Lettera Madre Christmas 2016

Lettera Madre Christmas 2016

United_Kingdom1.png My dear Sisters …

Via Aurelia, 773

“He has visited us like the dawn from on high”

My dear Sisters,
If you experience the dawning of a new day and not take it for granted, then you know what a priceless gift of beauty it holds. It continues to surprise and amaze if you truly engage with it: the wonder is, first of all, that out of darkness comes light – a brand new day and secondly, that I am alive, whatever my age or condition, to appreciate and interact with it. This mysterious emergence of a new day calls for a deep reverence for creation and a thankfulness and respect for ourselves that we are part of it.

During these Advent days I am struck by the beauty and early morning stillness in the garden here: the trees have lost their leaves, at the same time hidden creativity is taking place and small buds already visible, giving hope for tomorrow so the cycle of life comes round, wherever we live, whatever the season.

So it is with the Church’s liturgical year – a New Day dawns: “Arise, shine, for your light has come… See, darkness covers the earth … but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Is 60:1-3)
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us … full of grace and truth”. (Jn. 1:14)
St Augustine puts it like this: “That day is called the birthday of the Lord on which the Wisdom of God manifested Himself as a speechless Child and the Word of God wordlessly uttered the sound of a human voice. His divinity, although hidden, was revealed by heavenly witness to the Magi and was announced to the shepherds by angelic voices. With yearly ceremony, therefore, we celebrate this day which saw the fulfillment of the prophecy: ‘Truth is sprung out of the earth: and justice hath looked down from heaven.’ Truth, eternally existing in the bosom of the Father, has sprung from the earth so that He might exist also in the bosom of a mother. Truth, holding the world in place, has sprung from the earth so that He might be carried in the hands of a woman. Truth, incorruptibly nourishing the happiness of the angels, has sprung from the earth in order to be fed by human milk. Truth, whom the heavens cannot contain, has sprung from the earth so that He might be placed in a manger”. (Nativity, Sermon 185)

On this day we celebrate the incredible beauty of the coming of God among us in the fragility of a new born Child and we journey to Bethlehem year after year to rediscover our own roots in the gift of God, wrapped in swaddling clothes. “Beautiful is God, the Word with God; beautiful in the womb, beautiful in His parents’ arms, beautiful in His miracles, beautiful in His sufferings; beautiful in inviting to life, beautiful in not worrying about death, beautiful in giving up His life and beautiful in taking it up again; He is beautiful on the Cross, beautiful in the tomb, beautiful in heaven… Listen to the song with understanding, and let not the weakness of the flesh distract your eyes from the splendor of His beauty”. (St Augustine, Comm. on Psalm 44, 3)
Each year we celebrate Christmas: the story never changes but we are different, our world is different! Joy and sorrow, health and sickness, life and death have made this difference. Whatever these changes, the Christmas story speaks to us again of new birth and the possibility of our own rebirth. With this, a new journey of hope begins; a new approach to God opens before us; a new way of relating to each other is asked of us.

“The journey of Jesus along the path of humanity”, Pope Francis reminded us recently, was possible because of great YES, that of Mary at the moment of the Annunciation. Mary’s yes “is complete, unconditional, without reservations. While the original no at the beginning closed the passage of man to God, so the yes of Mary has opened the way of God among us… Also for each of us” – Pope Francis added – “there is a story of salvation made of yes and no to God”. As for us, ‘We are experts on the half-yes’: we are good at pretending not to understand what God wants, and what conscience prompts” … “we are also clever at never giving a true no to God, saying: ‘Excuse me, I am not able’, ‘not today, but tomorrow’; … ‘tomorrow I will be better, tomorrow I will pray, I will do good, but tomorrow’… Every yes to God creates stories of salvation for us and for others.” (cf. 8 Dec 2016)

With Pope Francis we also ask Jesus to teach us: “In this time that leads up to the feast of Jesus’ birth, teach us how to swim against the tide: to be unencumbered, to give ourselves, to listen, to be silent, to not focus on ourselves, but to leave space for the beauty of God, the source of true joy.” (8 Dec 2014) God has blessed us with the wonderful gift of life, of one another, and of our world. Our lives are filled with beauty – if we are awake to the possibilities, even though there are challenges of suffering and difficulty. God in Christ continues to be born anew in us and our confidence is born from knowing that Jesus, the Incarnation of God’s love, is with us on our journey through life, giving us joy and hope.

‘Let us glorify the Lord by our lives’: this is a beautiful blessing!
This Christmas, we remember in particular all those who for different reasons, have no place to lay their head, and who are searching for place to call home.


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