Christmas, the Eucharist and our Christian Life
There is perhaps no other season in the liturgical life of the Church, my, in the whole of Western Civilization, that elicits much excitement and joy as the holy season of Christmas.
It is undoubtedly the feast favored by Filipinos in particular, a time of largesse and generosity, of celebrations, reunions and countless shared meals. From parties to intimate get-togethers, the season of Christmas gathers friends (both long-time, loyal ones and the mere business acquaintances) around the table.
The Christmas meals we share are indicative of the generosity of spirit that fills each and every person, the divine goodness that can animate in us an overwhelming sense of sharing. We bring all types of food and drink, and with laughter, bittersweet stories of nostalgia, and with dreams for the new year, we dine and drink to our hearts’ content. An endless exchange of sweets happens in the days leading to Christmas while on Noche Buena and on Christmas day, we prepare dishes that are laborious but truly works of love: galantina, morcon, jamon, lengua, and all these other dishes we inherited from our glorious Hispanic heritage.
All these parties and merriment usually happen, ironically, in the somber season of Advent. Characterized by the penitential color of purple, the Advent season is (well, must be) a season for repentance and introspection, a deepening in our true bond with Christ the Lord whom we await.
The birth of our Savior demands from us a re-orientation of motives and desires, a pruning of our own selves. Sadly, this does not take place amidst the backdrop of parties and reunions.
True, it is good to be with friends and family and to share smiles and wonderful moments. But it is equally important to savor the austerity of Advent so as to truly empty ourselves to the real reason for the season: Jesus Christ.
The Christmas story is one of humanity’s most enduring and endearing narratives, one that combines the poverty of wealth and the power of humility, the repudiation of the world’s standards of glory and the triumphant plan of God that stumps human comprehension.
How can God send His only begotten Son to a family so modest, to a Virgin and to a carpenter? How can it be?
Because God is above all of us, and more than us. Because His plan is to show us the ironies of our pitiful existence.
The story of Christmas finds meaning not on the altar of our food but at the altar of the Mass.
Each time the Holy Sacrifice is said, we commemorate the divine mysteries that brought God to be with us, in the form of flesh, blood, soul and divinity. By the mystery of His incarnation, death and resurrection, we hear the words “Hoc est enim corpus Meum.” – “This is my Body.”
How can a God above all our plans and the judge of our destinies be also the God who humiliates Himself in His impoverished birth in a manger, in His humble ministry as a carpenter and preacher, and in His horrible death on the Cross? How can our God be the same God we truly worship and receive in the defenseless, fragile Sacred Host during Mass?
He is our Savior. In becoming small and being so accessible in the Mass, by taking up the yoke of our wretched humanity, God sanctifies us and makes us His own.
Thus, Christmas is truly a time to appreciate the daily presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The Eucharist – the source and summit of our Christian lives – is the pinnacle of Jesus’ solidarity with the human race. In the sublime form of the Eucharist, God reaches out to us, demands from us and invites us to humble ourselves too.
The manger has become the tabernacle that’s why it is imperative that we genuflect and kneel in front of the altar as He dwells in it – truly, wholly present.
Venite adoremus, venite adoremus. Venite adoremus Dominum.
We bring to him our weaknesses, our trials, our hopes and aspirations and in receiving Him at Mass, we also make ourselves vulnerable, trusting solely in the nourishment He can provide. We come to Mass with the desire of becoming fortified and raised up so that when we exit the portals of our chuches, we can share the joy of His truth.
The truth of Christ is determined by a joy in service, a passionate inclination to commit one’s self to the happiness of others, to be always unobtrusive, quiet and strong. The strength we find in Christ is one that is not displayed in money or physical attributes.
It is a strength that is unwavering and firm, one that is able to control both mind and body to always be aligned to the precepts of goodness, truth and beauty. The strength we gain from the Eucharist is not of this world but of the heavenly courts.
It is the fortitude to face life’s trial in perfect surrender to the grandeur of God’s plan even if that plan may seem contrary to our perfectly good plans and desires. Yes, even if we are good and holy, sometimes, God can overturn our realities and we can never explain the determining factors of our lives.
But strength in faith, courage in the hope of the resurrection, provide for us the grace of continuous trust in Him. We are strong because we cling unto Him, the child born in a manger.
For this holy season, I invoke upon God that the graces and blessings of Christmas abide in you and your families, and sustain you to a prosperous 2017.
Hodie Christus natus est!