We live in times when it seems there are more affronts to the dignity of the human person than ever before, or they are reported more widely. Children of migrants and refugees along our nation’s Southern border have been taken from the custody of their parents or guardians and placed in foster care in distant cities or in detention centers where conditions have been described as inhumane. Radical jihadists slaughter innocents, children, even fellow religionists, to advance their cause. Large pharmaceutical companies have been accused of being complicit in the production and distribution of opioids that are on target to claim a million lives in the United States by 2020. And there is the continuing holocaust of abortion and other assaults on the sanctity of life.
All of this greets us as we enter into the season of remembering the central mystery of our faith: the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
In an ancient sermon, Saint Leo the Great said: “Today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of Life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; Life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.
“No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no one free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the unbeliever take courage as he is summoned to life.
“In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with the Creator. He came to overthrow the evil one, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.”
Pope Leo concludes: “Christian, remember your own dignity now that you share in God’s own nature.”
One reason the Church opposes anything that debases the human person, and speaks out forcefully in its defense, is that each of us has been fashioned in the divine image. No other creature so fully mirrors God in intelligence, freedom, imagination, and creativity than does the human person.
The bishops of Vatican II affirmed in Gaudium et Spes, 22: “. . . by his incarnation, he, the Son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man.” Through Christ, in his incarnation and paschal mystery, every person has access to the high dignity of sharing in God’s own nature.
On April 10, 2013, Pope Francis spoke at a morning Mass about how dignity was restored to us when Jesus humbled himself to live among humanity and saved us by dying on the cross and rising for us. He led those in attendance that day in proclaiming: “Lord, I believe. I believe in your love. I believe that your love has saved me. I believe that your love has given me a dignity that I did not have. I believe that your love gives me hope.”
Pope Francis has repeatedly reminded any who will listen that every life is precious beyond measure in the eyes of God. Christ became incarnate and died for us to bring salvation to the world. With that amazing, ultimate gift, he also returned to us the dignity we had lost.
This Christmas, let us honor Christ’s incarnation by reverencing the dignity and gift of all.
In This Issue
A good place to begin is with Dennis J. Billy’s “Fulton Sheen on the Eucharist,” highlighting the genius of the perennially-popular churchman and TV personality, and James H. Kroeger’s introductory article on the missionary challenges of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress. For more seasonal fare, read Caroline Rood’s meditation on Mary and Peter Schineller’s “Pope Francis and the Spirituality of Christmas.” Scripture reflections, poetry, reviews, and so much more! Please consider gifting others with a subscription to the Magazine of Eucharistic Spirituality!
A blessed Advent and Christmas!
Anthony Schueller, SSS