One Christmas day during World War II, a young family was outside making a snowman. Suddenly a plane flew by overhead. After it passed, the tiniest child turned to her father and said, “Daddy, how do people climb up to the sky to get into planes?” Her father explained that passengers did not have to climb up to the sky to get into the planes. The planes came down from the sky to get the passengers.
The child’s question helps to illustrate the mystery of Christmas. It celebrates the fact that we do not have to climb to the sky to get to God. God has come down to earth to us.
St. John the Evangelist illustrates it at the beginning of his Gospel, which is a very ancient Christological hymn. “And the Word became flesh and pitched his tent
among us …” (1,14).
The “Word” (‘logos’ in the Greek Text) combines God’s dynamic creative Word (Genesis 1) personified pre-existent wisdom as the instrument of God’s creative activity (Proverbs 8) and the ultimate intelligibility of reality (Hellenistic philosophy). This Word becomes “flesh”, a full person that is Jesus.
The Word “pitched his tent among us …” The tent of meeting was the place of God’s presence among His people, Israel (Exodus 25,8-9; Numbers 35,34). Now Jesus, the incarnate Word, is the new mode of God’s presence among His people. A real person in flesh and blood!
Yes, Jesus, the Incarnate Logos, is present among us today. Where do we meet Him today? Christ pitches His tent today in the Sacred Liturgy – as # 7, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Vatican II, elaborates: “He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister … but especially in the Eucharistic Species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptises. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised, “where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18,20).”
When the Catholic Religion was suppressed in Ireland by the English, the Irish Catholics had no churches. Their priests hid in forests and caves and secretly visited the farms and homes to say the Holy Mass there
during the night.
It was the dearest wish of every Irish family that at least once in their lifetimes a priest would arrive at Christmas to celebrate Mass on this holiest of nights. For this grace they hoped and prayed all through the year.
When Christmas came, the Irish Catholics left their doors unlocked and placed burning candles in the windows so that any visiting priest could be welcomed and guided to their home through the dark night. Silently the priest would enter through the unlatched door and be received by the devout inhabitants with fervent prayers of gratitude and tears of happiness that their home was to become a church for Christmas.
Since then, the candles in the windows have remained a cherished practice of the Irish in Ireland and USA. How enthusiastic were these Catholics to the reception of Jesus through the Holy Mass!
Let us meet Jesus – with the enthusiasm of the persecuted Irish Catholics – not only today, this special day of Christmas, but every Sunday, a little Easter.