Nativity of the Lord

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2013/12/19 at 12:00 AM

The Nativity of the Lord  

After much waiting and anticipation, our “great cloud of witnesses” has finally arrived here at St. Ann’s….. I think you’ll find their presence in our church to be very consoling. Already in the short time that they’ve been here, I’ve taken great solace in the feeling that these saints are looking down upon us, praying for us.

Indeed, we are blessed to have them, and not simply because they add a great deal of beauty to our church. While it is true that statues and other works of art should provide a pleasing aesthetic to a church, they have a much more important role than just giving us delight.

Statues like this make visible in a symbolic way an invisible reality. In this particular case, our statues make visible the mystery of the Communion of Saints.

These statues remind us that the saints in Heaven are present to us, even though that great veil that separates Heaven and earth stands between us. They remind us that death does not fully sever our relations with those who have died in God’s friendship.

While we cannot see them, we know by faith that the saints are with us, interceding for us. The saints spur us on to victory, showing us the way to holiness by the example of their lives on earth. They remind us of the authenticity of our Catholic faith.

Throughout her history the Church has been the greatest patron of the arts, for she knows that man cannot exist as simply a utilitarian being. The human soul can never be satisfied with simply having its physical needs met. Mere functionality never fulfills us; we need beauty.

In fact our souls crave beauty, because beauty transports us beyond the confines of our material reality, and instinctively we know that there’s more to life than what meets the eye. Instinctively, we know that there is an invisible world around us.

Thus, good art and architecture are necessary components for churches, for it is here – in church – that we come by faith to meet and worship our invisible God. Good art and architecture work to strengthen our faith by making invisible realities symbolically visible.

Christmas is a fitting time to discuss this and understand this, for this is the very holiday, the very holy day, in which we celebrate the fact that our invisible God became visible – and not simply in a symbolic way, but really, truly visible.

As good St. John wrote in the prologue to his Gospel, the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. But God did not just become visible. He became one of us, which is a mystery we call the Incarnation, literally the “enfleshment.”

Because God became man, because by the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man, as we now say in the new translation of the Creed, salvation is now a possibility for us.

Out of His unfathomable love, God created man in His own image and likeness from the dust of the earth, and He destined man to share in His own divine life as sons and daughters.

But despite the immense charity and love shown to them, our first parents turned against God. Seduced by the serpent, Adam and Eve introduced sin and death into our world, forfeiting our rights to an eternal inheritance.

And every person born since then, save our Lady and our blessed Lord, has been marked by that original sin of our first parents. Concupiscence and brokenness are now our inheritance.Unpleasant as it is, this is a reality that we must come to understand about ourselves if we wish to move beyond it. For our sinfulness is not something that we can ever conquer alone. All attempts to do so will eventually fall short.

No, my brothers and sisters, if we wish to move beyond our sinfulness, we must humbly recognize that we need a savior. We need someone to save us.

On Christmas we celebrate the fact that the love of God is so great that He would not leave man to suffer forever in this terrible state created by man’s own sinfulness. Fully aware of our weakness, our dear Lord became one of us in order to make satisfaction for our sins.

You see, my dear friends, Christmas is not simply the happy anniversary of our Lord’s birth. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our salvation! We celebrate not simply the fact that God became man. We celebrate the fact that He became man to save us from our sins!

In an even greater act of love than our creation, God wills to redeem mankind through the mystery of His Incarnation. And so Christmas is the celebration of this supreme act of love by God toward sinful man.

Christmas is the celebration of the invisible becoming visible! In the mystery of our Lord’s incarnation we find the satisfaction of our souls’ deepest desires.

Intuitively, man knows that he was created for more than this poor world can ever give us. At our deepest core, we all long and hope for Heaven. And at Christmas, we see this hope fulfilled in that tiny babe born on a cold night in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.

While wrapped in the flesh of a tiny child, our Lord is the antidote for our sinfulness and the sadness our sins bring us. He is the cure for all the ailments of our souls.

Like the good shepherd who leaves everything behind to go into the dark valley to find His lost sheep, Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of the Father, comes to us now, so great is His love for us. He comes to suffer and die for our sins, so that we might be made whole.

No doubt most of us will receive many gifts this Christmas, and this is good. But let us not lose sight of the most important gift we are receiving: the gift of our salvation!

May we receive our invisible God made visible with humble and contrite hearts. May we show true sorrow for our sins, confess them, and make reparation for them.

And may we show the depth of our gratitude by following the saints in the path of holiness, so that we, in turn, might truly become like our Lord who became one of us.

A blessed Christmas to you all.

Copyright 2011 Rev. Timothy Reid, Pastor of St. Ann Church, Charlotte, NC


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