December 20, 2013

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Love is at the root of the reality of Christmas

Sean GallagherChristmas has become such a driving commercial and secular reality in society at this time of year that it can be easy for Catholics to allow the overwhelming truth at the heart of this holiday to pass by unnoticed.

We celebrate at Christmas the reality that Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, freely chose to take on human nature with all its limits. He who had existed from all eternity in a way that infinitely transcends anything we can ever know in this world bound himself to all of the trials and tribulations of our human existence.

Yes, this life has many blessings. But it also has more than its fair share of suffering that Christ never experienced in his life in the Trinity. Yet he chose to embrace this life in its fullness nonetheless.

Msgr. Romano Guardini was a mid-20th century German theologian whose father was an Italian diplomat. He struggled to understand this reality of Christ taking on human flesh, which we call the Incarnation.

In his classic book about Christ, The Lord, Msgr. Guardini acknowledged the difficulty of understanding why someone so utterly transcendent would do such a thing. “Before such an unheard of thought, the intellect bogs down,” he wrote.

Then a friend invited him to view the problem from a different perspective, which “helped my understanding more than any measure of bare reason.” The simple explanation his friend gave for God’s motivation behind the Incarnation was, “‘But love does such things!’ ”

In those five short words, something of the veil of the great mystery of the Incarnation is lifted up and we are brought at least part of the way into the very heart of God.

It helps us, within the limits of this world, to get a grasp on this divine reality that makes life in this world bearable.

It is love that leads young spouses to do such things as forgoing worldly pleasures by opening themselves to the gift of children—children who lead those parents to spend hours awake in the middle of the night, not out on the town, but with a baby that has trouble sleeping or in the bedroom of a sick child.

It is love that leads parents to do such things as have high hopes for their children, but allow them to shape their own dreams and aspirations as they grow.

And it is love that leads spouses to do such things as to care for each other as their bodies and minds fail in old age.

It is these things and so many more that love leads us to do in our families. Love leads us to forget ourselves and look after the good of other people.

“If even human love has its own reasoning, comprehensible only to the hearts open to it, how much truer must this be for God,” Msgr. Guardini asked. “When it is the depth and power of God that stirs, is there anything of which love is incapable?”

If we take these reflections of Msgr. Guardini to heart, then Christmas is no longer a time to celebrate a historic relic of the past or a secular holiday devoid of meaning. It becomes tangible here and now and sheds the warm and beautiful light of love on all the challenges of our daily lives.

Knowing in this way the love of God that leads him to do such things for us can be a powerful grace. It can impel us to give of ourselves in love to others in our lives—the greatest gift we can give them. †

Local site Links: