Fr. Dermot A. Lane, PP
Christmas can be a strange time of the year. For many it is joyful, but for others it is a sad occasion, for some an excuse for excess, and for others an experience of loneliness. We live in a world of light and darkness, and at Christmas we seek out the light so we can cope with the darkness.
Looking back over the last 12 months, a number of events stand out. The publication by Pope Francis of his new encyclical “On Care for our Common Home” (May 2015) and the agreement by 195 nations at the UN Climate Conference in Paris in December 2015, both of which have been moments of light.
On the other hand the refugee crisis spreading throughout all of Europe, calling into question the core EU principle of solidarity, the terrorist attacks on innocent civilians in Paris with a death toll of over 130 people in November 2015, and reality of homelessness in Ireland, especially among children, are reminders of the darkness that surround us.
Our world is increasingly unstable, insecure and fragmented. Our universe has become disenchanted, a cold and empty place, seemingly indifferent to the plight of people. And yet, the whole point of Christmas is to bring out the warm, caring and loving character of humanity and of our world, and to be reminded once again that these dimensions are inspired by the birth of Christ-child in Bethlehem.
Christmas is about the birth of God in the form of a child, the advent of God in the humanity of Jesus, the entry of God into our world, the adoption by God of planet earth, summed up in the Gospel of John as the eternal “Word of God made flesh” in Jesus. The Incarnation of God 2000 years ago is not just a once off event; instead it is an enduring reality, reminding us that God is incarnate in every human being, in all creatures, in creation itself – if we would “open” our eyes, if we would “listen” to the cry of the poor and the earth, if we would “take time out” to be still and mindful, and if we would “look” around at the wonder and beauty of the world.
The underlying message of Christmas is that the earth is a sacred place and not a profane place; instead our beautiful planet is the dwelling place of the Spirit of God and the home of the Word incarnate. Here is how Francis puts in his new encyclical:
“The Spirit…is intimately present at the very heart of the universe inspiring and bringing new pathways” (238).
Many will be familiar with the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, writing, over 100 years ago:
“Earth is crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God: but only he who sees takes off his shoes” (Aurora Leigh)
Gerard Manley Hopkins could point out:
“The universe is charged with the grandeur of God” If we can “see” the energy of the Spirit in nature, and “hear” the Word of God in the words of human beings, and “discern” the action of the Holy spirit in the creative stirrings of the human spirit, there is a chance that together we may be able to heal the planet and handover a safer place to the next generation, as mandated by Pope Francis and the December Paris Conference on climate change.
On behalf of the Parish Team, the Parish Pastoral Council and all of our Volunteers I wish you a Happy Christmas and Peace throughout 2016.
to all who work so hard preparing the church and enhancing our Liturgies during the past year – The Cleaning Guild, Floral Team, Altar Society, Liturgy groups, Stewards, Choirs, Ministers of the Word, Ministers of the Eucharist, Maintenance Team and all who prepare and present Thursday evening prayer, Thursday morning prayer during the Summer months, and Advent morning prayer. Thanks to all of you who come and participate daily and weekly in prayer, devotions, the daily rosary and Eucharist. To all who collect and deliver for the church, those who prepared the crib and decorated the church for Christmas – your contribution is very much appreciated.