Emmitsburg Council of Churches


Christ-Mass Stories and Meditations

Father John J. Lombardi

"God is a busy worker-but He loves help."-Basque Proverb

At this ChristmasTime let us meditate upon how much God loves us and how we can respond to His love-like saints! How will you heroically respond to, and help God redeem the world? The Virgin Mary and St Joseph gave up their lives to receive, nurture and follow the Infant Child King. How about you? "God has two dwellings, one in Heaven and the other in the human heart." (Izak Walton). Is your heart grate-full? Responding?

Look: it's still Christmas-until Jan 11, the Baptism of the Lord-so keep meditating upon God's Birth into the world and make heroic your response. Hopefully, with the sacramental (a holy item to help in our holiness) of your Manger at home, we come to the Light of the Stable-to Jesus Christ, the Infant King: to adore Him and respond to Him. But: we should want to penetrate and possess more fully the Divine Mystery and Reality Who is Jesus Christ: "To see his star is good; to see His face is better." -Dwight Moody. Yes, He was born two-thousand years ago, but in the Prayers of the Church at Mass, did you notice?: they are in the present tense, as if we are re-experiencing Jesus' Birth today-we are spiritually transported back in time into Timelessness, into the Eternal Now of Salvation History. The Psalmist speaks of this "majestic present-tense manifestation" : "The Heavens are proclaiming the Glory of God, and the firmament are telling his handiwork" (19:1). How can you more lovingly enter into the Mass and re-presentation of Jesus' Love, Mercy and Divine Presence all Christmas Season?

It is still ChristMass. Jesus comes to us every day in the Holy Mass--why stay away? One family with six children arise early every day and go to Mass together. This is heroic: because they Love Jesus, the Infant Child King-they want to meet Him daily in Holy Eucharist, even when kids are sick and crying, even though some toddlers go and play hide and seek during Mass, even though Mom and Dad are tired. After all Jesus said: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…" (Jn. 14;6).

Another family who lived years ago is no less heroic. Pope John Paul has just announced that he will canonize-declare as a saint-a lady who chose Life rather than have an abortion "Be not conformed to the world…" -(Rm 12:2). This is what the Child King, ChristMass does for people-inspires them to nurture Life and defend it "I came that you might have life, and life abundantly"(Jn 10:10) .

Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian lady, was sick and with child. Some medical persons counseled her to have a medical procedure to heal her cancer, which would then have probably led to kind of abortion. She, though, chose life. Perhaps she "spiritually heard" the prophet Jeremiah's report of God's creation of life: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" (1:5), and the Gospel: " blessed is the fruit of your womb"-(Lk 1:44). Her heroic response to Jesus, the Gospel of Life?: she chose to preserve her fourth child and undergo sickness ("Count it pure joy when you undergo all sorts of trials…" (Jas. 1: 2 ), and eventually died. The baby (bambino, in Italian) lived because of her love and heroism. .

This beautiful Italian lady was like you and me, a family person, a disciple living in modern society (she died at the age of 39 in 1962)-she enjoyed skiing, the piano and going to concerts of music-- the zest for life. But, perhaps, there is one difference between us: she lived discipleship heroically ("Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness, they shall be filled"-Mt. 5:6) . She was a pediatrician-doctor who saw with "eyes of the heart" (Eph 1): she once said, "As the priest touches Jesus, so we doctors touch Jesus in the bodies of our patients." She knew the Supernatural lived within the natural; she knew Christmas changed everything. Cardinal Jose Martins said of her: "She lived her marriage and motherhood with joy, generosity and fidelity to their mission." The Virgin Mary lived like that-with joy. From the Latin, gaudium, joy means delight; it is a "permanent disposition," compared to happiness, which changes according to passing things. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit-(Gal 5:22)-i.e "a perfection the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory" (Catechism: #1832). How can you allow the holy Spirit to form in you this Fruit, like Saint Gianna-even in your normal, mundane life? Generosity is a proper loving response to Love Itself ("For God is love…if so God loved us so we must love one another…and His love is brought to perfection in us"-I Jn. 4:8,11, 12). Saint Gianna manifested God in her daily, normal life and in that life-giving decision: how can you do the same this ChristMass season? Fidelity means faithfulness-even amidst trials and sufferings. Saint Gianna was faithful to Jesus, to her husband (who said of her as a "completely normal person"!), to her family, to her Church. How can you be faithful-heroically? "The Christian home is the Master's workshop where the processes of character molding are silently, lovingly, faithfully and successfully carried on." (Richard Milnes) Today the family is often-called the Domestic Church; as like a "spiritual greenhouse" of holiness. Jesus, Mary and Joseph modeled and gave us the First Model, now each of us, in our families, like Saint Gianna and her family, are called to do the same: "A happy family is but an earlier heaven." (Jon Bowring)

The Eucharist and Conversion

The Infant King still comes to us, not only thru the Celebration of ChristMass, but also thru the Holy Mass. Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican's secretary of Doctrine, recently said, regarding Pope John Paul's Encyclical, "Ecclesia de Eucharistic," that it re-proposes "the indissoluble bond between the Church and the Eucharist … in such an individualistic world."

Out tendency today, especially in America, is towards individualism (a me- first attitude, separate from other's needs, divorced from an objective morality and the Commandments, etc). This individualism is also manifested in , as Cardinal Ratzinger says, "the threats against peace and against the ethical foundations of humanity, which are confirmed in so many areas of legislation, especially in the technique of the reproduction of man, according to which man becomes a product ... But the reverse is also true. The Church is the vital area of the Eucharist. It is not possible to receive the Eucharist as private nourishment and then shut oneself in one's own individualism."

In loving and receiving Jesus-at ChristMass, in the Mass and in your prayer--how can you, like Mary, receive and give to others? Our world tends towards a false privativism. Jesus says: "You did not chose me, I chose you, that you should go and bear fruit and your fruit should abide" (Jn. 15:16) . The Virgin Mary received Jesus and refused to keep Him to herself-how can you?

How can you think more with Jesus' Bridegroom, the Church, instead of on your individual- alone-privatism? How can you seek and find and nurture Jesus as He passes thru this world in disguises (cf. Mt.25). As the Virgin Mary "married the Lord," so too we should. You are called to "marry" and love Christ Jesus.

Our souls are usually described, in the Latin, as anima, a feminine word-noun for soul. So, what is keeping you from being a Bride of Christ?

That concept can be seen in St. Anthony Mary Claret's constant prayer-chant, "Mary…Virgin and Mother," and is his explanation: "Mary is the heart of the church. This is why all works of charity spring from her. It is well known that the heart has two movements: systole and diastole. Thus Mary is always performing these two movements: absorbing grace from her Most Holy Son, and pouring it forth on sinners."

Mary is not God; she brings us to God. Creature par excellence, she shows us creatures how to be par excellence: by receiving and spreading. Receive God and give Him away. Be detached from even clinging to false concepts even of a "God" who can be contained. We may do one or the

other somewhat well-receiving graces (prayer) or spreading them (activism) --but perhaps not both. Mary was the perfect blend of both, "a seeming coincidentia oppositorum"-the co-incidence of opposites--virginal and mother; active and contemplative. We are, then, called to be like "spiritual sponges": first, we must be clean and receptive; then we must absorb the graces of God; and finally we are called to spread grace to others. Become one with Jesus. Absorb and spread. Receive and give. Be loved and love. When receiving the Holy Eucharist, avoid individualism and embrace saintly heroism! St Vincent DePaul once said, while he was praying in Church and was asked to help a poor person outside: "I am leaving Jesus to meet Jesus." Let us do the same. And, also, let us love and be united in our Holy Catholic Church as a treasure of Graces and blessings!

Divine Love and Disciples

The Son is always being begotten by the Father; and yet, He was borne in time, of the Virgin Mary. While this Timlessness meeting merging with Time (called aveternity)is a Mystery (a Holy thought which is not totally comprehendible by the rational mind, but by which the soul is enticed with the intellect and reverent heart to seek, surrender and then bow to in humility), we should do all we can to contemplate it ceaselessly: like a Mother Seton while changing diapers, or a Mother Teresa of Calcutta as we help the "disguised Jesus" in the poor, sick and dying. There is a prayer of the Church: "Lord; teach us to love the things of Heaven." Amen. This ChristMass what will be your response to these Divine Mysteries? Here is a poem to help you:

The Father is eternally Begetting,
His Son as in a kind of Divine Wedding.
The Holy Sprit pours forth in this Trinity,
While the Virgin shows us: become One in Divine Unity.


The Father is Father because He generates the Son: Fatherhood's nature is to surge forth, to give. (He does not, however, "birth" or "overflow" as some feminists and pantheists put it.) The Father is called the "ground" or "origin" of the Godhead (this means the union of all three Persons in One Divine Essence, before any time or perception--God as He is in Hiimself). Therefore, all Three Divine Persons are eternal--not created. Thus, there is, even in the Trinity, a kind of Hierarchy, with "originating Source," Sonship and "subsistent relations" (the Son to the Father, etc).In our lives we need hierarchies too: in the family (c.f. Eph. 5:21), the Church (Mt. 16:18) and world-but holy hierarchies! Think: Jesus is begotten--not born-of the Father, as this would imply change and creaturehood. Begotten: St Augustine helped us to grasp (as far as humanly possible) this by thinking of a thought within your mind. Your mind is like God the Father, the thought is like the Son-not separate from your mind, not totally different or "somewhere else" from the mind, but "begotten out of" your mind as an image and likeness of it; and the memory and re-membering, is like the Holy Spirit (the Bond of the two). The Trinity is kind of like that. We humans are images of the Blessed Trinity, however clumsily, and we too, like Jesus in His Incarnation, are born into time by birth; but we want to be born into eternity by spiritual re-birth ("born from above"-Jn 3:3). ChristMass, reminds us of our noble, mysterious, divine calling!

The Father is always begetting His Son: They are one in this endless divine process and the Holy Spirit is the fruit of this Love. Your "job" on this Earth is this: Like the Virgin Mary, in deep prayer you must desire (heartily look for) , receive (like the Virgin Mary: "Be it done to me…" -Lk. 1:46), and embrace (cling to, impress within) this Divine Begetting.

This is the most fruitful, loving, spiritual, beautiful relationship in the world-out of this world! Now, think of the Trinity as a waterfall. It is beautiful and attractive, refreshing and peaceful--like God (Ps 42). But what is the Source? The river or the Father is the Source. The waterfalls is Jesus ("Whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst"-Jn. 4:14),and the Pool is the Holy Spirit, Who is the Bond and Unity of the River (Father ) and the Falls (Son). They--the waterfall, river and pool are all One, but different, and while all, equal, are dependent upon the Source-Father. The saints desired, meditated upon God ceaselessly, embraced and then, when mature and fully mystified, continually "dove into" the Holy Waterfalls of the Trinity (cf Jn 17:21 where Jesus speaks of uniting disciples into the Trinity's Unity and Love) . The Virgin, disciple of the Divine par excellence, gave her soul to God continually and consistently: she went up to, into, the River, Waterfalls and Pool of Trinitarian Life, and let this Blissful Life pour forth upon and into her: "She treasured all these things in her heart"-Lk 1). So, then, the Trinity is like a Divine Family-One, united, personal , interdependent, and giving-forth. So, ,too, should our souls and families be.

How? Through prayer, deeper spiritual insight, thru sacrifices and serving, and holy contemplation: leaving the sometimes addictive world of the senses, the Virgin Mary and saints found and embraced the constant flow and exchange of the Father and Son, and the inspiration of the Holy Sprit, and desirously wanted to become one with this Divine Love. Do you? Cultivate and preserve this Sacred Desire-at all costs! But, remember: sin is like being on the outside of that Divine River, in a selfish desert, not wanting the Lord (because of too many earthly, partial delights), or not doing the essential things to unite our souls to Him(like spiritual disciplines after ChristMass). Saintliness, heroic prayer and sacrifice, is leaving all behind to penetrate, posses, and embrace the Divine Trinity-our truest, most perfect Family and Communion.

Because we are sinners with darkened intellects, feeble minds and wayward hearts, we cannot fully understand the Trinity's Light and Love. So the Lord came and comes to us in Christmas-as a Baby. From Sublime Mystery to linear history, God meets us to raise us up. The Virgin Mary shows us how: place your soul "there"-before and within that Mystery of the Godhead-the Father begetting the Son and the Sprit's inspiration and Bond, and like a pure glass receive the Divine reverberations of Love: "My Soul magnifies the Lord" (Lk 1)What else is there? Like St John the Baptist, say, pray: "He must increase, I must decrease" (Jn. 3:30). Look: Jesus came in Holy Poverty to give us His Divine Majesty: O Come Let us adore Him!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi