Emmanuel and the Eucharist
This issue of the North Texas Catholic is focused upon the mystery of the Eucharist. It is fitting that we should consider the Eucharist, especially at this time of Christmas when we celebrate the nativity of the Son of God and the Son of Mary — Jesus Christ, the Word Made Flesh. We read in the account of Jesus’ birth in Matthew’s Gospel: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:23). The celebration of the Eucharist at midnight on Christmas has always most vividly called to mind the mystery of God made man, Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Particularly at midnight Mass, the celebration of warm joy amidst the cold and darkness reminds us most beautifully that Christ is the light of the world shining brightly in the darkness — the darkness of our lives and of the world. In a special way, the placing and blessing of the statue of the Infant Jesus in the manger scene places all of us gathered at midnight Mass in that original nativity scene. It helps us to belong in the manger spiritually with the Infant Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph, and to remember who was there on that great night so many years ago.
The shepherds were in the outskirts and fields, caves and valleys, the periphery of society, seldom venturing into the town. The shepherds are watchful because they have no place of their own, so they have no spare room for God in their lives; so, in their watchfulness God reveals fully in the Infant Jesus their place in God’s life rather than God’s part in their lives.
Who isn’t watchful and who chooses not to belong in the stable? Herod, the Roman Empire’s bureaucrats, corrupt members of the religious leadership, the inn keepers, and others who are too busy and too preoccupied to belong to anybody. They are indifferent to God.
The philosophers, the experts, and those who already have a spare room for God in their lives miss the song of the angels and the birth of the Christ Child. In keeping a spare room for God, they choose not to belong to Him but to treat Him as an occasional guest whom they invite when they are bored. They are either asleep or about evil business transacted in the dark of night; the very darkness in which the light of the Christ Child now shines so brightly.
Reason itself, unaided by faith, does not permit us to watch for the mystery of God’s victory in the defenseless Infant Jesus who conquers humanity by vulnerable love. Reason, unaided by faith, fosters isolation and selfishness in each of these groups who choose not to belong in the stable. This is the selfishness which darkens the intelligence of human beings so that they miss their identity of belonging to God and to each other as His children; they sadly prefer the tinseled allure of autonomy. This darkness still pervades in much of our world today; yet the Light of the Christ Child shines ever brighter in its midst at Christmas.
So, fallen humanity receives its Savior in a manger, a place where animals go by instinct to feed. Yet, the same Christ Child will grow and as a man nourish our fallen humanity with the redemptive banquet of His Body and Blood, the Eucharist — the sacrament whereby we can truly belong.
Our gift of belonging to God in Christ requires our not simply having a spare room for Him but embracing in our weakness His room for us; it requires our swaddling in His divinity through the gift of Baptismal grace; and it requires our being nourished and transformed at the banquet of His sacrificial love, the Eucharist. “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).