A Jesuit Reflection on Christmas
Tags: Christmas, Jesuit, Jesuit Father Ladislas Orsy, jesuits, Society of Jesus
The following Christmas reflection by Jesuit Father Ladislas Orsy, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., is excerpted from an article that was first published in America magazine in 2005:
“When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run half of her swift course, your all powerful word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven from the royal throne” (Wis 18:14-15) “… and Mary gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:7). It was night. The universe turned silent. Mary held the child, her heart full of wonder. Joseph, her husband, sensed — no less than Moses by the burning bush — that the place where he was standing was holy ground (Exod 3:2). Then others came to worship: shepherds from the nearby fields, sent by angels; magi from the East, led by a star.
In Bethlehem, around the child, a small group gathered. In the presence of a mystery they perceived but hardly understood, the bond of faith held them together.
Twenty centuries have passed. Year by year, as the seasons turn, “all who received him, who believed in him” (John 1:12) gather around the child. The mystery has not aged; it is as fresh as it was in Bethlehem, and it has the same drawing force.
In the child our hope is fulfilled.
God’s incarnation, so the church fathers tell us, goes hand in hand with our divinization. In faith we find it, in hope we hold it, in love we live it. “So faith, hope, love abide; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). The proper celebration of Christmas demands that faith and hope should find their fullest expression in love.
But how to love well?
The pattern is set by our Savior: “Although he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God something to be grasped but he emptied himself taking the form of a servant, becoming as human beings are” (Phil 2:6-7).
We are called to follow the pattern: although we are in the form of human beings, we must not cling to our earthly expectations but must empty ourselves, blending into the plan that Wisdom conceived and that daily events reveal along our pilgrim way. It is a discovery of God’s love. As St. Ignatius says in the Spiritual Exercises, we must consider “how God works and labors for me in all creatures upon the face of the earth…in the heavens, the elements, the plants, the fruits, the cattle.” Yes, even in the cattle — even if they become furious and disorderly! God’s love is still at work in them. In such immersion in love, no room is left for despair.
But that is not all. Because we are invested with divine nature, because we received our share in a wonderful exchange, we have a mission, the same one that brought the child to Bethlehem. We are sent into a broken world to bring hope to “those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). In a world torn by violence we are called to be witnesses to the tender mercies of God. The perfection of love comes in the undertaking of this mission.
Enough words. It is Christmas night: let silence speak.