Christians Form An Organic Unity
New Phase In Our Supernatural Evolution
0 NE of the reasons why the principal events in the life of Christ are called mysteries is that,their celebration on earth possesses a Divine fertility for meeting the needs of every age. The mystery of Christmas conjures up at once the familiar setting of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The picture is clearly etched in our minds, and its age-long appeal enhanced perhaps this year by the background of moral darkness which has settled on the earth and involved the nations in war. But it is not only in order to seek a refuge from the surrounding darkness that we pay our homage to the Infant God. The lessons of humility and simplicity and docility which contemplation of the crib always distils will this year assume a special significance. The restrictions imposed by war conditions on the customary secular festivities will enable us to gather more closely around the crib and make us more receptive for taking in the Divine message. Let us then approach and draw courage and comfort from the thought that it was not in the golden light of the noonday sun that the Almighty Word of God heft His royal throne but when " the night was in the midst of her course."
THE LESSON OF THE CRIB
THE stark reality of a God who is born in a manger in conditions THE the most abject poverty loses a great deal of significance for us when our lives are pursuing a placid course of normality. The upheaval of war with its consequent physical and mental strain and dislocation of domestic life disposes us more readily for dovetailing the sorrows of this Christmas into the experience of the Holy Family. The historic conditions which accompanied the physical birth of Jesus have a perennial value for us. The Infant in the manger was in full possession of the Godhead and the unearthly light which transformed the cave of Bethlehem without removing any of the squalor will find its way into our hearts too.
" Thy light alone—like mists o'er mountains driven . . v Or moonlight on a midnight stream, Gives grace and truth to life's unquiet dream."
This Christmas will seem to many an unquiet dream. But however harrowing our present circumstances, however bleak our prospect of the future, we can draw comfort from the Divine Child who was Himself full of grace and truth, and who assumed all th: limitations of a created existence simply in order to enter more intimately into our own perplexities and sorrows. The filial obedience and sweet submission of the Incarnate Word to all the ministrations of His Holy Mother will compel our stubborn wills to view the present chaotic pattern of events sub specie aeternitatis. God never works in us without our consent, and if we approach the crib with docility and meekness, the sorrows of this Christmas will be tempered and sweetened by that unearthly peace " which surpasseth all understanding."
REBIRTH OF CHRIST IN OUR HEARTS THE full significance of the Nativity will not come home to us by an external gazing at the familiar scene. The celebration on earth of this tremendous event is much more than a recalling to memory of the past. In Christ the temporal and the eternal meet so that all the events of His earthly life recoil on the destiny of mankind regardless of the changing moments of time which limit the span of each human existence. • Our Lord's birth took place two thousand years ago, but the march of the centuries can in no way lessen its significance. The celebration of this mystery by the Church on earth brings its meaning home to us not merely by recalling it to our minds, but by reproducing it dynamically within us. St. John says " to as many as received Him, He gave power to be made the sons of God." The celebration of Christmas is a rebirth of Christ in our hearts; a renewal of that power by which we are born " not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." This is a very different, perspective from an external imitation of Christ which, at the most, can only give us a superficial resemblance to Him. The Divine operation by which He is reborn in us means a fresh implanting of the Christ-life in the depths of our being, enabling us to realise more succinctly our destiny to be made conformable to the image of God's Son. This is no superficial resemblance but a genuine likeness which comes from Christ living His life in us : reproducing with our consent and co-operation His own Divine features in our souls. The spectacle of the " Architect of earth and heaven " wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying helpless in a manger will enkindle our desires to become humble and docile so as to place no obstacles to the Christian graces.
THE RACE " RE-HEADED " IN CHRIST
WEdo not achieve our destiny to be made conformable to the image of God's Son in isolation from each other. The natural unity of the human race which is derived from its common parenthood was uplifted and made capable of intensification by the advent of Christ. St. Paul describes the Son of God as " the firstborn amongst many brethren." He lives His life in us not only to enrich us individually but also to enable us to show forth an organic unity —the fruit of a common sharing in the Christ-life which unites us all to Him and to each other. Even in their purely natural state men are united not only as members of the human organism but also by the common bond of a Godward tendency. It is the desire for God that preserves man from becoming a " misbegotten animal." Although he cannot by his own unaided efforts upraise himself to an intimacy with his Creator, yet this longing for God is the natural portion of the human soul, " its immortal jewel, the most illuminating of the sparks of the Divine love which are shed on human nature." When Christ was born a new bond was created between men which gives to all who receive Him the power to possess Him. This means that the human race was " re-headed " in Christ and privileged henceforth to become living members of His Body which is the Church.
A UNITY OF DIVERSITY THE creation of this supernatural solidarity of mankind in the man Christ Jesus is not a levelling process which extinguishes national characteristics, but on the contrary takes them for granted. It is, however, only from a more widespread recognition of this Divine solidarity that any lasting peace between the nations can come about. That is why this aspect of the Incarnation is of such vital importance to-day. We do not expect all the nations of the earth to settle their differences in this way. The Kingdom of God on earth does not expand uniformly : its growth has always been accompanied by backslidings both in individuals and in whole nations. Nevertheless we can promote it by becoming more conscious of our organic unity in Christ's " Rex et Legisfer noster."
There is an abysmal difference between the unity of a living body and the unity constituted by a heap of stones. The latter is the result of an absolute uniformity. But the unity of a living body is an organic unity. It cannot function without the harmonious interplay of its individual parts or members. If the supernatural consolidation of mankind in Christ respects the great diversity of national qualities and gifts, it respects also the individuality of each human soul. Unlike the totalitarian State which strangles the dignity of the individual, the dignity of the Christian is enhanced by the presence of the Christ-life within him. Does not the Lord give Himself wholly and entirely to each one? We can well afford to be totalitarian Christians, but there is no such thing as a totalitarian Christ. His leadership is not exerted dictatorially. Nevertheless there is an imperative need for Catholics to rally more closely around Him and show forth in their lives that organic unity which was heralded by His birth in the cave at Bethlehem.
THE BEGINNING OF A NEW PERIOD I T may well be that the supernatural evolution of mankind is entering upon a new phase of its development. In his very thoughtful book, Liturgy and Life, Dom Theodore Weaseling writes : " We stand at the beginning of a new period. . . . The social period gave way to a period of transition out of which arose the period of individualism. The next period is going to be a period of synthesis. Man is neither merely social like the animal, nor merely individual like pure matter; man is an organic being. The spiritually organic conception is the only true expression of man. It synthesises the individual and the social in perfect harmony. . . This has been grasped nowhere with such prophetic certainty as in the ideal of the liturgical movement, which is the Apotheosis of the Christus Totus. We, of our generation, live in this organic period, or are at least called upon to prepare it." However provocative we may find this assertion, it cannot be denied that the trend of world events demands an ever growing realisation among Christians of their organic union with each other in Christ. On the night before He died Our Lord prayed for His Church : " That they may be one as Thou Father in Me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us and the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me."