Christmas and Holy Family, Year C
- God so loved the world that he gave his only Son (Jn. 3:16)
The more frenetic the phase of life becomes during the holidays and the more demanding the consuming culture becomes with regard to meeting its expectations—along with the realistic prospect that the holidays for which I prepare so much are going to be gone as fast as they come—and the more I miss loved ones who are either deceased or live far away, the more overwhelmed and depressed I feel. But as I already indicated back on December 22, 1997, when such feeling sets in and the season of joy is starting to turn for me into one of sadness, a remedy I make use of is singing to myself a song composed many years ago by a classmate, Ray Delia. I take it from Ray that the lyrics are really the words of a poem by Daniel Berrigan, S.J. I do not even know the title of the poem, and I have not succeeded in locating the book where the poem is found. So, as I quote it here shortly, I like to make clear that I am citing from memory—mine, which is even less reliable now than before—and my classmate’s. As we two remember it, the poem goes:
- In my morning prayer,
- I saw love written upon every creature:
- Men, on their foreheads;
- Trees, on their leaves;
- Houses, on their walls.
- Christ has flowered in man’s flesh!
- Let human nature rejoice!
The song helps me to recover peace and serenity, and to see and put things in their perspective. The lyrics, of course, reminds me of the real meaning of Christmas, pointing out unequivocally that I have to get past the glitter and the glitz, the tinsel and the ivy, the gift giving and receiving, the buying and selling, the eating and drinking, as these are not all there is.
The message the poem proclaims prods me to examine my conscience to find out if Christ has really flowered in my being and if love is seen clearly written on me. Enlivened by this love, one will have the Ignatian capacity to see and encounter God, love, in all things—on both the drab walls of St. Vincent’s Dining and the seductive display windows of business establishments nearby, on the wrinkled foreheads of diners as well as on the frowning faces of merchants who think the diners’ presence next-door drives prospective customers away—and all things in God, in love. Grounded in this love—assures us St. Vincent de Paul, called the “Seraphim of France” in the poem “Charitas” by Rubén Darío—“we will be always under the protection of God in heaven, we will remain unaffected by evil and never lack what we need.”
As my Christmas greeting, I wish everyone this love, which is all:
- the love that makes us honor and respect our elders;
- the love that is the bond of perfection;
- the love that makes us God’s children;
- the love the makes possible our presence in the Father’s house
- and our belonging to God’s family.
This love demands hard work, to borrow from Rainer Maria Rilke, and is the final and ultimate proof, and it is that for which all other tasks are but preparation.