“I am my Beloved and my Beloved is mine”

The meaning of the Feast of Christmas is the Gift of Love Incarnate.  Jesus comes to us just where we are to convince us: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore have I drawn you (into existence and destined you for eternal life) that you should be mine…“I am my Beloved and my Beloved is mine.”

It is time to enter the sanctuary of the stable. The two Trinities are waiting for each of us to be personally present. Jesus has now chosen to become the divine member of a human family and to take our humanity into hypostatic union with His divinity. This is the moment that has been awaited since the dawn of creation. Now the Mystery hidden in the mind of God and the womb of Mary is made manifest. God is timeless, He is pure Being and pure Act but in this moment of His human birth He enters our world of time to make us capable of entering His eternity. “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting… His kingdom will have no end.”  Now the Creation covenant is subsumed into the Redemption.  ”A body you have fitted to me. Behold I come..” In the grace of each liturgical celebration enacted in time we receive the grace of the mystery as it was once lived by Jesus and is now applied to us.

Pope Benedict reminds us: “At Midnight Mass, we sing: 'Today a Savior is born for us'. This "Today" evokes an eternal present, for the mystery of Christ's coming transcends time and permeates all history. "Today" – every day - we are invited to discover the presence of God's saving love in our midst. In the birth of Jesus, God comes to us and asks us to receive him, so that he can be born in our lives and transform them, and our world, by the power of his love. The Christmas liturgy also invites us to contemplate Christ's birth against the backdrop of his paschal mystery. Christmas points beyond itself, to the redemption won for us on the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection. May this Christmas fill you with joy in the knowledge that God has drawn near to us and is with us at every moment of our lives.”[ii]

This all leads up to the verse that captured most of my prayer during my retreat. “At that moment Jesus was filled with joy by the Holy Spirit.”  At the very first moment that the eyes of Mary focused on her Son and His on her, surely these words were in His Heart! Recently our Holy Father has referred to this passage as the Cry of Messianic Exultation and as expressing  Jesus’ total, conscious and joyous agreement with His Father’s plan. The Pope goes on to say that these words express the apex of Jesus’ prayer and reveal the profound and intimate communion with the life of the Father in the Holy Spirit. They are like the heart beat that energizes and transmits the life blood to the Mystical Body at every moment.

In our prayer we have moments of consolation and moments of weariness and loneliness and Jesus also would share these. But His jubilation at His birth, though silently expressed in His eyes and His smile, still  overflow on Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the  kings and on us……..For we are present at that moment, at this moment.  “Yes, Father, I praise and thank you for choosing this plan: hiding these things from the learned and the wise and revealing them to little ones. For such was your good pleasure. Behold I come to embrace your good pleasure." This was the whole essence of His prayer - to adhere to the mystery of his Father’s will.

Did Mary realize that this look of love and the cry of his Heart were a prelude to the last look when He would commend her to John and give her to each of us as our mother? I think not. Then there was only room for joy.  But of course, Calvary was not the end and it is important for us not to live the mysteries of Christ’s life in isolation. They are all one whole.

So there must have been another silent cry of their hearts, one final look on earth when Jesus appeared to Mary after the Resurrection.  If the argument of what is fitting and appropriate has weight for the Immaculate Conception, it seems to me Jesus must have appeared first to his Mother after rising from the dead. “I will see you again and your heart will rejoice and your joy no one will take from you.”

Our moments of insight pass and retreats come to an end. The fjord goes on flowing. The moon waxes and wanes, one year follows another but the “Word was made flesh” and has told us: “My words will not pass away.”  Christmas is here. Some One has come into our darkness at this moment and nothing and no one can ever be the same.

When one is caught up in the experience of being in love it is as if only the other exists and we are always thinking of little ways to please the beloved. I do not want to go on missing all the small wonders of mercy and providence, the beauty of every moment, which are the marks and gifts of the personal love Jesus has and is giving me. Do you? We can ask for the grace to grow in constant appreciation and awareness and recognition of the Loved one expressing himself in every moment.

Juliana of Norwich has a striking passage beginning with the phrase: “I it am” I have applied it to us. I it am who has called you. I it am who has led you, prepared you, brought you here.

I it am who built this monastery, provided the funds, gives you a priest to offer Mass daily, I it am who feeds you , clothes you , warms you. I it am who gives you Sisters to sing and work with and give good example in community, friends to gift and cheer you and a hundred thousand other gifts you have yet to notice and enjoy.

Bernard tells us: “Learn to offer thanks for each and every gift. Take careful note, Scripture advises us, of what is set before you, so that no gift of God, be it great or mediocre or small, will be deprived of thanksgiving. We are even commanded to gather up the fragments, lest they be lost, which means that we are not to forget even the smallest benefits"  (S.S. 51.6).  And elsewhere he says: “There are people who yearn to obtain benefits from the Lord, but perfect love thirsts after the Most High alone, crying out with all the strength of that desire, “Whom have I in heaven but You and what is there upon earth I desire except You? God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 90.9.7)

Benedict XVI: "Love Story Between God and Man Passes by Way of the Manger of Bethlehem"-Address to pilgrims VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2011

St. Bernard  Sermons on the Song of Songs, vol 3. CF31  44-45.  Trans. by Kilian Walsh, OCSO and Irene M. Edmonds, Copyright 1979 by Cistercian Publications.  Published by Liturgical Press. Collegeville, MN.  Used with permission.

St. Bernard  Sermons on ConversionPs 90. 9.7; CF25 189-190. Trans. by Marie Bernard Said, OSB Copyright 1914 by Cistercian Publications.  Published by Liturgical Press. Collegeville, MN.  Used with permission.



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