Christmas .... joined earth to heaven and heaven to earth
In the beginning was the Word; and the word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines on in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth; And we have beheld his glory: glory as of the only Son from the Father.
And from his fulness have we all received grace upon grace.
Commentary and Notes
No one knows what the soul is …but what we do know is, the soul is where God works compassion.- Meister Eckhart
In saying “yes” to the messenger of God, the soul says yes to the impregnation of the seed of compassion.Like the morning sickness of a pregnant woman, this unseen, unrealized compassion upsets the system: a natural impulse of self-preservation attempts an eviction of the unfamiliar awareness of the world’s suffering. The seed of compassion carries death within its husk. No wonder the just-awakening soul rejects the consequences of love. For love carries and bears the bitterness of death.
The feasts of St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents in Christmas week underscore the irony of yes to Life: the first martyr of the church is celebrated the day after Christmas (December 26th) as if the church says, you, too, have said yes to this.We observe John the Evangelist, (December 27th)and then the Holy Innocents (December 28th): those toddlers and babies of Bethlehem slaughtered by Herod, in attempting to make sure he’d killed the one Christ Child.
What, in our own psyche, reflects the guilt and dread of Mary and Joseph as they fled to safety, haunted by the nameless innocents suffering the violence meant for their child?
Nativity Icon, Novgorod School, early 15th century
While all things were in quiet silence, and that night was in the midst of her swift course, your almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down out of your royal throne, alleluia.
Antiphon on Benedictus, Christmas Matins
"light echo" illuminates dust around supergiant star V838 MON, Hubble
The Mother of God
The three-fold terror of love: a fallen flare
Through the hollow of an ear;
Wings beating about the room
The terror of all terrors that I bore
The Heavens in my womb.
Had I not found content among the shows
Every common woman knows,
Chimney corner, garden walk,
Or rocky cistern where we tread the clothes
And gather all the talk?
What is this flesh I purchased with my pains,
This fallen star my milk sustains,
This love that makes my heart's blood stop
Or strikes a sudden chill into my bones
And bids my hair stand up?
Collect for the first Sunday after Christmas Day
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.Amen
A Christmas Blessing
May Almighty God, who sent the Son to take our nature upon him, bless you in this holy season, scatter the darkness of sin, and brighten your heart with the light of his holiness. Amen.
May God, who sent the angels to proclaim glad news of the Savior’s birth, fill you with joy, and make you heralds of the Gospel. Amen.
May God, who in the Word made flesh joined heaven to earth and earth to heaven, give you his peace and favor.Amen.
And the blessing of God, Lover, Beloved, and Love Overflowing, be upon you and remain with you always.Amen.
A Very Brief tour of this Nativity Icon (LEFT)
Mary lies on a red cloth (burning bush, blood, or “bier”)
Behind Mary, a gaping cave in the rugged mountains represents both hell and the tomb of Jesus. Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes also evokes the linen shroud wrapping his corpse. The manger looks like a sepulcher. Magi and shepherds approach the scene: salvation for all people. Attentive angels represent the sphere of God. In the foreground the women washing the newborn Jesus foreshadow the myrrh-bearing women tending to the body of the crucified Jesus.
Mary watches benevolently as Joseph, representing humanity, struggles with hisincredulity in facing the mystery of the Incarnation. This scene draws us into the struggle of comprehension and faith: represented by confrontation with the demon/ shepherd.