Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

24 December 2010

Vigil Verbiage, Christmas 2010

For the patient reader's meditative review:

          I convey the prayerful best wishes of Monsignor Hartgen, Father Camilli, Deacon Gallagher, the administrative staff, and parishioners of Holy Guardian Angels Parish for a holy, healthy, and happy celebration of the Lord’s Nativity.  These sentiments of good will are directed especially to those who may be visiting from other parishes or faiths, and to anyone who may consider himself a stranger to this place.  For just an hour we have been given the opportunity to pause, reflect, and rejoice.  Please, Lord, grant us Your Presence, the presence of mind and heart we need to savor the holy mysteries contained in this day.
          The Church gathers to celebrate the investment of God the Son in human flesh, an investment that He is pleased to make for all human persons of every time and place.  The Second Reading from the Acts of the Apostles reminds us that the Christ, Jesus, originated in the people of Israel.  He is the fulfillment of the promises made in their sacred Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament.  God remains active in the life of the Jews.  We, too, retain a connection with them, and not as people who have long since passed them in a race, relieved to see them lagging behind us.  There is no competition, and God has the entire human situation—including our very lives—under control.  That, in fact, is one of the crucial themes of the Christian faith.
          It is one that we are inclined to disbelieve at times.  Every year we come to God’s Altar on this day a bit more anxious about how things are going “out there”—and perhaps “in here” as well.  The vision of a more peaceful and just society, the vision of a more tolerant and generous self, is a bit more elusive.  Having given ourselves over to our idols, we may chafe at the idea presented in the First Reading—which, in fact, is more than an idea, but a promise: No more shall people call you ‘Forsaken,’ or your land ‘Desolate,’ but you shall be called ‘My Delight,’ and your land ‘Espoused.’  For the Lord delights in you and makes your land His spouse.  As John the Baptist protested his unworthiness, we are quick to produce life histories in defense of that claim.
          Let the Messiah’s story ring out in the hearts of everyone here: Worthy is the Lamb!  We see in Jesus’ human pedigree a colorful background, fraught with persons whose life histories are unseemly and unworthy.  Like ours, they are ordinary stories of ordinary people, whom God has nonetheless chosen to call His brothers and sisters.  Apparently our genealogy and external circumstances need not determine the course of our own lives; by God’s power and mercy, what others have done or may do is not a reliable predictor of what God may do in us.
          Let the Messiah’s story ring out in the hearts of everyone here: Be not afraid!  The story of St. Joseph reveals a man who initially hesitated to receive the Christ Child and His mother in light of their strange circumstances and appearance.  Who knows where and how God will knock at our door, and who knows why He has asked for us?  Like Joseph, we may yet open our hearts to receive what God wants to give us, whatever it may soon demand of us.  Can we believe in the possibilities for growth and change that the coming year, and its God, may have in store?  Can we actualize those possibilities when they arrive?  By God, we can; we can accept in many and unpredictable forms the Bridegroom’s joyful proposal of unending love.

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