A Reflection on the Incarnation

As I write this article we are coming to the end of Advent and entering the Christmas season.
It is a hectic time of hustle and bustle and long queues in the shops made worse this year because of the fear of unexpected lockdowns. For many, Christmas has lost its focus and has become a celebration of consumerism. This is, of course, in complete contrast to the homelessness and squalor experienced by the people involved in that first Christmas. From the very beginning Mary and Joseph and Jesus experienced all the hardships and uncertainties of human life. Yet the birth of this child changed the whole world. It is described by the prophet Isaiah as the wedding of heaven and earth. “You shall be called ‘My Delight’ and your land ‘The Wedded,’ for the Lord takes delight in you and your land will have its wedding.” (Is.62:1-5) In this child, earth has become the dwelling place of God. “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, a name which means, ‘God-is-with-us’ (Matt. 1). This truly came about in that little stable in Bethlehem. Jesus was laid in a manger, the feeding trough of animals, and he became food for the world, food that would lead to eternal life. His earthly life was short but the Risen Lord, the Cosmic Christ, “will be with us till the end of time” (Matt 28:26), “when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21).

In the New Story of the Universe, we are told that creation began with a flaring forth. God’s Word took form in the stars and galaxies, the sun, the moon, the whole of the earth, mountains, rivers, seas, birds, fish, insects, animals and, finally, the Word became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.

Ilia Delio writes, “because the Word became flesh, the whole physical universe is inhabited by God, everything becomes the locus of God, everything is transformed into Christ.” (God, Evolution, and the Power of Love). This is an incarnational worldview, the presence of the divine in everything and everyone. It requires a new way of looking at the world. A new way of seeing Christ at the heart of the universe, in all cultures and religions, in all peoples especially the poor, the homeless, the migrants, the marginalized and in the cry of the earth. To live the gospel life today is to live on “a new level of consciousness, a spacious mind, like Jesus, a deep awareness of oneness with God and neighbour, a consciousness of belonging to a whole” ( Ilia Delio, Making all things New)

As Holy Family members our charism of Communion calls us to live this communion with each other and with the whole universe. The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity and participation in it gives us the strength to take up this challenge. “The Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation. The world which came forth from God’s hands returns to him in blessed and undivided adoration: in the bread of the Eucharist, ‘creation is projected towards divinisation, towards the holy wedding feast, towards unification with the Creator.” (Laudato Si 236)

The Eucharist has a special place in the life of the Holy Family of Bordeaux. The Miraculous Benediction of 1822 was a special blessing for the Association. At the time of the Apparition the small community of young women had undertaken work without a whole lot of funds. They were very troubled by the criticism they were receiving inside and outside the church. The superior, Aimee Noailles, prayed for a sign, “With more fervour than usual, she addressed the Lord on the 2nd of February, Feast of the Presentation, begging him to give her a sign of his will. And the sign was soon forthcoming, it was the apparition of Jesus himself in the monstrance, blessing the work” (B. Peyrous). The Founder received verification for his spirituality of God Alone from the words heard by Milady Peychaud, “I am the One who is and there is only I who am.”

Rose Sullivan (Holy Family Lay Member)