By Fr. Thomas Corbishley, S.J.
AS the Crib is opened on Christmas Eve, we sec, gathered round the Christchild, the shepherds. who represent the Jewish people.
Traditionally their visit is taken to symbolise the call of the Gentiles, so that the full story of Christmas manifests the universality of Christ's kingdom.
It is not inappropriate to suggest that it is no accident that these v iS1tors from afar are tolled Magi. "wise men". or. in the rendering of the New English Bible. "astrologers-. In other words. they represent not merely the world of the Gentiles. but the world of Science.
Perhaps we ton go further and suggest that that fortnight's delay may he taken :is hinting at the reluctance of the world of science to recognise Christ and rill that Ile stands for.
For we believers have come to take it almost for granted that we shall not be joined. at least for a time. by so many of our contemporaries who profess to hind our faith intellectually unsatisfying. where it is not sheerly mina:ening And this may well ha, e a somewhat dampening effect on our own enthusiasm. As Father Tcilhard de Chardin puts it: "What Christian. who has become aware of a sheet of glass insulating him from his nonbelieving colleagues. has not asked hiri,,Clf Whether he was not on a false tack of had not actually lost touch with the main current of mankind?"
It is well. then. that W.c should face up to Ibis ',cry real problem tied ask ourselves how we Can not only make the Christmas message more meaningful to ourselves but also try to taimmunicate 0 to others in a way 1S h ss ill command their respect even if it does not win their allegiance.
SO We hegin by reminding ourSelves that the setts. of Christmas. the actual historical events which enshrine the great divine achievemeet of the Incarnation. 'mean that Um:seated Wisdom clothed itself in human form. united itself with a human intellieense and a human consciousness. assumed a Iles form of esperience In our awareness ell the !remelt-ig‘Nifi0041505CU'OLS1/1049-KACITZ.f0 does nature of this happening, we may.. if we are not on our guard. tall into the mistake of supposing that this rnust mean a dwarfing of our homan importance. an all-but obliteration of our human striving.
The truth is precisely the opposite. The fact that. henceforth. human achievements can he thought of not simply as human achievements. but as having now a ells ins coefficient. enhances their signifiearleC.
The beggar-amid is ennobled by Cophettta's lose: her value is enhanced by his concern. Christians therefore has C every reason to be doubly proud of their honourable activ ties. since: these activities. valuable as thee arc in their own right. must he seen in the rich setting of their supernatural transfiguration. Non minuit vet' +ucravit.
God's sharing of our human !lit means that the -.secular" :+nd the "sacredhese been fused. as the two Natures in Christ are fused in one Person.
It has to he admitted. of course. that far too many. Christians. bemused by a fake inierpreiation or God's dealings with mankind. has fallen into a sort of Quietism. supposing that the initiative rests so completely with God that man van only he passive under the Divine action.
But the Di y inc fiction is itself frustrated if lean does not play his part. eid. in some mysterious way, has chosen to rived man for the I illfitment of His diy inc purposes.
(sod eornmitted the world to the care of man: man denies both himself and Gild if he refuses to exert himself.
But we are still puzzled. perhaps. by the undeniable fact' that so much of man's exertions and achievements seem 1,, lie outside the limits of Code direct action.
We can point to the not unimportant part which the Church has played in the promotion of cis ii ked conduct amongst men. But. if 11C are holiest. yye base to admit the 1;o-tees:ale 'Afire of many Christians to work seriously for the welfare of their fellow-mete Nor can we f.aii to recognise hoe, much of the technical priestess which has so el-catty contributed 14) the promotion of human prosperity. comfort. health and education has been the result of the devotion of men who, far from being inspired by Christian principles. have often actually rejected them, Yet such rejection should not dist orb us overmuch. Whether or not men arc consciously activated lei Christian ideals it remains true that vv hie-eelworks for the good or mankind is an ally of God.
It is impossible for us to know hares 11101 stand in the tees of God. But s%c may be sure dial those who toil for the sake of God's children will not go unreearded by their leithcr.
Vvisen. Ilea This. 15 C kneel flame the Crib this ( hien-me; and watch the Wise Men p,t ying their homage Loeniert have recognised the Creator of ..h world. let its see in them the representatives of all those vv ho. .111 (°!,,,''slwai trice' tr° 1h(gcnclosity the incense of their art. the trivia h of their integrity -1./11COnscis111Sly or iny ohm tarifa such rnen C1'111111141 rale in the k inedom of God and in the fulfilment of the elect: their efforts. wing Isevond or correcting their incomplete or had intentions, arc gathered in by Him 'whose ences.y. subjects all things to itself'.
slim that is no more than second best. ,r temporary phase in the organisation of human activity, Right Pion) the hands that knead the ilotich to those that consecrate it, the tercet the universal Host should he prepared and 1s:indica in ,t spirit of at/or.: th ''May the time cremec when men. having been awakened to a sense of the close bond link Mu all the movements of this ',odd in the single. all-embracing work of the Incarnation. shall be unable to gi1c themselves to any One of their tests without illuminating it with the clear s ision that their work is received and put to good use by a Centre 01 the universe."
These profound words. quoted again from -1 cil hard de Cho rd in. may well sen c Its the sulljecl-roatter for our meditation this Christmas, I 6.11', if the Incarnation does not mean at least this to iis its worth has become unbearably impoverished. th