The humanity of God who becomes poor and fragile: Christmas Mass in the Parish Church of St. Saviour

Jerusalem, Parish Church of St. Saviour, 25th December 2011

Christmas Day Holy Mass was celebrated this morning at the parish church of St. Saviour, presided by Brother Noel Muscat, Discreet of the Holy Land, with the concelebrants including Brother Artemio Vitores, the Custodial Vicar. The event was attended by several members of the Franciscan community of Jerusalem, small groups of religious belonging to various congregations present in the Holy Land, friends and collaborators of the Custody and some local Arabic-speaking Christians.

In his homily, Brother Muscat accentuated the paradox between the mysterious choice of a God “who becomes fragile, poor and tender like the newborn baby who cannot live without his mother’s milk and the tenderness of an embrace” and the difficulty and resistance that we often show in welcoming this God, because often “we would like to be welcomed by the powerful, the strong and the great, not by the poor who live along the road” and we feel fear before the insecurity of “a God who becomes flesh, a Word that echoes in the silence of the dark night of faith in search of light and meaning.” Just as we can read in the Prologue of the Gospel according to St. John: “the light shines in the darkness,/ and the darkness has not overcome it. […] He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.”(John 1,5.11). Yet, this is exactly the path that, at Christmas, God chose to become man, to “become one of us.” Through this divine gesture of immense tenderness, the humanity of every man, with his poverty, his misery and his fragility, is collected and sublimated by God in the eternal grace of His perfect life.

Every man must therefore be looked at and understood in his resemblance to the Word incarnate, as a “trace of the Infinite”, as Emmanuel Levinas teaches, an opening through which God appears for the encounter and calls each person to responsibility towards his brothers. In particular, the face of the other, in his expressiveness, nudity and essential appears as the “idea of the Infinite in ourselves.” Levinas writes: “Placing the transcendent as a stranger and poor means preventing the metaphysical relationship with God from being implemented in the ignorance of men and things. The dimension of the divine opens forth from the human face. A relation with the Transcendent […] is a social relation. It is there that the Transcendent, infinitely other, solicits us and appeals to us. The nearness of the other person, of the one next to us, is a decisive moment of revelation in being, of an absolute presence (i.e. free of any relation), which is expressed. His epiphany is an appeal; it solicits us because it is destitute, in the face of the Stranger, the widow and the orphan.” It is here that Christmas shows the fullness of its value, leading us to recover the meaning and desire of a relationship with God in its essential nature, which at the same time reveals the essence in social relations and enlightens the human aspiration to live well.

At the end of the celebration, the participants exchanged Christmas greetings and many paused briefly in front of the beautiful Nativity scene which each year is set up in an original fashion at the back of the left nave, near the entrance to the church.

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Marco Gavasso

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