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A Shepherd's Message
December 20, 2011


CNS Photo: A Nativity scene is pictured at the Vatican Museums Dec. 14. This scene was made by craftsmen of Guanajuato, Mexico, and is one of several creches at the Vatican.

"Sing lullaby, Lullaby baby, now reclining, Sing lullaby. Hush, do not wake the Infant King. Angels are watching, stars are shining Over the place where he is lying. Sing, lullaby!

Sing lullaby, Lullaby baby, now a-dozing, Sing lullaby. Hush, do not wake the Infant King. Soon comes the cross, the nails, the piercing, Then in the grave at last reposing; Sing lullaby!

Sing lullaby, Lullaby! Is the babe awaking? Sing lullaby. Hush, do not stir the Infant King, Dreaming of Easter, gladsome morning, Conquering Death, its bondage breaking; Sing lullaby!"

This very fine Christmas Carol with words from the 19th century and an achingly beautiful Basque Spanish melody accomplishes much with intense economy of expression. In other words, it is a great Christmas meditation! The combination of words and melody displays a not untypical expression of the best (and usually older) Christmas Carols, their bitter sweetness. There is magnificent emotion here but no sentimentality.

The human mind has a very hard time accepting the fact of God taking on human flesh and blood existence. The history of our Christian faith is filled with examples of even great minds who tried to accommodate the mystery to a more easily understood phenomenon. On the one hand, some say that God did not really become "man," but only appeared in some facsimile, or that Christ's flesh and blood existence was absorbed into His divinity. On the other hand, others tried to reason that Christ was just a "man," maybe a very good one, maybe the best that ever happened. These folks reason that because He was such an extraordinary human being, early Christians described His closeness to God by making Him a "god." They say He was "divinized," meaning he left a mark on humankind. Or they say that His "cause" for God and solidarity lived on and so He became a kind of divine cipher for people's needs. The variations are endless. The human mind perhaps loves itself and its capabilities too much and wants to make things tidy and packaged.

The mystery of God in Christian faith is much bigger and magnificent than these reductions imagine. There is a paradox: God is infinitely transcendent to you and me and simultaneously closer to you and me than we are to ourselves. God is not perfected by creating and Creation is the result of the most infinite generosity and love imaginable. But the truth of our Catholic faith goes still further. In sending His Son, God the Father willed to reconcile sinful and hiding human beings to Himself. His Son became all that we are, except for sin. As the early Church Councils declare: the Eternal Son is consubstantial with the Father and became consubstantial with us for the sake of our salvation.

The place where this meeting and encounter becomes clear and poignant is the point of Christ's conception, birth and infancy. The introduction of the Eternal Word into creation's time and space allows us to glance what will further occur: Christ's resolute movement in His later public life to His saving death and His life-giving Resurrection. Much is contained in the Babe of Bethlehem. It concerns each of us personally. The Child in the Manger is an invitation not just to curiosity but to faith and total commitment to Him who became so small to lead us and show us, against all Caesars, that He alone is Prince of Peace and Savior. "O Come, Let us Adore Him!"

Merry Christmas!
By Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
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Tags: Christmas

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