Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermons for Christmas (Christmas Day Mass): "Let us pray for the Church, ...crossing through darkness."

Day Mass 

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau 
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, December 25, 2021 

Et lux in tenebris lucet. 
And the light shineth in darkness. 
(Jn 1:5) 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 
My dearly beloved Sons, 

After gathering at midnight, and again at dawn, to sing the holy mysteries of our Savior’s birth, the Church invites her children to take part a third time in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. During these hours, she invited us to meditate on the threefold birth of Christ: His eternal birth from the Father’s bosom, for instance when we sang in the midnight Mass introit, “The Lord said to me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee” (Ps 2:7); His birth according to the flesh from the Blessed Virgin Mary’s womb, the proper object of today’s feast; and lastly, His birth in the souls, by which Christ “arises in our hearts as the morning star” (2 P 1:19), as we sing in the dawn Mass introit, “A light shall shine upon us this day” (Is 9:2). 

The prologue of the Gospel of St. John takes up these three births. In the Incarnation mystery, Heaven and earth join hands, as an antiphon of the solemnity of Mary Mother of God, or the Christmas octave, admirably expresses: How wondrous an exchange! The Maker of mankind has taken to Himself a body and a soul, and has vouchsafed to be A born of a Virgin; He is come forth conceived without seed, and has made us partakers of His divine nature. (1st antiphon of Lauds, January 1st) 

Yet, it doesn’t seem all that straightforward to take part in the divinity the Child of Bethlehem offers us, to allow His star to arise in our hearts. See the innkeepers in Bethlehem, and so many others. Only a few recognized Christ. The prologue of St. John reminds us of that, in three verses fraught with meaning: The Word was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world: and the world was made by Him: and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own: and His own received Him not. (Jn 1:9-11) 

The beginning of the prologue affirmed that the Word is God, consubstantial with the Father, as the Creed sings. The Word, the eternal Word of the Father, the second Person of the Trinity, is also the true Light, that which presided over the first moments of the world, and the creation of man, especially by giving life. In the darkness of chaos, the light has shone, and is still shining. Darkness could not stop it. Yet, the Evangelist is distressed: the light has shone, but hasn’t been recognized. The Word came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. And why is that? Probably because of the propensity of human beings to take into account only the material and tangible aspect of things. Recent headlines show us that this temptation endures, and is expressed in how one considers the Church. Let us remember the very first lines of the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, “Light of nations”: Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church. (Lumen gentium, n. 1) 

Last night, the angels praised God, singing, “Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” The light and peace of Incarnation have been poured out over the shepherds, who had gone to the crib at the invitation of the angels. Some day, on Mount Tabor, this light will inundate the faces of the apostles Peter, James and John. It will also shine on the Twelve and the disciples after the resurrection. This peace and light coming from Heaven will also become a comfort for so many men and women of Palestine suffering in their souls or bodies. 

Yet, it has to be acknowledged that the Child of the crib will be the first victim of His message of love. Among His disciples, the light won’t always be received. Peter will forsake his master; as to Judas, he will betray Him. Today, the light and peace of Christmas are still wishing to spread themselves. Such is the mission of the Church, through the ministry of so many priests, through the offered lives of apostolic religious, man and women, who day and night remain at the service of their suffering brothers and sisters. The light and peace of Christmas also shine with the hidden prayer of so many monks and nuns, secluded behind the walls of their cloisters. Last, they also spread through so many faithful, who generously bear witness to their faith inside their families, as well as in the society. 

Yet, evil has deeply marred the hearts of men, and of society. If the Church is a mystery both visible and invisible, if the Church is holy, she is nonetheless made up of men and women who can sometimes be great sinners. Recent events are a grievous reminder of that fact. The actions that have been committed, the more or less complicit silences, practically imposed in a world that has gloried in the motto “Forbidden to forbid,” have made, and still make, many victims. 

On this Christmas morning, we entrust to the Child in the crib all the victims who have suffered, and suffer more especially because of members of the Church. May He shine His face on them. May He offer them His peace. 

We also pray for all the disgraceful priests, as well as male and female religious, who through their acts have rendered themselves unworthy to appear before the Master who made Himself a servant, donning the very flesh of their victims. May the Child in the crib open their hearts and make them aware of the gravity of their actions, leading them to ask for forgiveness after a true penance. 

Lastly, let us pray for the Church. May the difficult period she is crossing, felt by many as a crossing through darkness, not be commandeered by those whose only aim is to ensure the victory of trendy ideologies, tagging along in the wake of society. May this period open into a revival, an Easter morning. [Emphases added]

A child is born to us this day. Amidst darkness and the shadows of death, hope is born again. Between Mary and Joseph, a child is resting in a crib. God is with us, Emmanuel, who can be against us? 

A holy and merry Christmas!

Amen, Alleluia. 

[Midnight Mass sermon here]