«It is Christmas, once again.
The eyes of the heart and those of the mind have been captivated once again – as if for the first time, as though by a delicate and supernatural magnetism – by that Baby lying in a manger.
I believe that we all, regardless of our faith or convictions, feel the need to kneel down in our hearts and immerse our soul’s gaze in the light and peace of the Mystery that has come to visit us.
So that, on the outside, we may turn our gaze on the world we live in – with its contrasts, its contradictions, its darkness, its wounds, its promises, its hopes – and see it with new eyes.
Our eyes meet those of the Baby lying in a manger.
But the eyes, soft and tender, that look at the Baby before anyone else’s, are those of a young mother – she, too, almost a child. Only a moment ago, she wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in that manger.
The two actions Mary performs after giving birth are the most tender and the most ordinary aspect of a birth that takes place in such precarious conditions – here, the mind goes to the mothers who have given birth on overcrowded, unsafe boats carrying refugees and their hopes for a better world across the Mediterranean – : wrapping the newborn’s naked and defenceless little body and laying him in that manger, which resembles a wooden stable or a cave, a space meant for sheltering the animals that were perhaps there at that very moment.
Those actions, in their humble, poor, precarious simplicity, take on the solemnity of liturgy.
Giving birth is an act that involves Mary’s whole being. She has opened her heart, her mind and her body to the work of God, thus entering with full responsibility and with her entire self into the event that is unfolding by God’s will.
Wrapping her son in swaddling cloths tells of a mother’s loving care of the creature who comes from God, and is therefore God in himself, yet has now been generated in time and in the flesh in her, Mary, and through her.
Laying him in a manger means consenting to a destiny of love and sorrow for her son, who is the Son of God, according to the timing and the ways that the Most High will reveal.
In this scene, once again, we witness the paradoxical logic of divine intervention through the small and the poor: it is in this way that God has chosen to place his incontrovertible seal on the central event in the history of salvation.
It is the logic of the little seed, of kenosis, that defenceless act of self-emptying for the other which testifies the boundless and powerful mercy of God for his children.
No sooner has the sign manifested itself, than the skies seem to rip apart and a crown of celestial brightness forms itself around that messenger of heavenly tidings. He has woken up the shepherds: together, they sing the hymn of praise that, from this moment on and from the eternal book that bears this message, shall rise from the earth up to Heaven when the birth of Jesus is commemorated: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased”.
Mary, the Virgin of the Annunciation, the tender and loving Mother of Bethlehem, is the Theotókos, the Mother of God, the Mother of a God in the flesh.
The event that took place in a unique and extraordinary way with the incarnation of the Son of God in Mary’s womb is taking place once again. We, too, are children in the Child.
Thus, God’s cherished and eternal design for Mary Theotokos, the Mother of God in the flesh, is perpetuated until the end of time.»