmas season. This day is a wonderful day, so great a day that our Church presents us with multiple Masses, each with its own prayers and scripture readings. The readings at Midnight and Dawn recall simple and familiar experiences: the mother, the newborn, the manger, cows, angels, sheep and shepherds – the crèches we remember from childhood. We see the mother and the child gazing into each other’s eyes, the child’s arms seeking contact. We easily imagine ourselves holding the infant, marveling at the tiny hands reaching out, complete with tiny fingernails.
At this Day Mass we hear from the Gospel of John: no angels, no cows, no straw, no infant hands; a philosophical poem with a troubling Greek word: λόγος.
Λόγος is usually translated “word.” Besides this fundamental meaning, the Greek can be rendered in other ways: speech, discourse, utterance, message, communication. Then it moves to another level: intellect, spirit, rational order. By the time John’s gospel was written, the word had taken on a number of philosophical overtones: manifestation, original principle, divine principle.
John claims that the divine principle takes flesh.
This principle is the refulgence of God’s glory, the very imprint of his being. “All things came to be through him, without him nothing came to be.” “He sustains all things by his creative word.” He “is before all things, and all things hold together in him.” All things co-inhere through Him, with Him, and in Him.
Our own St. Aelred tells us that this divine principle “contains, enfolds, and penetrates all things . . . by the steady, mysterious, and self-contained simplicity of its substantial presence.” All oppositions are held in balance so that “all things should rest . . . in utterly tranquil peace, with the tranquility of that order . . . ordained in the universe.” For Aelred, the name of this divine principle is caritas.
Loving care balances oppositions, reconciles differences.
The infant, held in Mary’s arms, looks into her eyes and stretches out his arms, seeking to hold all things in his embrace.This gesture bears the imprint of the creative word spoken by God at the beginning and down through the ages. This simple human gesture carries the Word to others in welcome, in acceptance, in forgiveness, in reconciliation, in communion. We see those same open arms as friends greet each other in an airport, as family members come together for a holiday meal, as we offer the sign of peace at Mass.
The λόγος, the divine word, the divine meaning, takes flesh in welcoming arms.
We see it in our Salve window. Mary presents us with the infant Christ, his arms open to welcome, to invite us into his embrace. This welcoming gesture is perverted by crucifixion into the means of painful, humiliating death. On the cross his arms are stretched and nailed, yet still they welcome. Those crucified arms welcome us all to be with Christ in Paradise; they embrace us all as children of his mother. Risen from the dead, Christ extends his arms to comfort the sorrowing Mary Magdalene, speaking her name; with this same gesture he offers peace to his disciples.
Even now Jesus continues to open his arms in welcome like a father greeting his son, once lost, now returned.
The divine principle came down to earth in a stable in Bethlehem and took flesh in open arms.
The Word continues to reach out as this same flesh is given to us in the consecrated bread of life.
May we all come with outstretched arms to share in the divinity of Christ, as he humbled himself to share in our humanity.
Fr. Cassian OCSO