So different!

Yes, really! It is precisely through this holy night, Christmas Eve when Jesus Christ was born, when not only some things, but everything became different for humankind. Unbelievers and critics may ask us: really, what has changed? Wars, diseases, tsunamis, catastrophes, persecutions, death… we have been spared nothing, nothing has been eradicated. And how many times do we personally find ourselves in situations of suffering where we cannot find God. So, is it all our imagination and pious fairy tales?

A somewhat provocative counter-question: does Jesus promise us a land of milk and honey? On the contrary, he prepares all his disciples for difficult times and asks them to carry their personal cross with him and like him. Jesus himself did not exclude suffering and death in his own life but endured it to the very end. He is there, especially in the depths of our suffering.

God is very different!

God always seems to be very different from what we imagine him to be. He is not the great magician and benefactor we would like him to be, who simply takes away all the suffering in the world and fulfills all our wishes. The experience of suffering and our ideas of God often do not coincide. This tension that we often experience is precisely the never-ending dispute. The same thing happened with those who lived during Jesus’ era 2000 years ago. Jesus, the son of Mary of Nazareth, the Messiah, did not correspond at all to the purely human ideas of the Redeemer and Savior.

He did not present himself as a radiant king or a triumphant hero, but as a small, helpless human child. He was not born in a magnificent royal palace, but rather in a poor stable. He was not welcomed with a red carpet and solemnly applauded but rather pushed out of the city. Only a few humble shepherds and later two elders in the temple saw in him the promised Messiah. Some outsiders, stargazers from the East, also spoke of him as the newborn King of the Jews.Jesus

Later some said: Oh, we know him, we know his family, he is the carpenter next door.

Jesus did perform many healing miracles, he healed people of their suffering. But in a greater and profound sense he is the King, the Savior, life itself, the Almighty who is rich in mercy, the Savior who heals many human diseases, the one whom all nations will worship.

Relatively few people saw further, saw deeper, saw something in Jesus, the man, that is invisible to our eyes. With the eyes of faith, they recognized in Jesus the promised Savior and Redeemer.

Would we have recognized Jesus for what He really is?

Saving us from the tsunami

Jesus came to save us humans from a tsunami that deprives us of more than earthly goods or earthly life. In the Holy Scriptures, especially in the Christmas message, we read about the “Savior,” of “salvation,” of “God with us.”

“Today, in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Christ, the Lord.” (Lk 2:11) This is the joyful message heard by the shepherds.

Born of the Virgin Mary

Jesus - Geboren

At Christmas we celebrate the beginning of God’s “active rescue” through his only begotten Son. This salvation is closely linked to the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.

In the Creed, which was developed among disagreements during the first Christian centuries, it says: “We believe… in one Lord Jesus Christ …… For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, became incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and became man.” (Praise to God 586, 2)

It was therefore very important for the early Christian communities to see that God realized his plan of salvation through Mary. Whether Jesus or Mary herself revealed the secrets of the birth of Jesus to the apostles and disciples is not directly stated in the Scriptures. But evidently the widespread opinion was that Jesus, the eternal Word of the eternal Father, the Most Pure One, certainly could only be born in a “royal palace,” in a dwelling worthy of Him, from the womb of a mother who was never touched by sin.

Later theologians reflected regularly on this mystery of Mary’s virginal motherhood until they found a satisfactory justification in the explanation: Mary was preserved from hereditary sin in view of the redemptive death of her Son. At no time in her life was she touched by the surge of sin. She is the pre-redeemed, the fully redeemed and the first redeemed of all creation. The destructive wave of the flood has stopped before her.

An incident in the history of the Israelites illustrates the importance of Mary as God’s new Ark of the Covenant for us. The people of Israel, who had long been wandering in the dessert, wanted to cross the Jordan. Joshua encouraged the people with the following word from God:

“Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan.  And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” (cf. Jos 3:11-17)

In fact, that is how it happened. It was the Ark of the Covenant, the presence of God, that enabled the people to safely cross the streams of water.

The parallels with Mary are very easy to see. Mary is the ark of the New Covenant because she carried Jesus Christ in her womb. God is present in her. Wherever she sets foot, evil and the wicked must yield. To this day, her task is to lead the influx of sin away from us and to lead us safely to the Promised Land, to the Kingdom of God.

One might ask: to what extent do we really know “The Authentic Mary”? Does the ideal image of our humanity made by God really need a man-made update, a new version 2.0, as is often requested?

Is it not rather that all who belong to Christ need “The Authentic Mary” to walk together on a right path of renewal into the future?

Recently, a man wrote to us about how he experiences Mary’s healing closeness in times of crisis and how the encounter with her makes his joy in the Jesus Prayer, which he has been practicing for 18 years, grow:

I am very happy to have found a sliver of home in Schoenstatt, even in the tough times we are living through. My wife and I have a big room with plants. She calls it “Silent Oasis”. In the center we have placed a large image of the Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt. When I can’t take it anymore, or when my illness becomes too intense, I sit in front of this image and let it act upon me in silence. Afterwards I always feel well and can go back to my daily activities. Our Lady takes care of us and I believe she also guides us through life. He concludes by saying: “Afterwards, I always look forward to praying to Jesus again.”

Meditation on the image

Jesus - Geboren

The picture on the cover of our letter, painted by one of the sisters, Sr. M. Roswina Hermes, can inspire us in this and in further reflections. Here are some ideas for additional reflection:

The center of the image is Jesus, as a child.

Mary, his mother, is seen from the edge of the painting, toward this center. She shines just like her son with an almost dazzling light. Jesus lies on Mary’s outstretched arms. These arms receive and transmit at the same time.

Mary’s dark, purplish-red robe, though large and powerful, is pushed aside by this light.

Both are surrounded by a crown of bright red flames. Involuntarily, the story of the burning bush comes to mind. Moses heard God’s name from the thorn bush: I am who I am. In the Christmas mystery, God’s name is embodied through Mary, the Virgin.

Both Jesus and Mary are disproportionately large compared to the crowd of people crowded around a small church, here depicted as a Schoenstatt chapel.

The image takes us into the historical mystery of Christmas, a divine mystery.

The angels are also witnesses to this event. In the upper left side of the image, an angel is depicted with face and wings.

At the same time, the painting portrays the Christmas Eve phenomenon as a renewed miracle of Christ’s birth today, that is, in the hearts of those who wait and yearn with raised hands and heads to receive Jesus.

 

Where Mary is, there is God,

Where Mary is, she brings Jesus.

Where Mary is, everything becomes bright and pure.

Where Mary is, the stream of grace flows.

Where Mary is, the encounter with God takes place.

Christmas today.

Christmas in my heart.

Christmas in me.