Christmas Day Mass
Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, December 25, 2015
Fontgombault, December 25, 2015
Et mundus eum non cognovit.
And the world knew Him not.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,
On this Christmas morning, whereas joy is filling our hearts, the reading of the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John specifies what is the place of the little Child of the Crib in the history of salvation, and even more, in the context of eternity.
“In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God.”
Everything is said. From all eternity, in the bosom of the glorious and holy Trinity, the Father begets the Son, His Word. The mutual Love of the first two Persons is the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
“All things were made by Him”, the Word (Jn 1:3).
The creation of the world is a great mystery. God, Who lacks nothing, Who needs nothing but Himself, allows Himself, so to speak, to be encumbered. The profit to His essential glory that He derives from His creation is nil! His aim is just to grant to some spiritual and material beings an inconceivable communion to divine life, to reveal divine love to them. How deeply moving it is to see God take an interest in angels, men, animals, and plants of the earth:
“God saw that it was good” (Gn 1:10), and even “very good” (Gn 1:31).
From man’s point of view, the creation of the world has not only been for God a source of encumbrance, it has turned out to be since the very beginning a source of problems! Creatures, who had been so plentifully endowed, have indeed turned away from their Maker. Yet, He has not forsaken them. The mystery of Christmas is precisely this. The Word of God, the second Person of the Trinity, of divine nature, puts on a human nature so as to visit man: “He came unto His own” (Jn 1:11a), or, according to other translations, “He came to His own home”, for the whole world is His home. But after that, the text adds, “And His own received Him not” (Jn 1:11b).
These words might refer to the difficulties encountered by the Child’s parents to find a home during the census period, when inns would be packed. They also herald the days that will soon come, when the Child has to be hidden from the wrath of a jealous and cruel king, and flee into the unknown land of Egypt. Last, but not least, the shadow of the Cross is already looming upon the poor stable. The gift of the divine Child will go unto accepting the stumbling block of the Cross. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.”
Still, would not these words of the Evangelist be topical? Do we receive the Child of the Crib more than His contemporaries did when He was born? As Christmas is drawing near, on the strength of the principles of a perverted secularity that have been set up as dogmas, the controversy on the presence of cribs in public places has flared up, with as a consequence a paradoxical war of cribs! As a new Herod, the world chooses to ignore that God is still coming to visit His people. Let therefore God remain inside churches!
Let Him be as an alien! Above all, let all signs be wiped out, which might raise in the heart of a child, of a simple one, the desire to encounter Him Who is like them, Who draws them towards Him, and Who lays in the Crib; all signs, all words that might remind men of good will that they are loved by God.
Let us therefore listen again to the words that one of these little ones, one of these simple ones, Pope St. John Paul II, pronounced during the homily of his enthronement Mass on October 22, 1978, and that he addressed to the whole of mankind: Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept His power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ, and who wish, with Christ’s power, to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors for Christ! To His saving power, open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilisation and development. Do not be afraid! Christ knows “what is in man.”
He alone knows it. So often today, man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often, he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore—we beg you with humility and trust—let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life. Today, let us bring these words in ourselves.
To all of us, who out of ignorance, ideology, or fear, want to make God an alien on this earth that He has created; To all of us, who steal from God that which belongs to Him alone, and first of all man made in His image; To all of us, who within our families, communities, towns, schools, factories, working places, foster in our hearts hotbeds of hatred and rancour, towards a spouse, a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a neighbour, a friend, a fellow worker; To all of us, the Child of the Crib is speaking. Let us consider the state of the world, which is the fruit of His hands, but because of us, is today stinking of hatred, wars, slaughters.
Let us welcome in our hearts, our homes, our cities, He is the Prince of peace. He was born for us, and He comes to liberate us from the bondage of evil. Let us rejoice, for He is there, the promised Saviour. Let us listen to His message, let us convert our hearts, and let us open ourselves to the mystery of mercy and forgiveness that the Child of the Crib is coming to offer us. Today, even now, God is coming to visit His people. Let us allow ourselves to be disarmed by the Child of the Crib, and let us put on the arms of the peaceful King. He wants to number us, too, among His children.