Emmanuel’s late longtime editor Father Eugene LaVerdiere, SSS, often told his audiences with a smile, “My home is in the Gospel of Luke.” And then he would add, “But I have a very nice condo in the Gospel of Mark!” That’s nice to know as we soon enter into a new liturgical year in which Mark will be the principal evangelist for the Church’s public prayer and reflection.
Gene, a respected biblical scholar and a cherished confrère, said and wrote many memorable things. One of the recurring themes in the years before his untimely death in November 2008 was “The Word of God made flesh made Eucharist.” This sentence touches on a powerful truth: that God redeems through self-emptying love. In the sublime Christmas hymn “O Magnum Mysterium,” we hear:
O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum. . . .
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Christian soteriology is incarnational. Along with the dying and rising of Jesus, it is the heart of the Good News. Israel’s God was not a distant, unmoved being, but one who constantly reached out to his creation in love and mercy. This entailed a relentless movement downward on the part of God, as Paul instructs the church at Philippi: “. . . Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:5-8).
In a homily in the Square of Our Lady of Loreto on October 4, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI said: “The incarnation of the Son of God speaks to us of how important we are to God and God to us.” And elsewhere: “God’s dialogue with us becomes truly human since God conducts his part as man” (Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, 2007). What was inconceivable to the human mind, that divinity should assume humanity, became crucial to God’s plan of redemption.
This relentless movement of God downward continues in the Eucharist, where lowly bread and wine, not frail humanity, reveal his presence and his saving power. Pope Francis expresses it in this way: “A God who draws near out of love walks with his people, and this walk comes to an unimaginable point. We could never have imagined that the same Lord would become one of us and walk with us, be present with us, present in his Church, present in the Eucharist, present in his word, present in the poor. . . . And this is closeness: the shepherd close to his flock, close to his sheep, whom he knows, one by one.”
As Christ in the incarnation and in the Eucharist empties himself and draws near to us, his grace at work in us enables us to do the same, to be “gift” to him and to others!
In This Issue
I believe you will find this issue to be quite rich. There are theological works, reflections on family life and on priestly ministry in the light of the Eucharist, and meditations for the close of the year, the start of the new liturgical year, and the coming Advent season and Christmas. Enjoy!
Anthony Schueller, SSS