dimanche, décembre 24, 2006

Vigil of the Nativity of Our Lord

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
His life was a ascension toward God
"Tomorrow shall the iniquity of the earth be abolished and the Savior of the world shall reign over us." (Alleluia of the Mass)

The beautiful Alleluia of this Mass is a proclamation of Faith and Hope. We, disciples of Jesus-Christ, know that the feast of the Nativity means the end of the reign of Satan on earth. We know that the birth of Jesus has changed the world and that now a kingdom of peace and justice has been established. The first vespers of the Nativity will remind us this afternoon that the King of Peace reigns now over the entire world. It is true! It is a fact! We must believe it.

Yet, if we look at the world, it doesn’t seem so evident. Iniquity remains and the Savior doesn’t reign supreme. Tomorrow’s proper first make reference to the days after the coming of the Savior. For the Jews of the Old Testament, tomorrow meant the coming of the Messiah. What about for us?

Let Pope Benedict XVI answer the question, or rather Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. He wrote in his book, The spirit of the Liturgy: “The Church Fathers described the various stages of fulfillment not just as contrast between Old and New Testament, but as the three steps of shadow, image and reality. In the Church of the New Testament the shadow has been scattered by the image. ‘The night is far gone, the day is at hand.’ (Rom 13,12) – this was the epistle of the first Sunday of Advent – But, as Saint Gregory the Great says, it is still only the time of dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled. The sun is rising, but it has still not reached its zenith. Thus the time of the New testament is a peculiar kind of ‘in-between’, a mixture of ‘already and not yet.’ The empirical conditions of life in this world are still in force, but they have been burst open, and must be more and more burst open, in preparation for the final fulfillment already inaugurated in Christ.

Dear Brethren, tomorrow the sun will rise but it will not yet reach its zenith. And it will not until all is fulfilled and the number of the elect is achieved. The sun will rise but there will still be clouds in our sky and even, at times, some eclipses that seem to shut out the light. If some days you don’t see the sun, then don’t forget that it is still here, above the clouds.

Our life is like mountaineering. If you want to reach the top of the mountain, you have to get up early in the morning and start climbing in the dark. When the clouds are low and it is raining, your climb to the top becomes more difficult, but you know that at the top of the mountain the sun will shine. The thought of the beauty you will contemplate there gives you so much ardor that you no longer care about your fatigue or the weight of your backpack and the rain that soaks you. You move forward with more strength of will and more enthusiasm than ever. The idea of giving up now becomes unbearable. After all the effort you have already made, it would be complete nonsense. You are right. You are right because the pains you suffer during the ascension are nothing in comparison to the beauty of the panorama you will enjoy standing at the top and to the feeling of well being you will have.

And such is our life on earth: an ascension toward the Sun of Justice. As long as you walk through life with hope, you will go forward, because you know that your present sufferings will be changed into joy. The Baby Jesus is the guarantee that our hopes are not vain. He already came into the world, poor and rejected by men. His coming was already his first suffering. But at Bethlehem, in the manger, it is not the appropriate place for wails and lamentations. It is the time for joy and hope.

In a few hours we will hear the angel of God saying: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For, this day, is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.

Dear Brethren, the joy of Christmas prefigures the eternal happiness of Heaven. Let nothing come to remove it from our souls. And let us spend the time who have before the birth of Jesus with His mother. The sweet and maternal presence of Mary will appease our hearts and help us to open our souls to God.

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