It was Christmas morning, before daybreak, and I was the only one awake in the whole house. I had already been awake for a good while, filled with a sense that sacred mysteries were being revealed. But then, in a flash, I jumped out of bed and got dressed. There I was, at three and half years old, sitting at the top of the steps again, all ready to go to Mass, reddish-brown boots for a cripple and all. My first thought on looking down the steps had been to rush down to see the Christmas presents below the tree, the edge of which I could see, all decorated and lit up. If I had gone down, I saw that I could have investigated the bulging Christmas stockings hanging just below me on the bannister of the stair case. But I couldn’t. It’s as if my guardian angel wanted me to sit there without distractions and just take in the mystery.
Today is the birthday of Jesus, of God, who loves me so much, came down to earth among us, now born. I was in quiet awe. I just sat and sat, my heart filled to overflowing. As the rest of the family started to wake up, they wondered why I was all dressed up, and when I protested that it was time to go to early Mass because Jesus was born today, I heard some sleepy mumblings about presents and Santa. Don’t get me wrong, I thought that was also super wonderful and I was very happy and grateful, and there were lots of hugs and kisses and thanks to go around when we opened the presents… but… Jesus was born today! I have often thought that I would have made a good donkey so that I could be right next to Jesus in the manger of Bethlehem.
Without even considering the problem of loss of faith, we, as adults, can have the temptation to think that not being in awe with the simplicity of a little child before the Sacred Mysteries being revealed by the Incarnation of Christ our God is somehow to be considered more sophisticated and intellectually adept at appreciating the articles of faith. But He who is Truth, is also Charity, whom we can get to know and love. To prescind on purpose from such a prayerful experience is, I think, one of the worst effects of original sin that man can suffer. It can only be countered with prayer, with the simplicity of, well, simply praying. [[Take a moment today to just sit and quietly take in the mystery like a little child...]]
Many a priest has joked with me that I’m an expert at finding a dark cloud behind every silver lining, even if that silver lining is so blindingly bright that no one else can possibly see a cloud of any kind. As an example, a Cardinal once invited me to go with him to a rendition of Georg Friedrich Händel’s Messiah in the Paul VI Audience Hall in Vatican City, with the Holy Father [John Paul II] in attendance.
- The more wonderfully the orchestra played, the more I thought of the minuscule canister prisons for bishops and priests in China.
- The more finesse was radiated by the director, the more I thought of the horrific street mafias in Calcutta, purposely maiming the children they stole so as to make them look more pitiable for begging purposes.
- The more exalting to the heavens were the vocalists, the more I thought of the Site Solèy of Haïti and, along with earth-quakes, hurricanes, flooding and epidemics, its highly manipulated poverty.
This was not, however, the existential conundrum it must seem to be. Instead, it was a vision of God’s love. Here He was, entering the world, born to die, to bring us to life. The further I saw that He had to reach to get us, especially in our sin, the more thanksgiving filled my heart and soul, rejoicing in His great love. After the concert, I mentioned what I had been thinking about to the Cardinal, but he simply told me not to do that, just to enjoy the music. [I protested until he got the point about Christmas! Yikes!]
Finally, a video sent in just now by a reader of HSH: