Christmas Meditation

Christmas is a time of pausing and pondering, at least that is what it is meant to be. Our wishes to you are to be read in this sense. May Christmas be a feast of peaceful awe and joyful meditation. We would like to offer a number of thoughts revolving around the whole Christmas cycle beginning with the Yes of Mary and ending with a meditation on the heart of Mary. The center of it all is, how could it be otherwise, the coming of God in the flesh to be like us and make us more like him. Here is a cycle of six themes for your pausing and pondering.

The Yes and the Present Genealogy and Broken Life Patterns The Christ Child
The Word and the Words "Epiphany"–East and West The Heart of Mary

The Yes and the Present

Once Mary had signified her ascent, the angel's mission was accomplished. We are not told how Jesus' conception took place. Silence is the only befitting attitude in the face of the greatest of events, the Christ Event. St. John sums up what St. Luke omits--with the words: "And the word was made flesh."

Mary's Yes is the archetype, the fundamental law and permanent pattern of all and any Christian world view. In Mary's Yes, Christian philosophy and theology find their ultimate legitimization, permanent and unwavering point of reference, as well as its inexhaustible source of inspiration. Because of Mary's Yes, two things are clear for Christians: (1) a faith that is based on Incarnation cannot have recourse to flight from the world, and (2) a faith that comes wholly from God's initiative is prohibited from "hastening" salvation by its own efforts. It is true that, seen in Christian terms, the world cannot be perfected at the natural level. In spite of this, the Christian cannot leave the responsibility for the kingdom exclusively to God. He must responsibly employ his freedom he has gratefully received; he must double the talents entrusted to him.

In the many variations of Gnosticism or Omega philosophies, one of today's major world views, transcendence operates unequivocally backward in time. Here the movement of religion binds back to the lost origin. All forms of this transcendence are concerned with recalling the past. Without having learned them, the slave Menon in Plato's dialog knows the principles of arithmetic. The guru can recall his previous existences, spiritually approaching the point at which individuation, his falling from the Absolute, occurred. The only palliative for the baneful dissipation of existence is recollection in oneself, the mysterious path inward, into the depths ... into flight, ultimately, from self and reality.

In the other one of today's grand non-Christian world views, in the so-called Alpha philosophies, transcendence is unequivocally oriented to the future. The messianic kingdom is ahead--what is to come is the open fourth wall, allowing man, trapped in the law, to breathe. Every way back is blocked in the present suffering; the only hope is that God will turn Israel's destiny and at last fulfill his promises. And if this God were no longer alive, man himself would have to hasten into the future to organize the fulfillment. For Marx it will be labeled "absolute action," in Freud's psychological constructs become the "primal instinctual energy," and eventually crystallize in Buber's and Rosenzweig's "open humane being" as the absolute dialogical reality.

For both Alpha and Omega world views, the present is untruth. Existence, as it is lived in fact, cannot be right. It is alienated from itself. And the beginning of wisdom is the denial of what now is. Only Christianity has the courage to affirm the present. And this is His great strength because God himself has affirmed it. He became a man like ourselves. He lived in our alienation and died in our God-forsakenness. He imparted the "fullness of grace and truth" (Jn 1,17) to our here and now. He filled our presence with his presence. But since the divine presence embraces all "past" and all "future" in itself, he has opened up to us all the dimensions of time. It is in this unlimited presence that Abraham's Yes became Mary's Yes, and that Mary's Yes bore fruit in the Church's Yes. The word that became flesh is the "Word in the Beginning," in him we have been chosen before the foundation of the world. It is also the final word, in which everything in heaven and on earth shall be caught up together: Alpha and Omega.

It is not possession, but being possessed, that lends wings to Christian hope. It vibrated with the thought that the earth should reply to heaven in the way that heaven has addressed earth. It is not in his own strength that the Christian wants to change the earth, but with the power of grace of him who--transforming all things--committed his whole self for him.

The announcement of Jesus' birth, and Mary's Yes, then, is the archetypal Christian pledge to the present, a Yes spoken with the eyes on the cradle and the back against the cross. It is the uninterrupted Yes embracing both memoria and Spes, promise and fulfillment, steeped [in] and expressed by the real presence of God in the Eucharist.

Genealogy and Broken Life Patterns

The genealogy of Jesus from Abraham to Joseph is a Near Eastern way of beginning a book. Though difficult for the modern reader, Matthew's genealogy (1:1-16) teaches an important lesson. It incorporates in utter brevity and extreme density the whole of the Old Testament history and thought into the Gospel, and creates a proximate background for Jesus' life. The message of this genealogy is to the point; it says, if you want to understand Jesus, then read the first testament and the inter-testamental literature.

We are dealing here with a so-called linear genealogy (as opposed to a segmented genealogy). In fact, linear genealogies are lists of names connecting an individual to an earlier ancestor by indicating the kinship relationships that tie all of the names together. Matthew's genealogy is divided into three parts, and each part is supposed to have fourteen generations. Matthew's schema suggests symbolism rather than history, for the number fourteen probably carries a symbolic value. It could involve the numerical value of the consonants in the Hebrew version of David's name (4+6+4=14), and would mean that the whole genealogy has an essentially Davidic character.

A similar symbolic interpretation could be given to the third series of names, which mentions only thirteen names instead of the fourteen stated. Various solutions had been proposed. Is Christ the fourteenth? Or is the fourteenth place reserved to the coming of the Son of Man?

The monotony of the genealogy is broken among other mentions by the reference to five women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Why are these women mentioned? For two reasons, mainly. It is thought that there was 1) something extraordinary or irregular in their marital union, and 2) because all these women showed initiative and played an important role in God's plan.

There is a further paradox in this genealogy: Verse 16 is carefully crafted to avoid saying that Jesus was the Son of Joseph. But why, on the other hand, build the whole genealogy precisely on the person of Joseph? There is a paradox in presenting a genealogy through Joseph only to have the pattern broken at the end. But broken patterns are a feature of the Gospels throughout.

In keeping with the little information that has come down to us about Mary, there is no extant genealogy of the Mother of Jesus. However, the Church has always taught that Mary was of the line of David, based on the words of the angel to her at the Annunciation: "The Lord God will give him the reign of David his father." (Lk 1:32)

For a time, Scripture scholars thought that the genealogy given for Christ by Matthew (1:1-16) was really the genealogy of Mary, for it differed from the genealogy presented by Luke (3:23-28) which they regarded as that of Joseph. Matthew would then enable us to draw up a list of Mary's ancestors culminating with Abraham.

However, this theory seems to have gone into decline and most scholars now regard the two genealogies as referring to Joseph but based on different schemes (while others consider the genealogies to be artificial, in keeping with the custom of the time). And so we have still another broken pattern.

Broken patterns seem to be characteristic of Advent and its deeper meaning. It reflects our existence and its many unredeemed facets. How many broken patterns are there in our lives? Here are some examples: Does irritation ever lead us to frustration? Even to anger and hostility? A simple comment can shift our mood. A glance can change our feelings. Maybe fear lurks in the recesses of our being. What will trigger the emotional reaction that scares us, frightens us, unleashes anxiety or violence? Maybe domination and control pervade our lives, instead of the freedom of the children of God.

We need to have everything just so. Or more subtly, we control others by our compliments. Manipulation is another manifestation. However we cut it, pride is rampant and our days full of broken patterns.

Advent teaches us that healing is necessary. Yes, healing is necessary. Maybe one of the deepest and most crippling pains is self-pity. The "poor me" attitude squeaks out of so many. People feel so sorry for themselves that they can be emotional paralytics. Lost in their own world, they spiral into isolation and become grossly unattractive to others. They despair as they are tossed on the sea of their own hopelessness.

Our world needs so much healing. Our nations need so much healing. We need so much healing. And it begins with us. And how will we begin?

We will begin by remembering that Advent leads into Christmas, where broken patterns will be reset and mended. As Chesterton once put it: "In Jesus all broken lines unite; in him all scattered sounds are gathered into harmony." Or in a different vain: In Jesus faith goes up the stairs that love has made and looks out the windows that hope has opened." (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

The Christ Child

To realize that God himself came down among us, to experience and to share our weakness, is to understand something that is at the heart of Incarnation. On a strictly human level it didn't make sense, because the world doesn't understand the power there is in littleness. And when Jesus came as a helpless infant, the Herods of this world were really scared because they could and cannot deal with it.

Jesus Christ, the redeemer, came as a helpless infant for three important reasons:

  1. He came as a helpless child to be like one of us, so that he could speak our language, and eventually understand and forgive the sinner and feed the hungry and show us exactly what we ourselves had to do.

  2. There is, however, still another reason why he came as a helpless child. He did not want to distract people from his true origin. Would he have come as a king, people would have revered him as king. He did come as a child, to point out his origin in God and from God.

    During the days when God appointed Judges, the Ark of the Covenant was lost. The high priest commissioned that every artisan throughout Israel craft a new ark, one that would be a fitting and appropriate replacement for the old one. Then God himself could choose its worthy successor. Every craftsman without exception set about the task of building a truly noble and worthwhile replacement for the Ark. When the day of decision finally arrived, there lay spread before the people of Israel chests of wood and stone and bronze and silver and gold. Before each ark the high priest cast his sacred die to determine the Lord's choice. One model after the other was rejected. Then the high priest arrived at Joseph's ark. Joseph was a poor carpenter with only normal ability but deep devotion to God. His ark was painfully simple and decidedly lackluster. When the die turned up positive, the people were outspokenly upset. "Does God reject the very talent he has given to these gifted craftsmen?" they shouted. Yielding to pressure, the high priest cast the die again. Again the choice fell upon Joseph's ark. He was forced to try for the third time. The result was the same. And amid cries of protest, a voice from heaven was heard to say: "With a wondrous ark," God said to the people, "my people may get lost in the beauty of their own work. With a simple and humble ark there will be nothing to distract them. Then they will think of me, and not of themselves."

    The Christ Child is like this simple and humble ark. Seeing it, we will be reminded of God, and not be distracted by our own ways and plans of saving ourselves.

    The Christ Child reminds us also of the difference that exists between sugar and salt. When sugar is added to food, it draws attention to itself, to the sugar. When salt is added, it brings out the flavor of the food. It does not draw attention to itself, to the salt. Similarly, the Christ Child draws attention not to himself but to our need for salvation and to God's bottomless love for us. The Christ Child also reminds us that we are called to be the salt and not the sugar of the earth.

  3. There may be a third reason why Jesus Christ met humanity as a child. He reminds us that like children we are to grow into sons and daughters of God, in his image and likeness. When Mary took the child to the Temple, she offered two turtle doves. According to the legend, when the priest went to offer them in sacrifice, one of them escaped and flew off. It was the one who symbolized Christ's divinity. So the bird had no place to go except heaven. However, when it got there the gates were closed. So the dove returned to earth, but the child was gone from Jerusalem and was nowhere to be found in all the Holy Land. Since the bird could not light on earth nor enter heaven, it flew to the only place where innocence exists between heaven and earth, the heart of a child.

    It is said that the child immediately took on the nature of the dove, sweet, gentle and kind, in one word, Christlike. Then as the child grew, the dove continued to gather strength until it was strong enough to leave and continue its search for the Christ child. But before it did, it carried the soul of its host to the gates of heaven and sang its sweet, plaintive song. On hearing the Christ-dove the Father opened the gates of Heaven and allowed the soul to pass through.

    Since then the Christ-dove continually journeys back and forth between heaven and earth, taking up residence in the heart of the innocent until the day it can find the Christ child once again.

    And so let us conclude with Karl Barth and Mother Teresa. Karl Barth once said: "Anyone who has really understood that God became human, can never speak and act in an inhuman way." Mother Teresa rephrased the same idea in an even more practical manner: "Welcome Jesus at Christmas Time," she said, "not in a cold manger of our heart ... but warm with love for one another."

    The Word and the Words

    We celebrate the birth of Christ today, but the main reading on Christmas day is the first chapter of John's Gospel. It may seem strange that we would be listening to a reading about God's Word coming into the world rather than hearing the familiar story of Jesus' birth in a manger.

    We can begin to appreciate John's word about the Word by recalling one of the activities that engages most of us before Christmas. I am referring to buying and writing Christmas cards. Buying Christmas cards can be a real expense, especially if we have a lot of friends, relatives and acquaintances to whom we intend to send them. Not only do we have the cost of cards to consider, but we also have to take into account the cost of postage. As we review the names of persons on our Christmas list, we probably are going to send the more inexpensive cards to people whom we know but who are not close friends. We reserve the better cards, and the very best, as says the line from Hallmark, to closer and very close friends.

    What does this have to do with the first chapter in John's gospel? Simply this! When John speaks about the word as coming from God, he is telling us that God cared enough to send the very best. God wanted to express exactly how he felt about us and realized not just any word would do. No, God wanted the one word that conveyed his passion for us, and therefore chose to send the Word. Jesus is God's special word, his Hallmark. There is nothing cheap about God.

    If this alone were the message in John's gospel, we would have much to ponder and be thankful about. However, John tells us something very startling. He says, "All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be."

    Let me make two observations on behalf of this startling statement:

    1) All of us have come to be through the Word. This means that each of us is a word from and through the Word. And because we have come to be through the Word, we aren't cheap words or meaningless words. We get the impression from talking to people that many don't think much of themselves; they don't value who they are. Unfortunately, preachers in the pulpit and on TV often preach how sinful we are, but fail to remind us that we are fundamentally good words coming from the mouth of God. Today we are reminded who we are. We, too, are the hallmark of God.

    God sent his word. He did not hide it. He sent it in order to lighten up our lives. Since we came to be through this Word, we too are sent to be light-bearing words to one another. We are not meant to be hidden away in the darkness. We are words, words of light, and our being is being sent! If we choose to hide ourselves, then we are denying our identity as words sent to illumine the darkness.

    John's message to us is always timely because we frequently lose sight of who we are and what we are called to be. However, his message is particularly appropriate during this season of light. God has sent his Word, we too are words from God, God's hallmarks. We are reminded that he cared enough to send us the very best, and that is why we rejoice on Christmas Day.

    To be a Christian means many things. It means among other things, that success must be counterbalanced with fecundity. It also means that there is no doing or making without an original receiving. It therefore also means that there is dependence in the vertical sense, and interdependence in the horizontal sense. Christmas is the true success story. It is not that of Lee Iacocca but that of the boy Jesus and his mother Mary.

    The Christian success story is one of fecundity. It is the story of Jesus Christ himself. He tasted the defeat of death to the full and drank the bitter cup to the dregs. He lay the love of his father in our hands. He made us the stewards of his kingdom. Above all he made us the salespersons of his fecundity. He left us the simple message: the very best is always given.

    Remember this touching Christmas story of a small boy who shyly presented himself to a department store clerk. "I would like to buy my mother a new blouse for Christmas," he said bravely. "Very nice," the clerk replied, "but first I shall have to know more about your mother. Tell me, is she short or tall?" "She is, she is ... the small boy stuttered and stammered. But then it came out forcefully and clear: She is perfect, she is perfect! So the clerk wrapped a blouse size 34 for him. "Merry Christmas!" said the boy, as he tenderly handed over his Christmas present to his perfect mother. A few days later, the mother returned the perfect 34 blouse, and exchanged it for a size 52. We may not fit the perfect size. But we all bear the hallmark of God. We are all perfect for (at least) somebody. We too are sent to one another through God's Word, God's hallmark.

    2) We are also reminded that the Word of God has generated and produced many other words that explain and concretize the one Word, Jesus Christ. Remember the English Christmas carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas." It begins with the partridge in a pear tree, and continues with two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, five golden rings, and so forth, till eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming. The "Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as a catechism song and code for young Catholics, at a time when the Catholics were not permitted to practice their faith openly (1558-1829). And so the partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ; the two turtle doves, the Old and New Testament; the three French hens, faith, hope and charity; the four calling birds are the four Gospels, and the twelve drummers drumming, the twelve points of belief in the Apostle's Creed. They are all related to the number one, to Jesus Christ, the Lord. They are all part of the many words the one Word has generated. They are all bridges that lead us back to the partridge in the pear tree.

    They are also bridges that bring the Word of God into the present and translate it for our time and our mentality as illustrated by the story of Della and Jim.

    In an O'Henry story, called, "The Gift of the Magi", the recently married Della and James Young are young and poor. So poor that neither has enough to buy the other a proper Christmas gift. Weeks of saving have netted Della only $1.87 for her gift offering. There are, however, things they possess and in which the Youngs take great pride. One is Jim's gold watch, that has been his father's and his grandfather's. The other is Della's hair, which reaches below the knees and might be the envy of any beauty queen. Out of Della's overpowering love for Jim emerges her solution to the gift problem. She cuts off her hair and sells it to a dealer. With the $20 realized, she buys a platinum watch chain, an elegant replacement for the worn-out strap presently attached to her husband's watch. Jim comes home and with fitting ceremony the gift is made. Jim too is prepared, with a gaily wrapped present for Della. Jim's gift is an elaborate set of combs for which she had always yearned, just the right shade for her now vanished hair. Then the final discovery, Jim had sold his watch to pay for the present. But Della and Jim smiled contentedly. O'Henry concludes the story thus: "Two foolish children who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise, let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two are the wisest, of all who give and receive gifts, they are the wisest. They have grasped the meaning of the Word made flesh. They have converted it in deeds of love.

    "Epiphany" East and West

    The feast of the Epiphany, as we presently understand it, the adoration of the Magi, is found very early in Gaul, where it probably predates Christmas. The Council of Saragossa in 380 decreed a three-week fast before Epiphany. The feast existed in North Africa in the time of Augustine. Several of Leo the Great's sermons witness to the feast's observance in Rome. The principal object in the Roman liturgy is the adoration of the Magi.

    However, the feast of the Epiphany most certainly originated in the East, where it is mentioned by Clement of Alexandria. It may have been assigned its date in reference to a pagan feast. In the Egyptian calendar, the winter solstice and the feast of the Sun-God were observed on January 6. On the previous night, pagans of Alexandria commemorated the birth of their god Aeon, supposedly born of a virgin. It was also believed that the waters of rivers, especially the Nile, acquired miraculous powers and even turned into wine on this night.

    This may be a partial explanation why it is difficult to circumscribe the original object of this feast in the East. By the fourth century Epiphany could embrace the birth of Christ, His baptism, the adoration of the Magi, and the miracle at Cana. According to some liturgists (cf. C. Mohrmann) Epiphany was an idea feast (as opposed to an event feast) from the beginning and admitted any manifestation of the divine power of Christ. As a matter of fact, in classical Greek, epiphany or theophany designate the manifestation of a divinity and, later, important events in the life of a king. Epiphany is first used in a Christian sense by St. Paul for both the first and final comings of Christ (Ti 2.11,13). The word Epiphany was soon used to describe the miracles of Christ as manifestations of divine power.

    St. John Chrysostom explains the eastern meaning of Epiphany with these words: "We give the name Epiphany to the Lord's baptism because he was not made manifest to all when he was born, but only when he was baptized; for until that time he was unknown to the people at large." In similar fashion, St. Jerome, drawing upon his Palestine experience, declares that the idea of showing forth (Epiphany) belonged not to the birth in the flesh, for then he was hidden and not revealed, but rather to the baptism in the Jordan, when the heavens were opened upon Christ.

    According to oriental ideas, it was through the divine pronouncement "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," that the Savior was first manifested to the great world of unbelievers. The western tradition of this feast lies more along the line of what we are used to call "fides quaerens intellectum." (faith seeking understanding) There is no overwhelming Epiphany or divine manifestation on the path of the Magi. The Magi were wise men who saw the star and its unusual brightness. Steadfast in the resolution of following the divine call and fearless of danger, they travel, inquire, explore, and let themselves be conducted by the star to the place where they were to see and worship their Savior. But again, no divine pronouncement thundering from open skies, only a poor babe in a manger. As St. Leo the Great put it, "When a star had conducted them to worship Jesus, they did not find him commanding devils or raising the dead or restoring sight to the blind or speech to the dumb, or employed in any divine action; but a silent babe, dependent upon a mother's care, giving no sign of power but exhibiting a miracle of humility."

    Eastern theology has always been eschatological in thrust, eager and anxious to show the unabridged Godhead in all its splendor and majesty, beyond and in spite of its manifestation in human condition and according to human categories. Western theology in turn develops according to a different religious sensitivity: it is more incarnational, amazed by and preoccupied with the miracle of humility, God's being in the flesh and becoming one of us. The spirituality of the East is a spirituality of vision, based on "ta phota" (what is visible) or illumination: the Jordan-Experience; the spirituality of the West is the spirituality of journey, originating in God's call and transformative power; it is the "Magi-experience."

    Yet, both traditions are but two different and complementary facets of the same reality, just as ear and eye are dependent on and complement each other. In a similar way, the Feast of the Epiphany manifests the comprehensive reality of God's encounter with humanity: it shows not only God's self-giving presence in the miracle of humility, but also his authoritative self-disclosure at the baptism of Christ. Epiphany only manifests not God's gratuitous and hidden presence to us, but also reminds us of our personal and active role in this encounter with God, made explicit through the acts and gestures of the Magi.

    The Magi offer to Jesus as a token of homage the richest products their countries afforded: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold, as an acknowledgment of Christ's regal power; incense, as a confession of his Godhead; and myrrh, as a testimony that he has become man for the redemption of the world. But even more important than gold, frankincense, and myrrh were the dispositions the Magi cherished in their souls: their fervent charity, signified by gold; their devotion, figured by frankincense; and their unreserved sacrifice of themselves, represented by myrrh.

    In the middle ages it was customary on this day (sixth of January) to bless homes with the newly blessed water, and with incense. Later the initials of the names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar) were written with blessed chalk on or above the doors of homes. CMB stands also for Christus, Mansionem, Benedicat (May Christ bless this home). May these initials be carved on the doors to our spiritual homes, too; as a reminder, that each one of us is called upon by God's Epiphany to the world to assume a threefold role: that of the child, the disciple, and the steward.

    • As a child we receive and cherish God's Epiphany to us;
    • As a disciple we follow God's call to crib and cross;
    • and as steward we are accountable to God and the world for what we did to his Epiphany, understood as vision and journey.

    The Heart of Mary

    The expression "Mary's heart" is to be understood in a biblical sense: it denotes the person of the Blessed Virgin herself; her intimate and unique being; the center and source of her interior life, of her mind and memory, of her will and love; the single-mindedness with which she loved God and the disciples and devoted herself wholeheartedly to the saving work of her Son.

    In the Revelations of Saint Gertrude we read about one of her visions on the feast of St. John the Evangelist. Allowed to rest her head near the wound in the Savior's side, Saint Gertrude heard the beating of the Divine Heart and asked Saint John if, on the night of the last Supper, he too had felt these delightful pulsations, and if yes, why he had never spoken of the fact? Saint John's answer was a very charming and, at the same time, a very disturbing one. John replied that this revelation about the beating of the Divine Heart had been reserved for subsequent ages when the world, having grown cold, would have need of it to rekindle its love.

    The liturgy of this time celebrates the loving kindness of God, who, after giving to the Church the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ as a proof of his love, gave it also the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be contemplated as the model of the "new heart" of one who lives by the "new Covenant."

    In the New Testament, two words, kardia and nous, are used to translate the word heart. They both denote the inner person as the source of action: kardia more specifically signifies volition and emotion, while nous indicates intellect. Emerson in his description of friendship uses the same approach. According to him, the question: Do you love me? means do you see the same truth?--or at least, do you care about the same truth?

    Here lies the very practical side of today's message. do we see with the eyes of the heart? If we wish to go into the world as the Heart of Christ sends us, as fishers of men, we need to make ourselves into the same bait of love that Jesus was. We need more unconditional love. In the words of Saint Francis de Sales--this challenge reads as follows: "Try as hard as you like, but in the end only the language of the heart can ever search and find another heart while mere words, as they slip from your tongue, don't get past your listener's ear." As we know, these same words later became John Henry Newman's motto as cardinal: Cor ad cor loquitur. The Heart speaks to the Heart.

    The language of the heart is frequently a language of silence. In sum, Our Lady of the Heart is primarily Our Lady of Silence. She is the great ponderer--on Christmas and on Saturdays especially. She does not speak. She is simply present. She does not put forward one of her many privileges, but she is the faithful companion, an integral part of the liturgical cast. Our Lady of the Heart is a homemaker but she is also a pacemaker, humble, but casual. Content to stay in the background, she points to her child. Kneeling at the manger on Christmas, standing at the closure of the week, she wraps up the time of waiting in the folds of her mantle and rings in the day and season of her Son.

    Our Lady of Silence is neither tight-lipped nor close-mouthed. Her bearing is soundless, but peaceful. She may be wordless, but she is never voiceless. Our Lady's message is an unspoken one; much of what she has to tell us is implicit or implied. But never could we be so foolish as to call her inactive, quiescent or passive. For Our Lady of the Heart is also Our Lady of Boldness and Vigilance.

    Being the sons and daughters, the sisters and brothers of Mary we are invited to join her at the very heart of the Church. A story is told of a teacher who said that he was going to write the word "church" on the blackboard. He then printed, "ch..ch." The students told him that he left out two letters at the center of the work: "ur." The teacher responded, "You are correct. 'You are' the heart and at the center of the church." Yes, we are at the heart of the church because God has loved us unconditionally. Let us take this godly bait and swallow it hook, line and sinker.

    © The meditations above were prepared by Rev. Johann G. Roten, S.M.

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