Homily: “On the Holiness of Eternal Light”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the First Sunday after Christmas, 2017.

In our Collect, we have acknowledged to God and affirmed it to be true that our loving Lord, the God of all creation, the maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen, has poured upon us the new light of His incarnate Word. And this incarnate Word is Jesus Christ, the newborn King. Upon the announcement of His birth by the archangel Gabriel, the Angels sang triumphantly. Upon the announcement of His birth, the Light of Heaven came into our world of darkness and confusion. Upon the announcement of His birth, all of the world is at peace: the conditions of our time and space are transcended, forever giving us a window to heaven in the embrace of Blessed Mary, Blessed Joseph her most chaste spouse, and the Christ child.

For in the embrace of this Holy Family we see love itself dynamic, love itself embodied, love itself pure and holy. It is in this holiness of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we share each Christmastide—the holiness of this eternal Light—as so how fitting our Collect is, that we ask God to grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives. For we are taught by our loving Lord Jesus not to hide our light under a bushel, but to put the light on a stand, that it gives light to all in the house.

The Incarnation of God as Jesus of Nazareth—in the fullness of time, born of a woman, Blessed Mary, born under the law—is complete, definitive, fundamental and for all time, yet within our time and space conditions of existence and mission, it remains unfulfilled if the Light of great mystery does not shine forth in our words and deeds. We must give our hearts to Christ that His Light so fills us that we are heralds of the Gospel in Tazewell County. God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” As we have gazed into the eyes of the newborn Christ and seen ultimate reality, we must allow others to see in our eyes this eternal love, this wonder, this peace of heaven.

For can we doubt that it was through the loving gaze of Mary upon her Son, the Savior of the world, the Son of the most high, the Son of God, that Saint John first learned that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. It was in the eye to eye gaze of Blessed Mary upon her newborn child, wrapped in swaddling clothes like newborn lambs were wrapped to keep them without spot or blemish to be acceptable offerings of sacrifice in the Temple, that Mary felt—truly felt!—this great mystery of tender love. She was face to face with the great brilliant light of the Son of God, the very expression of the invisible God. Can we doubt that even amid these first moments after His birth, as she attended to His baby needs, and as Blessed Joseph attended to hers (no doubt helped by Jewish midwives), in the contemplation of His glorious face, Mary heard deep in her heart the affirmation “This is my beloved Son,” the words of the Father that Jesus would hear at His baptism in the River Jordan. “This is my beloved Son,” perhaps an echoing flash in her awareness—and that He is your beloved Son, also.

Brothers and sisters, let us receive Him in our hearts. Let us receive Him like Mary and Joseph received Him—in prayer, in contemplation, in silence, and in love. For the Church teaches that in receiving Him into our hearts, we will be given grace upon grace. We will feel in our hearts what Mary felt in hers: the peace of heaven that passes all understanding. May this peace be exchanged eye to eye, and face to face. And may this peace keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.