December 2016

"Joy to the world, the Lord is here.”

Like many of you, I was fortunate to see the moon appear at its brightest as it emerged from a backdrop of dark cloud, in mid November. This transition from darkness to light was a very special moment that is helping me reflect on an aspect of Christmas I neglected over the years. Christ, the Light of the World, not only came for us humans but is present in the whole of creation, redeeming, illuminating and energising it. All things, individually and collectively, from the smallest atom to the brightest star in the heavens, to the person living in the remotest corner of the earth, find a connecting link in the unity of our cosmos through the birth of Jesus. This all embracing dimension of the Incarnation calls for great depths of silence, contemplation and gratitude. St. Francis found unspeakable joy in all things created and addressed the animals and the elements as brother and sister. His appreciation of the interconnectedness of all things found expression in a living crib, in Christmas 1223. His visual homily was understood by people of every creed and language. The donkey, shaggy and brown, that carried Mary uphill and down, and the cow, all white and red, that shared her manger as a bed, had, as important a role to play, as the angels, who appeared to the shepherds watching over their flock and the star that guided the Wise Men. ‘Bethlehem’ remains a mystery, but, it is where we meet, year in, year out, to bow down in joyful worship before the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes. How strange it must appear to all who promote a celebrity culture where the attractive, the rich and powerful are given the first place! To avoid getting caught up in such trends, or in the "globalization of indifference” or in allowing the destruction of our environment go unchallenged, I find it necessary to spend time near the manger, contemplating love made visible in a weak and vulnerable Child, the living centre of the universe. When the celebrations are over and the shimmering lights have been turned off, when the star has disappeared and the shepherds are back looking after their flock, then the work of Christmas begins - a work that each person and community discovers for itself.  "The birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it.” Frederick Brechner   Wishing everyone a very happy and meaningful Christmas.                                                                      Catherine O’ Sullivan IJS, Coolea, Co. Cork

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