Sunday, 8 December 2013

Eucharistic Christmas Preparation

There are many 'Big Days' in our lives, from our first lost tooth (which is not really that important), to our first Holy Communion, to our twenty first birthday (quite insignificant also), to our fiftieth birthday (to which I cannot relate), to our day of death and well, you get the picture. Liturgically speaking however there are many special days marked by special graces for the faithful. Christmas is one of these although often it is easy to get swept up in the superficial aspects of it all; or else we may have grown indifferent or even apathetic towards the event of Christmas, because we have become sick of the commericalised and secuarlised 'Christmas', or because we feel 'the magic of Christmas' to have disappeared.

As children we were happy when the stocking was full of presents and when good old Saint Nick would eat a cookie or two that we left for him the night before. Yet of course as we grow we complicate ourselves and no longer become satisfied with the fluff and bubbles that easily amuse children. There is a grace in this awakened void for something more, a void of dissatisfaction for what we thought Christmas was. For by the Light of Grace we can pursue what Christmas really is, and what it really means. Have we become so cold hearted and shallow in our love for God that we forget that this is the celebration of the birth of the God-Man into our world? I mean honestly, have we ever realised how bizarre and wonderful this mystery is: that the Ineffable God became man; that Love Itself was made flesh? We have reduced our understanding of this profound mystery into a cliche, yet we should be moved to bouts of joy at the mere thought of it!

"But its just a random day that the church chose to celebrate an important event that occurred ages ago" some might say. Well, putting aside historical speculations -whether true or false; do we not celebrate other less important people's birthday's with more zeal than the zeal we invest into the birth of Christ, the most important person to have ever been born? I mean after all, He is the Foundation of the World, the Rock of Salvation, the Meaning of Life itself. Furthermore, on Christmas Day, as the day set forth by the Church to celebrate Christ's Birth, we actually mystically participate in Christ's coming to us, and we have the grace to mystically be present at the birth of Christ. Why? Because the Sacrifice of the Altar, the Celebration of the Eucharist, is the making present of the Paschal Mystery -the Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ- here and now. And that includes the actual making present on the Altar, of the newly born Infant in the arms of Mary.

How is this so? The Greek term chronos denotes temporal time, and we as humans abide in chronos time. Christ Jesus however as fully God and fully man, belongs not only fully to chronos time, time as we know and experience it; but as God He belongs fully to kaiors time, eternal time, God's time; and this 'time', so to speak, is really outside and beyond space and time itself. It is through kaiors time therefore that all the events and actions of Christ's Life, Death and Resurrection are made manifest here and now in chronos time, every time the species of Bread and Wine are consecrated. Of course literally speaking Christ lived only once, died once and was Resurrected once; yet each of these same single events of Christ's Humanity are made present through His Divinity here and now, and every time at Holy Mass.

So, how can we prepare for the coming of Christ, who shall spiritually and sacramentally come to us through in the Eucharist? We can do this by keeping in mind that each time we receive Holy Communion, we receive not only the Crucified Lord, or the Resurrected Lord, but also the Infant Lord; and as a sweet little infant he longs to make repose in our hearts. Let us take hold of Mary's Heart as we approach to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; and let us make Her Perfect Heart our own, so that making our heart the perfect manger, lowly and humble the way He likes it, He shall take delight to dwell in us.

Yet do we not know that the Lord Jesus as an Infant already lives inside of us? He doesn't fade away after each Eucharist as we would so think; unless of course we've been committing mortal sins - which is generally speaking less common than supposed for a fairly devout practicing Catholic. Yet indeed many venial sins would most certainly cloud our heart; for "the just man sins seven times a day". This alone should compel us to be contrite and humble in the same way as if we had committed countless mortal sins, for although some sins are worse than others, at the end of the day, is not sin, sin? And does not any sin, no matter how big or small, wound our Lord? Yet we should not focus on our own sinfulness, but on the mercy that we will find in the embrace of the Infant Jesus. Therefore with the confidence of faith we ought to believe the reality that Jesus spiritually lives within our souls as a little infant.

Our aim this Christmas should be to let this Celestial Babe grow and increase inside of us, as we decrease to allow Him to grow. We can imagine therefore, that by praying we feed Jesus inside of us, so that His Presence and Life is nourished within us. The Rosary is the most ideal devotional prayer we can undertake, for Mary Herself will feed the Divine Infant, and after all, a Mother knows best how to feed her child, and what food He most prefers. Interior participation in the Holy Mass is the most effective means of letting the Holy Infant grow inside us. Each Holy Communion we receive will truly work marvels in allowing the Lord to increase inside us; and our listening and reading of the Scriptures shall be a tasty morsel for our Little Lord, who so often is given the most foulest food by countless souls who commit the offense of spiritual child neglect and abuse -which is the failure to pray and the failure to possess the proper dispositions (i..e gratitude, love, trust, humility) in receiving the Sacraments. Lastly Adoration, which "prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration [of the Mass] itself." (Sacramentum Caritatis, 66, Benedict XVI), is an ideal means of letting the Infant Jesus grow inside of us. All we need to do is sit there in confidence and faith in the Power of our Lord, and He shall grow inside us, even if we notice nothing. Yet that peace of heart shall be the sign of His increase within us.

Perhaps a final point that is important to mention is the vital necessity of giving thanks after receiving Holy Communion. We should make a resolve starting from here onward, to spend at least 15 minutes in thanksgiving after Holy Communion. Of course if we have pressing and necessary duties we should attend to them out of obedience. However this is uncommon, and most of the time we rationalise to ourselves so that we think we have things to do; yet in reality it is the Devil who seeks to ensure we do not profit from our thanksgiving. So it is that we should give thanks with a glad and light heart for this Gift of Gifts. If it proves almost impossible to spend this amount of time immediately after Mass in giving thanks, perhaps because of duties or other things, then that's okay, we can just spend some time later on during the day when we are alone. St. Julian Eymard recommends spending those first moments after receiving Communion in silent love, just to allow the Lord to work His wonders in us. We then might simply pray a 'Hail Mary' with the intention of entrusting the baby Jesus whom one has received to Mary's perfect care. We can also give thanks even by just sitting in silence, with one's will fixed on the Ineffable Mystery of God. For by such an act of faith we shall be giving God the time He needs to grow inside us.

Post-Communion thanksgiving is a corner stone of a healthy and thriving relationship with God. After all, when we have finished eating a normal meal do we start running around and engaging ourselves in activities? No, we spend some time relaxing, perhaps by talking to those we are with, and giving ourselves some time to digest. Is this not a lesson we can apply to the spiritual life? Indeed, thus ought we not spend some time in spiritually digesting the Food of Paradise; sitting and speaking with the Lord at the Table of His Cross, and Manger? If we want the Lord to grow in us, and we would like to grow in holiness (the two are the same thing), then we should allow ourselves some time to spiritually digest. If we are going nowhere in the spiritual life as practicing Catholics, and feel interiorly stagnant and tepid, it is most certainly because either: 1) We are not eating the Bread of Life; or 2) we are not digesting the Bread of Life; but rather consuming it and letting it pass right through us as it were.

By the grace of God let us endeavour to allow the Infant Jesus who lives inside us to grow; so that on Christmas Day we may celebrate His Birth which is actually made present at every Mass! In keeping with this logic, to give thanks for each Holy Eucharist that we ourselves and all our neighbours have received, is to give thanks for the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ! O how important it is to not divorce Christ from the Mass, to do so is actually completely contrary to the purpose and meaning of Christ-Mass.

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