Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Everything Begins in the Manger

We are in the final days of Advent, and if your life is at all like ours, you may be striving to prepare your heart for the birth of the Savior of humanity; to open room for him in the crowded space of our modern life – an effort that seems to require an ever greater search for peace, quiet and recollection at a time when the world is pressuring us to hurry up.

Our reflection this year has been made uniquely special by the presence among us of our first granddaughter, who was born on Easter Sunday this year. In some ways, the juxtaposition of her birth with the Triduum of the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord has guided our meditation and prayer this Advent, as we not only celebrate with joy the arrival among us of God made man, but also bear in mind his mission, and the path of his life that must pass inexorably through the cross before it obtains the empty tomb. There we are renewed in our joy, this time over the entry to Heaven He has won for us all by conquering death and sin in obedience to the Father’s will.

Blessed Alberione urged all of us who are Paulines to keep our focus on the manger in Bethlehem as a birthplace for all apostolates, plans and aspirations. Let us recall his words on the subject, from a meditation he shared with the Paulines of Alba, Italy on December 22, 1933:

The Manger is a Way:

“Here we must learn the practice of our life: how we should live, which path we should take.  The Son of God, undertaking the greatest work that could be completed on earth – promoting the conquest of the world  - delivered himself that his people might be saved, in order to establish a never ending kingdom on earth: and his kingdom shall have no end (Lk 1, 33).  To achieve all of this, He began from the Manger. Thus he leaves the splendor of Heaven, so to speak, where He is continually adored by the Angels, loved by the Father and the Holy Spirit, and comes down to earth: and the Word was made flesh (Jn 1,14).  The last Gospel of the Mass (recall that it was the practice to read, at the end of most Masses, the first fourteen verses of the Prologue to John’s Gospel), is the Gospel of Verbum Caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis (The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us).  I believe there are many who still fail to understand why the Church asks us to read this fragment of the Gospel almost every day.  The reason is this: The Son of God has come down from Heaven as Master; and the Father, when He has spoken of Him, has spoken of Him not just as our Master, but rather said: You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased (Lk 3,22); because his life was most holy and pleasing to the Father.  Consequently, He was worthy to teach.  No one is worthy to teach if he has not first practiced.  I would like you to remember well this point I have been meaning for some time to emphasize, in order that the Mass might be ever more fruitful.

The Manger is a Truth:

“The Manger is a summary of the Theology we study.  The way of the Manger has been prepared over four thousand years of history.  The Manger is the center of history.  It can be said that all rays can be traced back to this center and from it are emitted anew the rays that stretch out until the consummation of time, and project their vivid light for all eternity.

“The Manger is the lamp of humanity, the lamp that must shine light upon all men.  It is as when a lamp in a room fills up every corner with light. He was the one true light, that illuminates every man who comes into this world (Jn 3,19). Just as all has arisen from that point of light, that is the Son of God, essential Truth and Wisdom of the Father, so too all humanity’s theological science has the Manger at its center.

The Manger is a Life:

“All insist that the Manger is grace.  Sometimes it is difficult for us to practice poverty; we should recall that the Child practiced it and made it meritorious for us.  It is difficult for us to live humbly, in humiliation; we should recall that the Child practiced it and made it meritorious for us. We try to avoid mortification, but the Child practiced it and made it meritorious for us.  All the graces we seek and desire can be found in the Child Jesus, lying amid the straw, in the Manger.  Jesus is very poor in all earthly things, but is the richest in all that is eternal; what’s more, it is the wealth of the Father and of all mankind.  Let us approach Him with faith and express all of our needs.

“All the saints have drawn near to the Manger and felt a great love for it.  Let us recall St. Francis of Assisi.  The Church allows us to stage live representations of the Manger… Do we also share these sentiments?

“I offer you my best wishes in these days in which I would ask many graces from the Lord.  Let us go towards Jesus in humility and confidence.”

We hope that these few questions will help you prepare your heart to receive our Lord as the blessed night draws near.      
·         Am I conscious of the fact that the manger irradiates all light; as a result it is from there that all inspiration and motivation is born?  Do I recognize that the one true Master is Jesus Christ?  That sacred science begins there? All history, all the good works of the Church, everything begins in the Manger?
·         Am I conscious of the fact that everything is born of the Manger? Do I prepare my mind and my heart to receive the Lord in my life?  Do I take into account the way of the Manger? 
·         Blessed Alberione insisted that editorial work was not a commercial endeavor but a work of evangelization.  Extending that to my own life, what is it that is most valued in my apostolate: demonstrating my skills or being aware that I evangelize from wherever I am with the testimony of my life? 
May our Divine Master bless you and your families with the abundant riches of his grace this Christmas season and throughout the coming year.

Jim and Luisa McMillan are members of the Holy Family Institute, which they entered in Colombia in 2000. They currently reside in Colorado with their youngest daughter, Maria, where they work as translators and interpreters. Their oldest daughter, Gabriela is married and lives in New York with her husband, Fidel, and their daughter Emilia. Middle daughter Sara is currently attending graduate school in Michigan.

[1] From a Spanish translation of the Italian original; this text is an unofficial translation into English by the authors.

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