Numbers 6:22-27, Galatians 4:4-7, Gospel – Luke 2:16-21
On the Octave of Christmas, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. Eight days ago we celebrated Christmas recalling when the Word became Flesh and was born into this world in a manger in Bethlehem. The readings at Christmas spoke of the birth and humanity of Jesus. The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, emphasizes that this child was not only fully human, but also fully Divine. Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, is one person with two natures, the nature of God and the nature of man. The theological term for this is the Hypostatic Union, which was defined at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.
Saint Paul describes Jesus very succinctly in the portion of the letter to the Galatians read on this Solemnity. He points out that Jesus is the Son of God, born of a woman (Mary), ransoming us from sin, and sending us the Spirit who enables us to out to God, “Father.” This is based on the teachings of Jesus himself that are found throughout the Gospel. Jesus refers to God as His Father in Hebrew language that is only used in the most intimate reference of a son to a father. One of the charges brought against Jesus at his trial before the Sanhedrin was that he dared to call God Father. Jesus went beyond that when he told us that God is not only his Father, but that God is our Father. Indeed, he taught that when we pray, to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven….” Jesus is the son of the Father and is fully divine.
Throughout the Old Testament there are some beautiful images of God’s Fatherly love for us. One is found in the Old Testament reading from the Book of Numbers in which God instructs, Moses to tell Aaron and his Sons how to bless the Israelites. This Blessing is often times referred to as the Priestly Blessing. The Blessing has a simple beauty that is so typical of God’s revelations to us. Why is it that we tend to make God so complicated and difficult? The blessing is “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” Numbers 6: 24 – 26
This beauty of God’s love for us is seen in the Gospel for today. After the Shepherds had that amazing celestial experience of Angels appearing, announcing and Singing, “Glory to God in High heaven….”, they leave the glorious vision in the fields and head to Bethlehem. There they do not find glorious choirs of angels, they come to a manger where they see the Holy Family. The glory of the Lord shown through the poverty, the animals and the manger: the shepherds knew that this is the baby of whom the Angels spoke and sang. They stood in awe as they gazed upon the Human and Divine Natures of God in the baby Jesus.
There are times in our lives when we are so moved by an experience we refer to as, “a religious experience.” These moments touch us, and leave no doubt that Jesus is Lord. This is what the Shepherds experienced, and as they returned to their flocks they probably did so with a renewed sense of faith in God. May we recognize and honor the baby born in the manger as not only fully man, but also fully Divine, and carry our experience of God’s presence and love with us always.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: Father Etienne Huard, O.S.B., Shepherd’s Cave, Bethlehem