The prophet said: “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.”
Here are words of the philosopher Socrates: “You would have gone on sleeping if God had not sent someone to care for you.”
Solon wrote this in his Laws: “Among divided humanity the bodiless divinity will take on flesh and bring deliverance from sufferings. This same God Who is without flesh will be hanged by an ungrateful people and by His own will He shall endure all sufferings.”
Plato himself wrote: “The just one, without having done any injustice, will be scourged and beaten and finally he will be crucified.”
As we read through the above words, we find ourselves at a loss. Are not all these things prophecies? And we are even more at a loss when we stop to think how the fullness of time has come. Emmanuel, that is, “the God Who is with us,” has been born. All these prophecies have been fulfilled in the person of the Virgin’s son. And yet… For the Greeks the incarnation of God was foolishness. For the Jews it was a scandal. How is this so, and why?
The thing is very simple to understand. Those who wrote the things quoted above were not just anybody. They were great spirits. Or, if you prefer, they were spirits who had somehow entered into and lived the mystery. What mystery? The mystery of the Incarnation, to be sure! St. Justin, who was both a philosopher and a martyr, once spoke of those who were “Christians before the time of Christ,” and it was of this kind of people that he was speaking.
This mystery is something strange and paradoxical. The cave becomes heaven and the Virgin becomes the Cherubic throne. The manger becomes that place where He Who cannot be contained is contained. God becomes man, the One is immaterial takes on matter, the Uncontainable is contained. What mind can take in these things? What logic can understand or interpret them? Or even accept them? It is true that for the ordinary and logical mind these things are foolishness and scandal.
The mystery is not to be explained. It cannot be defined and confined, probed and dissected. Only those who live it believe in it, and only those who believe in it are living it and participating in it. Those who are raised above ordinary logic and who go beyond the limits of what is taken as decided, those who are not satisfied with the routine of the everyday and whose spirit has not been dulled and confused with the stench and reek of sin.
Christmas! God becomes man and is with us. A great mystery, strange and paradoxical. For the Greeks foolishness, for the Jews a scandal. But for the Christians, it is salvation.
To be a Christian of the twenty first century – the century of atomic energy, spacecraft, and electronic computers, a time when distances have been made meaningless, a time of enormous wealth and the most wretched poverty. It is a century when comfort is taken for granted side by side with the most primitive kinds of deprivation, a time of unfettered freedom and of the dictatorship of individuals and of the masses, which really means slavery.
You are a Christian. I am a Christian too. And in fact all who have been baptized are Christians. But what kind of Christians are we? Are we fervent, cold, or lukewarm? Are we real sailors, or do we just play sailing in pools and backwaters? Are we Christians on paper only, or also in real life? Christians in theory or in practice, in the shallows only or in the deep waters? God alone, together with each one of us inside, knows the kind of Christian we truly are. But whoever does not live the mystery, for that man, the mystery is not salvation. It could be foolishness or scandal or anything else at all, but it is not salvation.
It has become very fashionable in the season around Christmas to talk of peace, of justice and human rights, of social problems and moral issues. But all these things are the fruits of living the mystery. Yet how many people speak about the mystery itself? Only those who are living it. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
In the coronavirus period, we all have become tired. Many talk and talk eccentrically. They think they know everything. They confuse the Sacrament with the way it is received. They do not want to understand that as Christians and the Church, we live in a society that has governments and laws. In a law-abiding society, we must respect both the government and the laws, as long as they do not go against the real truth of our faith. Our Church in Canada does not deviate from our true faith. I request that everyone not to go to extremes. Everybody should share in the Immaculate Mysteries, now that Christmas is approaching and always. The rest are excuses and often the result of egotism.
You who are a Christian, live the mystery. If you live it, you may not be causing any great show or impressing anybody, but the very living of the mystery has a power far greater than the power of the atom. It is a power that cannot be destroyed and its fruits will be peace, justice, and every virtue. Its final result will be your entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is both my wish and my most fervent prayer for this Christmas and for the New Year.