Monday 24 December 2012

Christ of the Altar and of the Street Corner

By Artur Suski, S.J. 


Every year, we celebrate the incarnation and birth of our Lord that is Christmas. We also go a step further: we believe in Christ’s words that he will return in the glory of his Father at the end of time. Therefore, we find ourselves somewhere in between these two great events: a historical moment of the past in one, and an unfulfilled one of the future in another. But ought we really stop at these two?

As mysterious and mind-boggling is the incarnation of God into this material universe, even more mysterious is his gift of self to the Church in his body, blood, soul, and divinity. That he came is one thing, but that he entrusted us with the gift of self in the form of the Eucharist, is something so awesome and incredible that we can only stand back and marvel at. That he would give himself daily for us, and he trusts us so completely that he leaves himself in our often less-than-capable hands? He must love us a lot to entrust himself to the Church so completely and unreservedly.

It is the sacredness and importance of this encounter with the Eucharistic Christ that Advent and Christmas remind us of. Advent is a liturgical season in which we joyfully await Christ’s coming. I hope that we are not so blind as to not recognize his real and palpable coming to us in the Eucharist. It is the same Christ that was in Mary’s womb for nine months; it is the same Christ that was born in a poor and filthy cave or farmhouse in Bethlehem. When we fall on our faces before him today, we are also falling before the newly born Christ in Bethlehem: “Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8).

More importantly, Christ is also present to us in those around us, especially in the poor. This manner of his coming can be one to which we frequently turn a blind eye. Indeed, Christ is present to us in the least of the society: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40). Comfort, social norms and other personal reasons keep us from responding to the Christ of the streets. Personally, I admit that I have not adequately responded to Christ’s call from the streets; yet there he is, looking us in the eye as we pass him by on the street corner. If only we had the courage to stop and say hello. 

Advent, then, is a time to more intentionally remind ourselves of how we have the opportunity today to meet and receive the Lord. He is not only a King that came long ago and a King that will return again on some unknown day; he is a King that is in our midst today, though often encountered without his royal crown. He calls to us from the altars of the Church as well as from the obscurity of the streets. Let Advent and Christmas be a time of striving for us – to strive to meet Jesus in others, especially in the poor, as well as to rekindle our devotion to his Eucharistic Presence.

A Merry Christmas to you all!

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