Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Introit for Mass of the day on Christmas:

Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis:
cuius imperium super humerum eius:
et vocabitur nomen eius, magni consilii Angelus.
V. Cantate Domino canticum novum: quia mirabilius fecit.

Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.
The insignia of His reign is on His shoulder
and His name shall be the Angel of Great Counsel.
V. Sing unto the Lord a new song,
for He has done wonderful

Here is the opening paragraph of the Holy  Father’s homily for the Midnight Mass. Words are important! He explains briefly here about a “programmatic” word – a word which the Church packs with meaning and which we should be able to unpack.

The reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to Titus that we have just heard begins solemnly with the word “apparuit”, which then comes back again in the reading at the Dawn Mass: apparuit – “there has appeared”.  This is a programmatic word, by which the Church seeks to express synthetically the essence of Christmas.  Formerly, people had spoken of God and formed human images of him in all sorts of different ways.  God himself had spoken in many and various ways to mankind (cf. Heb 1:1 – Mass during the Day).  But now something new has happened: he has appeared.  He has revealed himself.  He has emerged from the inaccessible light in which he dwells.  He himself has come into our midst.  This was the great joy of Christmas for the early Church: God has appeared.  No longer is he merely an idea, no longer do we have to form a picture of him on the basis of mere words.  He has “appeared”.  But now we ask: how has he appeared?  Who is he in reality?  The reading at the Dawn Mass goes on to say: “the kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed” (Titus 3:4).  For the people of pre-Christian times, whose response to the terrors and contradictions of the world was to fear that God himself might not be good either, that he too might well be cruel and arbitrary, this was a real “epiphany”, the great light that has appeared to us: God is pure goodness.  Today too, people who are no longer able to recognize God through faith are asking whether the ultimate power that underpins and sustains the world is truly good, or whether evil is just as powerful and primordial as the good and the beautiful which we encounter in radiant moments in our world.  “The kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed”: this is the new, consoling certainty that is granted to us at Christmas.

Words are important because they are signs of the Word, the One Word that God spoke, the all-encompassing Word - the Son of God.

Our Savior has appeared!  

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