This is my Body, given for you
As we draw near to our God this Christmas morning and receive the great gift of His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, let us not hesitate to give ourselves back to Him. Let us enter the holy game, feel the uncreated rhythm, and join in the eternal dance which sanctifies us and the world. Let us also have a Merry Christmas!
This is my Body given up for you!
KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - Christmas is a time of giving. Giving a gift to others is a good thing, but it points to a deeper meaning. We will not find this deeper meaning under the Christmas tree, but it is not a bad place to start. The deepest meaning, however, is found in the Eucharist because the Eucharist is the absolute fullness of giving in the physical universe. So with this thought in mind, let us reflect on God's gift of Himself to us.
"'The Eucharist. . . is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit'" (1325). This quotation is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, yet it fills our minds with images and inspires us like good poetry. So what does this divine verse reveal to us?
He is not a poet or a theologian, but Peter Kreeft, a Boston University professor and Catholic philosopher, may be able to help us answer our question. In order to find an answer, Dr. Kreeft does what philosophers generally do: he goes digging all the way back to the beginning in search of the root of the matter, in this case, all the way back to the nature of God and the beginning of creation. The following is a summary of part 3, chapter 4.2 of Dr. Kreeft's book Catholic Christianity.
God's inner life is one of infinite perfection and triune love. It is a life of total giving, the continual and total pouring out of Himself to an infinite and perfect degree. In addition, though fully complete and blessed within His own inner life, God goes beyond His inner life. He desires to pour Himself out beyond Himself, to share his blessed and happy life. This is the reason God created the universe and gave us the gift of existence.
Moreover, God wants to share His life with us. He wants us to enjoy His love in this life and the next. Thus, He revealed Himself to us through His chosen people, through whom He established a covenant; He revealed His laws; He sent His prophets; and He fulfilled the covenant Himself by sending His Son, Jesus, who continues to reveal God's presence in the world.
Jesus was born, lived, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven in order to redeem us from our sins and unite us with God. Jesus also continued God's paternal pattern by appointing apostles, establishing a church--his Mystical Body--and instituting the Eucharist, which is Jesus whole and entire (Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity) and the mode by which he remains in the world.
Dr Kreeft also says that we can understand the purpose of the universe by looking at a cathedral, because all creation is a gigantic cathedral. "Every detail in the great medieval cathedrals," he says, "was for the Eucharist. They were built primarily. . . to house the Eucharist" (321). Similarly, the Church that Jesus established on earth is for the Eucharist.
"The Eucharist is the most intimate union between us and Christ that exists in this world" (321). Love's ultimate aim is union, and the Eucharist is the most perfect expression of God's triune life of love. The conclusion, Dr Kreeft says, is that God created the universe for this loving union. In this respect, the poetry of God's action and man's worship reveals the following:
God has given us His all. Jesus poured his divinity into our nature. Then he poured himself out completely on the cross. Then he humbled himself even further, becoming "ground wheat." Jesus gave himself away completely. He loved the Father and us perfectly. All that remains is for us to accept God's great gift of love and give it back to Him by living Eucharistically and entering into His triune life.
Although he is not Catholic, the famous Christian author and scholar, C. S. Lewis, gives us a beautiful description of this life in his book, The Problem of Pain. He begins with the concept of self. He says the self exists to be given away, and in self-giving we touch a rhythm not only of all creation but of all being. The complete description reads like theology, metaphysics and poetry all rolled up in one small package. It is well worth meditating on. I have included it below:
"The golden apple of selfhood, thrown among the false gods, became an apple of discord because they scrambled for it. They did not know the first rule of the holy game, which is that every player must by all means touch the ball and then immediately pass it on. To be found with it in your hands is a fault: to cling to it, death. But when it flies to and fro among the players too swift for eye to follow, and the great master Himself leads the revelry, giving Himself eternally to His creatures in the generation, and back to Himself in the sacrifice, of the Word, then indeed the eternal dance 'makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.' All pains and pleasures we have known on earth are early initiations in the movements of that dance: but the dance itself is strictly incomparable with the sufferings of this present time. As we draw nearer to its uncreated rhythm, pain and pleasure sink almost out of sight" (157-158).
As we draw near to our God this Christmas morning to receive the great gift of His Body and Blood, let us not hesitate to give ourselves in return. Let us enter the holy game, feel the uncreated rhythm, and join in the eternal dance which sanctifies us and the world. Let us also have a Merry Christmas!
Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Christmas, Eucharist, Jesus, Gift, Peter Kreeft, C.S. Lewis, Michael Terheyden
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