My Dear Friends:
As we gather this weekend to celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, as a Church we are still contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. Over the last two weeks, so many parishioners have sat in the first pews of the church to take in the splendor of Christmas by gazing at our beautifully decorated altar and to look upon the face of the new statue of the Christ Child nestled among all the poinsettias.
During a homily last week, I commented on how we acquired this splendid figure of our Lord and how his face called out to me. This is a good lesson of being surprised by God when you least expect it. Last summer while in Madrid, I joined Deacon Robert Fleitas and his wife Nancy for a morning of sightseeing followed by lunch. Deacon had just finished his pilgrimage through “El Camino” to Santiago de Compostela, and aside from lunch, we were going into a religious store to buy some much needed purificators for our sacristy that we use for the chalices that hold the Precious Blood of Our Lord. We walked into store after store and could not find what we needed, but in one store, we found something that we were not expecting. Near the entrance there was display of statues of the Child Jesus in all shapes and sizes, but there was one that caught the attention of both Deacon and me. The face of our Lord was radiant. It was peaceful. It drew us into the mystery of the Incarnation: God becoming a tiny child. Immediately I told Deacon, “This belongs at the foot of our altar for Christmas.” So many churches have a statue of the Divine Child in their sanctuaries, why shouldn’t ours? There’s a beautiful one at the foot of Bernini’s altar in St. Peter’s Basilica that the Pope venerates every Christmas, but Fr. Andrew, while watching the Vatican’s Midnight Mass, affirmed that the one that we acquired was “far more beautiful!”
Obviously, this is all subjective, but what sacred art does is draw us closer to the divine mystery that the artist is trying to capture. We are blessed that sacred art surrounds us constantly in this majestic church, and this latest addition has been adored by so many faithful since Christmas Eve. Actually, I need to go back two days before Christmas Eve to talk about the Child’s debut. On the last day of school before Christmas Break, the school children gathered for Mass, and I began to ask them during the homily how they would describe a baby to illustrate to the children how God humbled himself by becoming human. One of the words the children used to describe babies was the word delicate. It was perfect! God became a delicate child who was dependent on his parents and was fragile just like this new statue. Even though I had not planned this, I asked one of the altar servers to the sacristy to get the box that held the Christ Child. As I was explaining further the significance of the word delicate, I took out the statue from the box, and you could hear so many of the children in our church let out an audible gasp! They were all mesmerized by this tiny ceramic figure. The same thing happened when I walked out of the sacristy for the Children’s Christmas Eve Mass and passed by the choir loft where many of our 2nd and 3rd graders were preparing to sing. When they saw the Child in my arms, some of them could be heard saying, “It’s Baby Jesus!”
It is that same child-like wonder that we must bring to the Christmas mysteries. It was sheer wonder that brought the Magi today to come and adore the Lord. They too must have been surprised when they found the Newborn King lying in a poor manger. But this is how God works: he surprises us constantly as he seeks to draw us into his divine love.
So as we begin a new year, let God surprise you in the coming months. We may be looking for all the wrong things as we make resolutions. Look at the Divine Child at the foot of our altar. Ask him to make you as simple and as innocent as he is. With that simplicity, we will be able to do great things in his Holy Name in 2024.
I pray that each of you have a Blessed New Year and that our parish may continue to emulate the simplicity and love that the Child Jesus continues to share with us this Christmas season.
God bless you all,