Friday ~ Saturday ~ 24 – 25 December 2021 ~. Bible readings for Vigil Mass: I: I. Isaiah 62: 1-5; Responsorial: Psalm 89; II: Acts 13: 16-17, 22-25; Gospel: Matthew 1: 1 – 25 or 18-25
In Celtic Catholic spirituality, there is an understanding of thin places. A thin place is seen to be a place where the space between the present and eternity is diminished, or thin. Such a place may be a pilgrimage path, a church, an holy well, or perhaps a graveyard. But this closeness of heaven and earth can also be a special time. A thin time is maybe a moment, a day, or an extended period.
Christmas, the celebration of the nativity of the Lord can well be a thin time. If we allow God to be with us. The indications of this are many especially as we look to the actual event. The angels were very much evident and at work before and after Jesus was born. Dreams also were very much a way in which God brought the hope and wisdom of heaven to those who sought to worship and care for the infant King of Heaven. Creation also was woven into this thinner veil of time when “heaven to earth came down”. The starry heavens that opened to the angels as they heralded the shepherd about the Savior born in Bethlehem all shared in the journey of God eternal into the stable of human time for this holy time.
And now, in the present and presence of a world with many conflicts and afflictions, in a world that for many has brought new religions of science, technology, and knowledge, can there be thin places? Or is this story we share on Christmas just a memory of things long past? Are the new, real thin places the journeys to outer space or the latest powerful thin smartphone or tablet that would connect us to worlds beyond our reach? For some their thin places may well be the things the world would offer. But that has always been the case.
This Christmas, in the Year of our Lord 2021, God would show us and lead us to those thin places where we can discover and know God, Christ as we never have before. As people of faith we are called to trust and know that the worlds, eternity are about so much more than what we may see or think. The Christmas season testifies to this even in the secular stories we share. Santa Claus, flying through the night sky on a sled bringing gifts to those whose hearts are good is a lesson that calls for the human soul to believe and know there is more to life than what we think we know beyond physical truth. The little elves that have helped St. Nick prepare those gifts speak of worlds and places that time and logic may not realize. The great authors and intellects, J.R.R. Tolkien, a Catholic of deep devotion, and his friend, C.S. Lewis, another man of powerful intellect and faith wrote volumes cherished by many that speak of thin places where good and evil are recognized. All these examples help us to realize that Christmas is just such a thin time.
The incarnation, the nativity of Jesus pierced and conquered eternity to enter our human condition and times. Jesus, born in a stable became man. It brings us to His thin place of humility. It is as we humble ourselves before our Creator, and kneel with the shepherds we can see God, Jesus, as we never have before.
Again, with the shepherds as we heed the call of the angels, we ascend through the thin veil of heaven as we glorify our God with our praise, with our worship. We allow our worship to grow, not just during this Christmas Mass but we realize that we are created to glorify God in the moments and days of our life, whatever they may bring.
This holy day, this holy time we enter the thin time when faith can grow strong. Without fear or doubt, we join Mary and Joseph as they too journeyed through their thin times and places…in faith. They did not always understand. They did not always know the way or full purposes of God. And they were not afraid to ask God, for guidance, wisdom, strength. But with those holy questions, they also were not afraid to allow God to answer.
And most importantly, this Christmas season is a thin time where love who is God can reach our souls. Even in a family or heart struggling with problems and wounds Christ is there. It is a difficult thin place of the holidays that often family, friends with resentments and grudges gather. Those conflicts can grow during those gatherings. But God brings us together into these thin, maybe tense times, to listen, to look past the wounds and failings, and to forgive.
For that is precisely why He came for us, for each of us, by name, so long ago. It is why Jesus shared the thin space and time of the wood of the manger that he could one day carry the heavy wood of His cross to know that time when there is no space between us and His holy embrace.