The Mystery of Bethlehem: Fr Lucius Carey SSJE

efp084The mystery of the love of God seen by faith in the eternal life of the glorious Trinity is revealed to mankind in the mystery of Bethlehem. Jesus the Word incarnate, Mary the virgin mother and Joseph the guardian of the human life form the foundation of the Christian family, so that family life is now a holy, wonderful thing, filled with divine love and sanctified by the mystery of Bethlehem.

We meditate on the poverty of Bethlehem, we sing our carols by the crib and dwell on the exterior conditions in which the Son of God was born. Bethlehem stands for the life which lacks the humblest necessities—there is not even a place at the village inn, no cradle but a manger, a bare, lonely place which can offer nothing for the needs of the Holy Child—his parents must do the best they can with what God provides. This is a true and lasting inspiration, not just a passing emotion at Christmastide. Our Lord began by doing without many things—only a stable for shelter, the sky for a roof and the stars for candlelight. And yet this scene is the focus of light from which divine love will shed its radiance throughout the world.

As we see this light radiating from the manger at Bethlehem, we recognize that the presence we desire to cherish, before whom our whole life is bowed in surrender, is not given us for our own consolation but that it may shine out from within us. That is what being a Christian means, that our human heart should be enkindled by the love of God and radiate it into the darkness. Let your light so shine before men that they may … glorify your Father. The light of Jesus is not hidden, not forgotten, but is always shining forth if we are rooted and grounded in love, because it is love which has come, it is love 4 which abides and grows, burning with an ever brighter flame, which leads away from the knowledge of things temporal to the very source of eternal love in the heart of the Father.

Bethlehem is the focal point here in this world of the blazing light of the glory of God, and to that light we may aspire to attain. The holy Incarnation was the necessary means by which man, fallen and stained with sin, might be brought back and learn to know holiness as it is in God. But it is important to pass by way of the events in which God works his wonders, into that presence where angels worship him. The glory in the heavenly places is made accessible to us because the Word became incarnate and dwells in our hearts by faith and leads us along the way. He has passed to eternal victory, and when time shall be no more, we shall see the Christ of Bethlehem, of Nazareth, of the Passion, the Resurrection and the Ascension, and we shall know what is meant by eternal love and be filled with all the fullness of God.



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