In this Christmas Season we read the prelude to the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word.” This reminds us of the first line in Genesis: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and earth.” The Incarnation, in effect, began with creation. The whole purpose of creation was to let God share and unite beyond the Godself. Creation was God’s means to have more to love.

And that Word of God from the beginning became incarnate. Billions of years before the Bethlehem census, salvation began–from the very first moment, from the Almighty’s command “Let there be light.” Creation has always groaned from that moment on.  Paul states in Romans 8:22, “Yes, we know that all creation groans and is in agony even until now.” The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, was not the only one experiencing pangs of birth in the story of redemption. She was united with the whole universe in its act of creation, which is an act of redemptive groaning. The Christ we are awaiting is part of the creation story, still straining and groaning toward its completion. We are still in Advent waiting for the Universal Christ.

As you pack away the manger scene, consider the wooden feeding trough in which the Infant lay. Joseph softened it with straw, and Mary wrapped the Baby in whatever softness she could. Were these holy parents embarrassed by such a poor crib? There’s a lovely Christmas song by Francis Patrick O’Brien titled “Wood of the Cradle.” Its lyrics compare the wood of the cradle and the wood of the cross, one of joy and the other of loss. Our God who was born in a manger died on a tree. Its final notes are enigmatic in their command: “Kneel at the manger and rise from the grave.”

Christmas and New Year’s were far from typical this year. Canceled parties. Family gatherings only by zoom. Expected presents never arriving in time. Empty chairs at the dining room table. Round the clock shifts in hospitals. Political and social uncertainty in unbelievable proportions. The wooden feeding trough was not a typical baby’s crib, but it held the Bread of Life—our blessed food.

On the day of the winter solstice many of us looked to the western sky to see Saturn and Jupiter in their closest proximity in 800 years. Unfortunately, thick cloud cover made seeing any star impossible.  It made me think of a line from an Advent song from the Saint Louis Jesuits: “darkness covers the earth; thick clouds cover the people.” But the song promises Light will come, “for a Child is born.”

Several of us Sisters went caroling to our Sisters of Notre Dame Center in Whitehouse, Ohio. While the sisters were enjoying dinner, we gathered at the windows very safely distanced as we waved and sang. A couple nights later we could see the two planets, but we knew that bringing smiles to forty SND “stars” was another way to see the Bethlehem Star.

Mary could have reacted with fear many times—the startling message of Angel Gabriel, no vacancy in the inn, Simeon’s predictions of swords piercing her heart, a caravan of camels and kings, a flight to a foreign country—all within a couple years and while she was still a teenager! Though her heart was racing, Mary reacted with the fullness of grace she possessed. Mary treasured what she heard and experienced and reflected on these things.

There will be plenty of challenging times in this new year. How will we react? Will we pause for prayer? Will we try to respond in gentle, kind ways in difficulties? Ask Mary today to help you throughout the year to treasure and reflect.

Happy New You!

January 1st, 2021 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

St. Paul writes, “Our inner nature is being renewed every day” (2 Cor. 16). Yeah, 365 days to renew our spirits! How can I “re-new” my spirit? Could my New Year’s resolution be to make a “new me”? How can I make 2021 a year for good things? Here’s a thought. Take your new calendar and occasionally put a mark on some of the days. Let the mark remind you to put some extra goodness in that day. At the end of the day—and at the end of the year–reflect on how focusing on goodness has renewed your spirit. Then praise, thank, and glorify God for God’s goodness.