IF WE TRULY UNDERSTOOD CHRISTMAS
St. John Marie Vianney, the French priest known as the patron saint of parish priests, once wrote, “If we truly understood the Incarnation of Christ we would die of joy!”
God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Blessed Trinity! Who can comprehend such a mystery?
As a schoolboy one day after school I asked Sister Rose de Lima, my four-grade teacher, “How can there be three persons in one God?” She was an Irish nun who loved God with all her heart and soul. “Have you ever seen a three-leafed clover?” she asked me. I shook my head. She then proceeded to draw one on the board. “Three leaves, part of one clover. If you pull one of the leaves from the clover, it is no longer the same flower. Each petal is as important as the other two and together they are one clover.”
That afternoon I asked my mother the same question, “What does the Blessed Trinity mean?” She smiled. “It’s a mystery,” she said. “One day when you go to Heaven, God will explain all of life’s mysteries to you and you’ll see it all very clearly.”
Here we are in the advent weeks before Christmas. The lure of this world with all its enticing gifts seems to win us over as if this holiest of days meant neatly wrapped presents under a brightly decorated tree. We lose ourselves in the melodies of Christmas carols, the dream of a snowy day, the dashing off of greeting cards, the holiday meal.
“If we truly understood the Incarnation of Christ we would die of joy!” Still, we ought at least to contemplate that wondrous gift. Our God in Heaven promised to send a savior to atone for the sins of humanity. He could have sent an archangel, a long-since departed patriarch like Abraham or a warrior-king like David, but instead, He sent His only begotten Son to be born of a virgin, become human like us, carry on a brief three-year mission, and then suffer a criminal’s painful death. Only God could expiate sins against God. Neither man nor angel could wipe clean the slate, arise from the dead, open Heaven’s doors to those who died in God’s friendship. Jesus alone could save us!
He had to become human like us in order that we could become Christified by Him.
When we pray, do we reflect on this magnanimous God Who loved His creatures so much that He would subject a Person of Himself to experience derision and disrespect at the hands of the spiritually blind? Do we consider ourselves so blessed to be alive in a world where once God Himself in the Person of the Christ walked and preached and healed the sick in body and soul? Do we think about the words of Jesus as we read them in the Holy Bible? The parables, the commandment to forgive and to love one another as He loves us?
This is not a call to play down the yuletide festive spirit. There is nothing wrong with children anticipating toys from Santa’s sack. Or parents feeling good about giving from their hearts what gifts they can afford. Or forgetting for a brief season that wars are raging and sins still take center stage in a world seemingly so unfair to so many. It’s Christmas. We should happily celebrate it. We should open ourselves to a wonderful holiday, one we’ll always remember, one more to add to those gone by.
But in the midst of our holiday cheer, let us not forget the reason for Christmas. Take a few quiet moments each day in prayer. Thank the Father for sending His Son to us. Thank the Son for willingly dying so brutal a death for us. Thank the Holy Spirit for instilling in us that faith in God that will lead us to Heaven one day. Yes, celebrate and be merry, but keep Jesus close on that special day on which He was born to us. Keep Him close everyday of your life. The soul within each of us, yearning for that eternal celebration, depends on it.
[Salvatore Buttaci is an obsessive-compulsive writer whose work has appeared widely. He is a member of the Sacred Heart Pastoral Council and an excellent reader @ Mass there in Princeton, WV. This post was originally published here.