From Our Pastors
In the tenth month since the first reported case of Covid in New York City, in the forty- one weeks since the suspension of public liturgy, in the one hundred and seventy fifth day since the restoration of public worship, while still wearing masks and observing social distancing, we come to the feast of Christmas, in which we mark the birth of Jesus. We all know the story from the gospels of Luke and Matthew. A child born in an obscure place, with stars and angels, shepherds and magi in a picture of tranquility and peace.
Yet life is not all tranquility and peace. Those who critique the Christian faith often raise the objection: In the face of suffering and loss, why the lack of obvious divine intervention? Why honor a God who seems to stand by and watch almost helplessly in the face of human suffering? Perhaps worse, some see a God who is cruel and heartless, allowing the innocent to suffer and flounder. If to be God is to be all-powerful why then does God not use that power for to fix the creation supposedly born out of Divine love?
This challenge to our faith is why for us the birth of Jesus, the Incarnation of divinity in humanity is so important. Pierre Descouvemont, a French diocesan priest and theologian has written extensively on the paradoxes of the Christian faith. In his work, Dieu, souffre-t-il? (Does God Suffer) he explored the question of whether God suffers. It is precisely the humanity of our God in the Incarnation that offers us hope as God enters into the human condition which includes human suffering. God, the divine mystery, sets aside the privilege of power, of authority, and becomes flesh, flesh that exalts and suffers, tastes, touches and bleeds. Yes God, suffers with us in our burdens and pains, our losses and illness - not remotely, but intimately. The enfleshment of our God is not captured in porcelain figures or paintings of idealized past events. Rather, God is in the details of the day, woven into the sinews of our bodies and the spaces of our hearts. God is embedded in the isolation and separation we feel and through Jesus holds fast to us in our loneliness. The Divine in infused in the fabric of our lives in ways so often unseen in the moment.
As we gather this Christmas, whether we are together or alone, connected by technology or through posted cards with handwritten messages, our God enters in. In our humanity interwoven with divinity, we are touched, comforted, wept over and laughed with by our God in Jesus. In the midst of all that challenges us we hold to the promise that the birth of Jesus changes everything.
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:13
With the Fathers and Brothers of the Oratory, we pray your Christmas may be grace- filled. Let us know how we can continue to assist you. We are with you in these days and together - God is with us – Emmanuel.
Fr. Michael Callaghan c.o. and Fr. Mark Lane, c.o.