A pastoral message from Father Robert Arida
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
Reading the first chapters of Saint Luke’s Gospel leads to one of the quiet crescendos of the Bible. Gabriel’s unexpected visit, the incomprehensible virgin birth, the homage offered to the Christ child by the mysterious magi (Matthew 2:1 ff) and the greeting of the humble shepherds guided to the Savior by an angel culminate in leaving the young Mary in a state of joy, wonder, and perplexity. All is kept in her heart.
In celebrating the feast of the incarnation we stand with the Virgin. Like her, are we not possessed by an uncontainable joy knowing that God becoming a man brings salvation to all? (Luke, 3:5-6). Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One, has brought the uncreated and saving divine light into the darkness of sin and death, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the reign of the shadow of death, light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). Human misery entangled with sin and death is now met by the God-man who takes upon himself the darkness and horror of personal existence so that it might be healed, renewed, and transfigured.
Like the Virgin, we too are drawn into ceaseless wonder. God before the ages becomes a child. The Uncontainable One is contained in human existence. The Immortal One condescends to mortality, for “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God. . . emptied himself, taking the form of a servant . . . and being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).
Yet, joy and wonder do not dispel perplexity and even doubt. What the Virgin carries in her heart is not only the inevitability of the cross. Her silent sorrow is mingled with bewilderment and fear that question the indisputable truth of the words and signs of new and eternal life. Her faith, like our faith, is challenged and impoverished. Her trust in the Good News is shaken and blinded by the overwhelming despair penetrating human life. Like the Virgin, we are surrounded and oppressed by the power of death. But like the Virgin, a diminished trust and faith are fortified by tenaciously grasping onto the joy and wonder of divine-human life that overcomes darkness and death. Her son ushers in the new year of grace and life (cf. Lk. 4:18-22). He draws us into his very being. Sin and death, sickness and sorrow, fear and anguish are swallowed up by the very life and love of God who became a child.
With Love in Christ,