Christmas Day 2016
At Midnight Mass, we heard from St Luke's Gospel how Jesus came to be born. At the Dawn Mass, St Luke described the visit of the shepherds, how "they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger." There they become the first evangelists, as they repeat for everyone to hear, what the angels had told them, "Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." We are told that, "Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart." Our Lady, of course, had had a long time to ponder what was going on, ever since that day when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her to announce that, through the working of the Holy Spirit, she would conceive and bear a son, whom she was to name Jesus. "He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the house of Jacob for ever and of his kingdom, there will be no end." The shepherds confirmed what she already knew, that she was the Mother of God and that, in the mystery of the Incarnation, God had become man.
Like any other woman who becomes a mother, Mary treasured every moment: the conception of her child, each stage of pregnancy, even today a dangerous time for many women, and finally the birth of her firstborn in a stable at Bethlehem, the child now lying in the manger. But what she pondered, she never told; we can but imagine. The Church, each one of us here this morning, together with Mary, treasures what we know and have experienced of the Nativity, and we like Mary ponder, in fact, the Church has pondered nothing else ever since, for Christ is the very centre of our faith, he is our life. In the Letter to the Hebrews, we heard, "He is the radiant light of God's glory and the perfect copy of his nature, sustaining the universe by his powerful command." In the responsorial Psalm, we sang, "All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God." However, it is the Prologue to St John's Gospel, this morning's Gospel, which possibly reveals to us the depth of Mary's pondering. Remember how Jesus had said to Mary in the agony of the crucifixion, "Woman, behold thy son," and how he had said to the beloved disciple, "Behold thy mother." Did Mary share with John the inmost thoughts of her heart? There is much in his gospel that could be the fruit of Our Lady's experience.
On Christmas morning, during the Mass of the Day, we read and reflect on the profound truths revealed to us in the Scriptures, above all in the Prologue written by the great Theologian St John. "In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God." Through the Word, all things come into being, for he is both life and light, a light that cannot be overcome by darkness. He is the only Son of the Father, who comes into the world and becomes flesh. Mary understood her part in God's plan of salvation, a plan that was his from all eternity. Although rejected by his own, the Word made flesh enables all who accept him to become children of God, sharing in God's fullness, a gift reflecting God ‘s enduring love. "Indeed, from his fullness we have all received grace in return for grace, since, though the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ." He who is both light and life, the Word made flesh, God incarnate, Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, the Babe lying in the manger, has come that we might have life and have it to the full. He is the way, the truth and the life, and the only source of grace, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, we see God and know him. "It is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father's heart, who has made him known."
As you ponder with Mary today on the Mystery of the Incarnation, may your hearts be filled with grace and truth.
On behalf of Fr Prior and the Monastic Community, I wish you all a very happy and a holy Christmas.