Friday, December 21, 2012

In Five Days

Nolite timere, quinta enim die veniet ad vos Dominus noster. ("There is no need to be afraid; in five days our Lord will come to us.)" Thus speaks the antiphon at the Benedictus at Morning Prayer today. Thus the Church has prayed for centuries every year on December 21.

While the secular world worries whether the world will end today (confirmation once again of the saying that, when the world stops believing in God, that doesn't mean it now believes in nothing at all but rather that it credulously believes in everything), the Church heightens its joyful expectation for Christmas just five days hence.

Of course, it's not just Christmas, the day, that she awaits with such joyful expectation. Much less is it presents under the tree or a tasty Christmas ham (wonderful though those things are).

In the old calendar, today was the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, "Doubting Thomas" - certainly a saint for our age if ever there was one. Recalling the story of "Doubting Thomas" five days before Christmas certainly highlights the connection between the two mysteries of Christmas and Easter.There is indeed a certain symmetry to those two hinges of the Christian calendar, Christmas and Easter - and, more importantly, to the central mysteries that they celebrate, the incarnation and the resurrection.

Thus, in his just recently published book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Pope Benedict, following Karl Barth, observes "that there are two moments in the story of Jesus when God intervenes directly in the material world: the virgin birth and the resurrection from the tomb, in which Jesus did not remain, nor see corruption. These two moments are a scandal to the modern spirit. God is 'allowed' to act in ideas and thoughts, in the spiritual domain - but not in the material. That is shocking. He does not belong there. But that is precisely the point: God is God and he does not operate merely on the level of ideas. ... But here we are dealing ... with God's creative power, embracing the whole of being. In that sense these two moments - the virgin borth and the real resurrection from the tomb - are the cornerstones of faith. If God does not also have power over matter, then he simply is not God. But he does have this power, and through the conception and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has ushered in a new creation. So as the Creator he is also our Redeemer. Hence the conception and birth of Jesus from the Virgin Mary is a fundamental element of our faith and a radiant sign of hope."

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