Rejoice! Emmanuel has come: God with us!
Dear Parishioners and Friends,
“Rejoice! Emmanuel has come: God with us!”
During these 12 Holy Days of Christmas we may rejoice gathering with family, simply being with one another again bridging long distances.
Because I’m still recovering from COVID, I will not exactly be able to be with my primary family to celebrate Christmas – that is, at the altar with you, my beloved parishioners. I’m deeply grateful to Fr. Lou Cerulli for celebrating with you in my stead.
This prompts me to realize perhaps I have taken for granted the privilege of being together as Christian family on Christmas Eve. It’s only Thursday and I’m missing the masses already!
And it impresses upon me why Christmas happens at all: God so yearned out of pure love to be with us, whom He created out of pure love. So He sent His Son to humbly come among us in poverty and suffering, under military occupation, as Christ and Savior. He comes amidst fear and brokenness as the Prince of Peace, with the Angels choirs declaring, “Peace to be people of goodwill.” What an amazing God! And then He invites us to extend His peace with our needy world.
A Christmas Gospel (Matthew 1:23) declares the fulfilment of that prophesied centuries earlier (Isaiah 7:14), “Behold. A virgin shall bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, God with us.”
My favourite icon is a representation based on this prophecy, depicting the very purpose of God with us. Jesus, the Word made flesh, comes in silence and humility with his right hand blessing from the womb all who are created through Him. Mary, Mother of the Church, obedient to the Father’s will, yearns for His visible coming at His birth.
Indeed God’s desire is mirrored in the deepest longing of the human heart, in all our joys and sorrows, in our celebrations and our brokenness to have God come to be with us. It’s picked up in a translation of the popular Advent hymn ("Wake, O Wake!”, Wachet Auf, music by J.S. Bach), where Zion symbolizes Mary as the Church:
On Saturday I actually will be together with you: fulfilled in communion, “Where in thy supper we may share,” through the Word made Flesh. In the late afternoon I will privately offer Christmas mass with special intention for you, my family - for St. Thomas More and St. Willibrord. As I call Jesus down onto the altar, body, blood, soul and divinity, really present where he longs to be with us and for us, I anticipate hearing over my shoulder the angels choirs singing, “Heaven and earth are full of your glory.”
Emmanuel, God with us, is fulfilled at Christmas. In His goodness, Jesus extends His presence to us every Sunday mass. This Christmas, may you re-discover this yearning in your hearts, and find it fulfilled every mass. May Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, thus constantly enrich, sustain and enliven you each Sunday in the mass and in every way, that you may be a witness of His peace to the world.
Emmanuel, God with us!! Glory to Him in the highest!
Yours in Christ, the new-born King,
Father Robert Assaly+