Moses and Us Seeing the Invisible


Once every three years on Holy Family Sunday we read from the eleventh chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews. [Spanish.]

Now, the Bible contains many inspiring chapters.  To claim that any particular chapter qualifies as The Most Inspiring Chapter of the Holy Bible! Who could make such a judgment?  But Hebrews 11 will give any chapter a run for the money.  If you only intend to read one single chapter of the Bible between now and the end of 2017, and you decide to make it Hebrews 11–good choice.

We hear at Holy Mass how the paragraphs of Hebrews 11 begin. They begin with “By faith, So-and-so did such-and-such.”  By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to move to an unknown land.  By faith, Abraham received the power to generate offspring, even though he had passed the normal age, and had a sterile wife.  By faith, Abraham, when put to the test, offered up his son Isaac.

Now, Hebrews 11 recounts not just Abraham’s faith.  The chapter chronicles the faith of the successive generations of Israelites who awaited the fulfillment of God’s promises.  The chapter exhorts the Christian Church to unswerving faith.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, based practically his whole encyclical Lumen Fidei on Hebrews 11; he quotes the chapter thirteen times.  Like when he writes:

If we remove faith in God from our cities, mutual trust would be weakened.  We would remain united only by fear, and our stability would be threatened. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read that ‘God is not ashamed to be called their God…’ (Heb 11:16)… The intention is to say that God, by his concrete actions, makes a public avowal that he is present in our midst and that he desires to solidify every human relationship. (paragraph 55)

Anyway, one particular verse of Hebrews 11 struck me.  In the section of the chapter after the part about Abraham and his sons, St. Paul considers the faith of Moses.  We read:

Pope Paul VI 1975By faith, Moses left Egypt, not fearing Pharaoh’s fury.  For Moses persevered as if he could see the invisible God.

Moses led the Israelites out of slavery, marching towards the sea, with chariots in hot pursuit.  No earthly consideration could have made the situation hopeful.  Didn’t look good at all.  But Moses marched forward as if he could see the invisible God.

We see the baby Jesus, a baby, a boy.  A human being, like us.  But, by faith, we look at the infant in the manger as if we could see the invisible God.  The Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, the shepherds:  gazing at the baby, adoring Him, as if they could see the invisible God.

Nothing will evangelize like this.  The world needs the Good News of Christ.  And nothing will convince like the witness of people who speak and live as if we could see the invisible. Let me quote Pope Paul VI:

The world shows innumerable signs of denying God.  But, nevertheless, she searches for him in unexpected ways.  She painfully experiences the need for Him.  The world is calling for evangelizers to speak of a God whom they know and are familiar with, as if they could see the invisible. (Evangelii Nuntiandi 76)

For us, this requires discipline.  It requires constant engagement with Christ, through Scripture and the sacraments.  It requires renouncing the “concupiscence of our eyes,” which grasp like desperate babies for stimulation.

Moses did not lead the Israelites to the Promised Land by pulling out his smartphone all the time and checking it.  Moses could see the invisible because he had conquered the concupiscence of his eyes, by denying them the immediate satisfaction that they crave.

Let’s think of the long, slow nights which Mary and Joseph spent with the baby.  Hours of quiet breathing, little baby noises, in the pitch-black night.  Totally unexciting.  Except that they could see the invisible God.

That’s how we can learn to see the invisible, too.  By embracing quiet, and solitude—and not running away.  By becoming people who are not afraid to pray, to pray with reckless abandon to the unseen God. Utterly unseen—except, in Jesus Christ, we see Him, and we know Him.

The Son of David and the Real Revolution

The baby’s name is… Mary and Joseph’s hometown was… Nazareth. So the baby’s full name, the way he would have been listed in the phonebook, if they had phonebooks… Jesus of Nazareth. [Spanish.]

Also: He had “titles.” Important people have titles, and Jesus of Nazareth is the most-important Person ever. …Christ, Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, Lord… How about, “Son of ______, have pity on me; have pity on us!” We read in the gospels about a number of occasions when people who needed help called out to Christ, addressing Him as Son of…

Need a hint? He was born in Bethlehem, the City of… And on the very last page of the Bible, we read about Christ calling Himself  “the root and offspring of…”

The Messiah came from the House of David. What can we say about King David, who had lived a thousand years before Christ? He was small. He had courage. He defeated Goliath–not because the boy had extraordinary prowess in battle, but because God took David’s side.

King David loved to sing to the Lord. He fell into lust and homicide. He repented and prayed for mercy from the Lord. He received it, and he learned from his failure. David became a humble king who feared offending God more than anything.

King David harpNow, we could come up with a hundred reasons why the Holy Bible comes across as perfectly believable, to any earnest reader. But the way the books of Samuel recount the life of King David—that has to stand near the top of that list. The Messiah born in Bethlehem is the descendant of a man to whom we can all relate. The Christ sits on the throne of a real, imperfect human king.

Now, one thing we all want to know is: What is the central turning point of history? How and when does hope dawn for this suffering world? How does a change for the better begin?

In the ancient Roman Empire, you had to regard the birth of the current Emperor as the beginning of the new, improved age. When Julius Caesar, or Tiberias, or Trajan, or Hadrian was born: you had to regard that as the day hope dawned on earth. And when the French and Russian Revolutions took power, they demanded the same: You had to regard the revolution as the turning point of history, the beginning of the new, hopeful age.

Maybe this all sounds strange, but it isn’t. It’s actually very familiar. Every generation experiences the temptation of thinking: We now have the answers that our ancestors didn’t. We now know how to behave properly. We are finally cleaning this world up, cleaning up the mess that our ancestors left us.

Now, don’t get me wrong: It’s a great thing that men like Harvey Weinstein finally have gotten the comeuppance they deserve, for trying to take advantage of their authority in the workplace. But: let’s not kid ourselves about when the idea first got hatched—the idea that men shouldn’t prey on women with less power than them. It’s not a new idea. You can read all about it in sermons by St. Augustine, from around the year 400 AD, or sermons by St. Bernard, from around the year 1150 AD.

st-augustineMy point: Today, the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and Son of David: Today is the day when hope dawned in this needy world. He—the Person, the real man—Jesus Christ: He is the truly New Thing that the world needs. His coming is the only real “Revolution.” No idea, no technological innovation, no political process or social arrangement can begin to approach the true newness brought into the world by this baby.

And He came to heal a world full of people like King David. People who aren’t perfect, but who trust in God and know how to ask forgiveness. Not super-talented people, or razor-sharp minds–but humble souls who love to sing to God.

2,017. 2,018. These are not meaningless, throwaway numbers. These numbers measure precisely the on-going duration of the real “New Age,” the real “revolution.” The age of hope, of liberation from the evils of this world.

The last hundred years saw plenty of instances when people got impatient with the course of Christian history. They forgot that Christ is patiently dealing with a race of imperfect King Davids. The revolutionaries of the 20th century imagined they could start something newer and improved, better than Christianity. And in the process they managed to kill innumerable innocent people. We already mentioned the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. There’s also the supposedly glorious revolutions of China, Mexico, Cambodia, and others. And let’s not forget the millions of innocent unborn children killed right here in the USA, in the name of the so-called Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s.

The history of the last century proves one thing, above all: We can’t improve on the change for the better that Jesus Christ brought to this world. And nothing is more dangerous than imagining we can.

Today, let’s find our peace in the truth. The world has indeed changed from bad to good. In Bethlehem, on a cold, quiet night. A Savior was born, the heir to throne of David. This baby has the power gently to heal sinners.

The Drama of Our Lady’s Yes


Archangel Gabriel came from heaven to greet our Lady and to make a declaration. ‘You will give birth to the divine king. Name Him Jesus.’ [SPANISH.]

Then Mary asked a reasonable question, touching on the birds and the bees. The archangel gave her an answer, mentioning the Holy Spirit.

There was a brief silence. Let the sexual harassers of the world take note: nothing would happen without Mary’s consent. The Archangel Gabriel waited for an answer. Our Lady had the power to decide whether or not she would become the Mother of God.

Let’s listen to St. Bernard, as he narrated the drama of that moment in one of his sermons:

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him.

St. Bernard goes on. He speaks to our Lady on behalf of the human race:

We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us. The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

We all find ourselves involved in that moment, the moment of the Annunciation, as the archangel awaited our Lady’s consent. In a sense, we were all there, waiting. Yes, each of us has our own unique course of life to run. But none of us escapes the common fate of all the children of Adam. We need a Savior. We need the Messiah Who can liberate us from our own weaknesses, Who can atone for all our mistakes, and Who can give us a life that death cannot destroy.

St. Bernard continues, describing how everything will unfold if the Virgin says Yes:

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving.

…”O blessed Virgin, open your heart to faith.” St. Bernard has profound insight into Our Lady’s soul. Her consent to the Archangel required a great act of Christian faith. She had  to believe–to believe that God loved the world so much that He would give His only-begotten Son. She had to believe that the Holy Spirit could make her the Virgin Mother of the eternal Word. And she had to trust that God in His providence would see her through all the excruciating difficulties that she knew she would face.

In other words, Mary conceived a son in her womb by believing precisely what we believe. That God is one God in three divine Persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that the Son willed to unite Himself to our race, so as to become our Savior. In one all-important moment, Christ’s human life began, and Christianity began, with a young girl believing in the magnificent providence of God.

As we just heard, St. Bernard concludes his narration with dramatic fervor, coaching the Virgin, exhorting her, fathering her. ‘Believe, young lady! God is that good.”

Did Mary believe? She did. How do we know? She said:“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word.”

The Magnificat, Love, and Colds



The last few days before Christmas, at Holy Mass we read familiar passages from the beginning of St. Luke’s gospel. Not only the familiar account of the Annunciation. We also read our Lady’s familiar hymn of Thanksgiving for it, namely the Magnificat.

Familiar because it was the responsorial psalm this past Sunday. And we read it at Mass every year on May 31, the Feast of the… Visitation. And we pray the Magnificat every day at… Evening Prayer (aka Vespers).

Did the Blessed Mother experience morning sickness or other complications during the first trimester, or at any other point during her pregnancy? Probably not, since she hastened to the Judean hill country. On the other hand, we know from long-standing Catholic tradition that St. Joseph insisted on Mary riding on an animal on their trip to Bethlehem. So our Lady didn’t have some kind of Super-Woman pregnancy, either. She had to endure all the usual discomfort and fatigue.

Yet she sang her Magnificat, glorifying the Lord for making her a mother. The Mother of God, and the Mother of Sorrows. She glorified the God of Abraham for making her the mother of the Redeemer who would suffer for all–thereby giving her a share in the same dark night of faith that Abraham had to endure. She praised God for giving her a life not of “freedom” or ease or comfort, but of pure daily obedience to Him.

lippi abraham knife strozzi chapel

Amazing faithfulness. Of course! She’s the immaculate one. Can we even begin to relate?

Yes, in fact. I think we can. Mothers can. And fathers can, too. And spiritual fathers.

“Independence” is not what it’s cracked-up to be. The idea that preserving my autonomy and my personal space and my liberty to do whatever I want—the idea that such “freedom” will make me happy? No. Same thing goes for ease and comfort. Ease and comfort get boring.

Nothing really makes life full and happy, except having duties of love to fulfill. We social animals were made to take on duties of love, and to fulfill them.

Now, the people we have the duty to love selflessly—our flesh and blood; spouse; brothers and sisters in church; neighbors—these people we have the duty to love selflessly: they can be pains in the butt. They keep us up at night. They give us colds. (You don’t think we celibate priests wind up getting all your colds? We’re the last ones to drink from the chalices at every Mass, when we rinse them and consume all the remaining drops and fragments.)

Pains in the butt, these people we have a duty to love. But we praise God. We proclaim the greatness of the Lord. For giving us people we love as our own, who give us colds. He made a promise of mercy to Abraham, to give him a son to worry about. And Abraham rejoiced with inexpressible joy. Our Lady rejoiced with inexpressible joy to have a son, Whom she would have to follow to the cross. And we rejoice, too, that God has given us people that we have a duty to love.

The Opposite of Sexual Harassment

This month we read St. Luke’s account of the Annunciation three times at Holy Mass. We read it on December 8; we read it today; we will read it again on Sunday.

You can’t meditate on the Annunciation too much, of course. We spend at least two decades of Hail Marys a week meditating on it, if we say the Rosary every day. And we try to recite the Angelus at least once a day, if not three times a day.

El Greco Annunciation

We’ll talk about this more on Sunday, when we will read this gospel passage yet again. But let’s focus for a moment on a highly topical aspect of the Annunciation, given all the recent news about men getting fired for being aggressive pigs.

Let’s remember that the Annunciation does not only involve the angel’s message. The angel brought an amazing message, but that’s not the whole thing. The Annunciation also involves: Mary consenting to the angel’s proposal.

In other words, what happened at the Annunciation is like the polar-opposite of sexual harassment. A predatory man makes a sordid suggestion, and then he won’t take No for an answer. Meanwhile, the Archangel Gabriel made a sublimely pure and beautiful proposal, and then patiently waited for a Yes before he made another move.

mary-logo1Mary could have said No. She could have said: Wait a minute. Give up normal married life and the prospect of a large and prosperous family? Expose myself to unimaginable solitudes and sufferings? Jump off into the abyss of faith, just because you say God has a plan here? No, thanks. I’m not that kind of hero. Go annunciate to someone else.

Mary could have said all that, and who would have blamed her? But, instead, she said Yes. Just like Jesus gave Himself up completely to the will of the Father and went obediently to the cross, Mary gave herself over completely to the supernatural plan announced by the archangel, and she wound up at the foot of the cross.

Only the immaculate one could have managed such an all-encompassing Yes. Only Mary conceived without sin had a heart pure and unified enough to say that Yes. To say it once and for all, and never doubt, and never flinch from a single duty that her unique mission imposed upon her.

(That’s why we read this passage on December 8, by the way. Even though reading about the Annunciation on Immaculate Conception Day can cause some confusion regarding whose conception was immaculate, and Whose was virginal.)

Anyway, let’s just pray. O Mary most-pure, help win us the graces we need to imitate your sinless, selfless Yes.

Mass Obligation and the Two-Fer

This past Sunday in church, I told my people that everyone had to attend Mass twice this weekend (Sat-Mon). The diocese instructed us to this effect, as directed by the US Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship.

st gregory the great
Pope St. Gregory the Great celebrated Christmas Vigil Masses

One dear lady approached me at the church door after Mass to tell me that she would have to cancel a breakfast. She proclaimed her perfect willingness to do so, in order to fulfill her obligation to God.

She and I didn’t really have time to talk at length, so I don’t know exactly what her plans had been. I can only presume that she had intended to go to Mass on Sunday evening. That would mean going to Mass on Sunday. And it would mean going to Mass for Christmas. All at once. (I can’t imagine that she is the only one with such intentions.)

Now, as I said, I counseled the people according to the instructions given by the diocese. So you can’t call me disobedient. But I don’t agree with the instructions. I think the dear lady’s plans were fine.

The principle operating in the diocese’s instructions (informed by the teaching of the Divine Worship Committee) is this: You simply cannot fulfill two obligations to attend Mass by attending one Mass.

To which I would say, Why not?

Maybe it would be better if…

  1. Everybody wanted to go to Mass twice, or
  2. The ancient custom of the Vigil Mass of Christmas had not become a way of fulfilling the obligation to celebrate Christmas in church.

But: the law isn’t about what everybody should want to do. It’s about what everyone has to do, whether you want to do it or not.

And, for good or ill, the Vigil Mass of Christmas does, in our day and age, fulfill the obligation to celebrate Christmas in church. I don’t think the ancient originators of the Vigil Mass of Christmas would have understood it that way–but that’s not the issue, either.

The issue is: Can one Mass fulfill two obligations? Much greater authority than I possess lies behind the answer No. But the question does remain open (never solved definitively by the Apostolic See), so I offer my opinion.

The answer No seems to me to proceed from an unsafe presupposition. That presupposition is: The spiritual good which accrues to the faithful Catholic who attends Mass is something that the governing authority of the Church can quantify, at least to some extent. We can at least quantify that good of attending Mass so as to be able to say without doubt that two is definitely better than one. I would answer that: In the reality of the spiritual lives of our people, it’s just not that simple. I don’t think it makes sense to try to quantify the spiritual good accruing to the attendance of Mass.

Meanwhile, on the other hand: We have the simple fact that, this year, in most of the parishes in the United States, it will be possible to attend Mass on Sunday on Christmas Eve. No moral judgment about it; no quantifying of any spiritual good accruing to the attendance of Mass. Just a simple fact. It’s possible.

I think the more prudent pastoral approach would be to leave it at that.

The End of Star-Wars History, and St. Joseph


The Millennium Falcon did the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs.

Now, we know perfectly well that neither the Kessel Run, nor the Millennium Falcon, actually exist. But when Harrison Ford expressed his surprise that Alec Guinness and Mark Hamill did not know about his ship’s twelve-parsec run, we breathed in some air from a believably unified galaxy, a place that felt like real human beings lived there—with funny droids to help them, and lots of other intelligent species to deal with, like jawas and wookies.

And: something was afoot. The history of the galaxy moved forward, towards something—either a dreadful, or a hopeful, outcome. The choices that the characters sitting at the table talking about the Kessel Run would make: those choices would affect the unfolding of history.

Not to spoil anything for anyone who still intends to try to enjoy the new movie. But the 2017 movie doesn’t have a single line that comes within a hundred miles of the believability of Han Solo’s 1977 Kessel-Run line. And at the end of “The Last Jedi,” we have no choice but to face the unhappy truth: Star Wars has become just another superhero-movie series. It will now go around in circles forever, and none of it will ever mean anything. The history of the Star-Wars galaxy has stopped moving forward at all.

Now, why do I bring this up on the day when, at Holy Mass, we read about St. Joseph learning about, and accepting, God’s plan for his beautiful fiancée? Because St. Joseph had a Christian sense of history, as opposed to a pagan sense of endless, meaningless repetition.

darth_vaderIt’s not just that the Holy Bible reads like 1,200 pages of Kessel-Run lines. No one ever claimed that the Sacred Scriptures make for easy readying. But they are utterly believable. Dilettante intellectuals who have never actually read a single full page of the Bible love to lump it among the pagan myths. But nothing could be further from the truth. The pagan myths are enchanting, mindless popcorn flicks like “The Last Jedi.” The Bible drags the reader through the tortured reality of 2,000 years of real human experience on this actual planet.

But my main point is this: When the angel visited St. Joseph, the humble carpenter already knew something very important about what the passing of time means. He knew the Scriptures of Israel and believed in God, so St. Joseph was fully aware that the history of the world is not going in a circle. Time moves forward. Everything that happens has consequences—meaningful consequences. Everything that is now—all of it has a history. And that history explains why it is the way it is now. Time will have a final resolution; it will come to an end—an end that will make perfect sense, when we reach it.

And that end will either be utterly dreadful or perfectly wonderful. It will either be a million times worse than if Luke never had the courage to leave Tatooine at all, and Darth Vader ruled the galaxy with a functioning Death Star. Or it will be like Han and Leia reigning as benign, humane monarchs over an everlasting Ewok party.

These are the two options for the history of the human beings in this world. And the difference between the one and the other is the Babe of Bethlehem.

Advent Scripture-Study Notes

aquinasWe tackled the third chapter of St. John’s gospel. We used the commentary of St. Thomas Aquinas. We started a week early, because we have to end a week early (since, this year, the afternoon of the fourth Sunday of Advent=Christmas Eve).

The handouts below overlap, because we got sidetracked with discussion and never completed page 2. So page 2 always became page 1 for the following week. And we only made it as far as verse 16 (the most world-famous verse of the Bible.)

All that said, you might enjoy clicking through the links and reading St. Thomas’ reflections…

Week 1: verses 1-5

Week 2: verses 4-8

Week 3: verses 6-13

Week 4: verses 13-16

The Holy Spirit and the Christmas Spirit


sistine isaiah

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me!” rejoiced the prophet. “Do not quench the Spirit!” commands the Apostle. Christ came in the Holy Spirit, to give us the Holy Spirit. The day of His birth approaches quickly—Christmas is a mere eight days away! So in Church we pray, Come, Lord Jesus! And meanwhile, the world says: “You better get the Christmas spirit! And quick!” [Spanish]

Now, can we analyze the similarities, and differences, between the Holy Spirit we read about in the Bible and the “Christmas spirit?” The “spirit of Christmas” we read about in books by authors like Charles Dickens, or hear about on the Charlie Brown Christmas Special or on

First we can say that the Holy Spirit—Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and by Whom the Word was made flesh; the Spirit Who fills us with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, and holy fear: He is a divine Person of the Blessed Trinity; He is God.

Meanwhile, “Christmas spirit…” That’s a little more vague. The phrase can mean different things to different people. But everyone more or less agrees: the spirit of Christmas involves kindness and generosity towards family members, friends, associates—towards everyone. It means rejoicing in human goodness and sharing time together, sharing food, and a warm house.

Now, the original event, the thing involving the Holy Spirit: it really did happen. That is, Jesus Christ really was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judea, and shepherds saw angels and rejoiced. That original event is so magnificently lovely, so wonderful, so promising and hopeful for everyone, that we have kept a great feast to commemorate it all these many centuries.

And no matter how much any huckster tries to turn Christmas into just another reason to pull out the credit- or debit-card, the “spirit of Christmas” cannot wither completely into something desiccated and purely secular. Christmas can never become utterly shallow and materialistic.

For about forty years or so now, some Christians have increasingly lamented the secularization of Christmas. But holy Mother Church continues to keep the day as a commemoration of the original most-sacred event. And we will keep doing it that way until the cows come home. The Church will celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25 until well after every credit-card company currently in operation has choked to death on all their chip readers and swipe fees.

When families get together and give each other sweet little gifts, we rejoice. After all, it’s the three wise men who started that tradition, not UPS or Sears and Roebuck. Of course it’s better to go to church first, before the Yule-tide cheer at home. Going to Mass makes Christmas much, much better and more fun. But why fight with anyone about anything on Christmas? Fighting goes against the spirit of Christmas, according to people like Charles Dickens and Charlie Brown. Far be it from us to contradict that, we who worship the babe of Bethlehem as the Prince of Peace.

santa-clausAfter all, in the end, there’s no real contest between Jesus and Santa. There’s no contest at all. Jesus wins. Jesus is the divine Child, with the power to govern the sun, the sky, and the stars—right there in His little hands. Jesus makes Christmas Christmas—He makes it holy, joyful, and blessedly quiet. Santa, as we know, started his long career as a bishop in Jesus’ Church. And Santa became popular because he is one of Jesus’ saints.

So there’s no point in picking fights with anyone about the secularization of Christmas. Better just to focus on good will towards men. But we do have a battle to fight—with ourselves. Can we Christian souls stop the frantic motion of our day-to-day lives, and pray and meditate, and maintain perspective? Can we find the interior peace we need to come to the manger and quietly rejoice?

We have come to the right place, if we want the Holy Spirit to help us. On tv, they love to talk about how “magical” Christmas should be. “Magical”—because it snows, or because the kids believe in Santa Clause, or because you spend your money on the right thing.

But there’s really no magic in the spirit of Christmas. The Holy Spirit doesn’t do magic tricks. Yes, there are magi. But believing in Christ and rejoicing in His loving goodness, and finding the sweet peace of Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds and the animals—it’s not “magic.” The enchantment of Christmas is the work of the same Holy Spirit that made the whole thing happen in the first place–the same Holy Spirit that accomplished the Incarnation in the Virgin’s womb. “Magical” is a penny-ante sideshow, compared to God becoming man for the sake of our salvation.

Let’s just stay focused on the babe in the manger, and the glad tidings that He brings, and rejoice in Him, and let Him give us a merry Christmas.

Hard But Peaceful

They that hope in the Lord will soar as with eagles’ wings. (Isaiah 40:31)

Let’s freely acknowledge that the coming of Christ has not made things easier for us. Yes, He said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” But we can hardly maintain that believing in the Incarnation of God, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin—we can hardly claim that believing in that is easier than just ignoring it, like a lot of people do.

Ignoring Christ means maintaining a smaller and more comfortable frame of reference in life. Ignoring this particular baby means that God, if He exists, more or less leaves us alone to watch Dancing with the Stars undisturbed.

El Greco NativityOn the other hand, believing that God became a man; that the Father has revealed Himself to us by sending His eternal Word to live among us, as one of us—believing in Christ means life involves fundamental realities that extend way beyond what we can imagine. It means that God’s light shines so bright in this world that, for now, it blinds us and leaves us mostly in the dark.

The eagles’ wings on which we soar: Pure faith. Mary’s baby grew up, and He trusted in His heavenly Father all the way to Calvary hill. The divine Child in Whom we believe, with festive Christmas cheer—He died in agony, holding fast to the hope of a kingdom that lies on the other side of the darkness of the grave.

How can we claim that it is easy to base our entire lives on the promise of a crucified carpenter Whom–when He walked the earth two long millennia ago–most people simply ignored? Ignoring Him has been quite popular from the very beginning.

So: Easy? No. But: Do we find true rest, even in the utter darkness of faith—faith in the unfathomable Trinity and the ineffable Incarnation? Yes, we do find true rest there.

We soar on eagles’ wings when we acknowledge:

Okay, yes. Our Christian faith answers a few questions and then leaves a lot more questions wide, wide open.

But: To believe that life is fundamentally beautiful; to believe that love and tenderness touch God, because God has touched us with love and tenderness; to believe that honesty and truth really do bring their own reward, in the end: there’s peace in that cloud of faith—a peace unlike any we can find anywhere else.