Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"It's beginning to look a lot like..."

     This past Saturday my husband and I went to a healing Mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. We couldn’t help but smile when Pastor Fr. Michael Renninger began singing “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” He went on to tell us that he’d seen four Christmas trees up in a local department store where he went to buy a birthday card. He found it interesting that Christmas decorations were being set out in late September.
     The choir chimed in as did the rest of us when he started the Christmas carol again before answering the question which had popped into our minds—how is he going to tie this into the Gospel reading we’d just heard about Christ’s nativity and the reason for this particular Mass—the anointing of the sick?
     Fr. Renninger zeroed in on one specific passage from the Gospel of Luke 2: 6-7 “While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Then he narrowed down the explication of those two verses to examine just one word: “swaddling.” Mary wrapped Baby Jesus in “swaddling clothes,” meaning He was tightly wrapped up or bound.  Of course this is done to keep babies warm and give them a feeling of security, but it also restricts their movement considerably.  Why is this significant?  The Lord God, Creator of the Earth humbled Himself to be as helpless, dependent, and vulnerable as a baby—and one all bundled up at that—when He entered this world. 
     Christ could have appeared a fully grown man, but instead He came in the form of a frail, seemingly powerless infant.  When sick, we are weak, frail, vulnerable, and must depend on others; Christ is near to us, because He has been there, too.
     What an amazing God we have who would humble Himself to experience the poverty, pain, helplessness, total dependence, and powerlessness we experience as humans!
     Christ’s Incarnation, His whole life, Passion, death, and Resurrection are all present when we gather for the Liturgy of the Word and the celebration of the Eucharist.
     I was recently reminded of this when I read about an old Christmas tradition from Poland which ties Christ’s nativity to the mystery of His death and Resurrection which we remember each time we eat of His Body and drink of His Blood at Mass. Families in Poland, Slovakia, and Lithuania would break and share these Oplatki Christmas wafers with scenes of Christ’s birth on them as a way of symbolizing the love, unity, and communion we all share as part of members of the Body of Christ.
     I’m interested in taking part in this tradition this year because the significance of a shared meal with family has been even more deeply ingrained in my heart since my dad passed away and my youngest sister went off to college several hours from home. Gathering around the table to nourish our bodies and souls is a very powerful experience. I look forward to sharing the Oplatki tradition with my family this December.
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