It behoves me at Christmas to give a few words of greeting and encouragement in the faith.
The incarnation, which we celebrate each Christmas, is as vital a doctrine to real Christianity as the equally vital Pascal Mysteries. Why? St Athanasius gives a succinct answer to this question, “For He was made man that we might be made God”, in other words that we might all acheive our full divine potential; that we might become holy. Most of us see that long term goal only in the far distance and hope we’ll live long enough to make a bit more progress on the road, but to help us on our way let us consider the average Christmas card. Even in our post-Christian societies, most of them still feature an illustration of Our Lady and the Baby Jesus. For Catholics - such as ourselves, in the Holy Celtic Church - Jesus and Mary go together like “Love and Marriage” or a “Horse and Carriage” - “You can’t have one without the other”, as the old song reminds us.
Just as Mary’s co-operation with Divine grace was necessary for God to become Incarnate, so every other grace that we receive from Christ passes through the loving hands of our Mother. She is truly the “Mother of Divine Grace” as the Litany of Loreto states. Furthermore, just as graces flow to us through her, so all our faith and works, sacrifices and gifts, are presented by Mary to the Holy Trinity. In fact if we would wish for the simplest possible Rule of Life, we might heed the motto of Abbot James Fox of Gethesemane, who recommended this simple formula to his monks, “All for Jesus, through Mary, with a smile”.
Therefore this Christmas, let us renew the consecration of our whole selves to Jesus through Mary; each waking thought (easier said than done I know!); each work we do for the church or the world; each sacrifice we might offer; but above all let us offer Him our love, for in the end that is truly all God wants from us.
Although in this church we are committed to the regular celebration of traditional Liturgy and the Divine Office, we offer this “Work of God” on behalf of, and in the name of, the universal Church, the Body of Christ, whilst as far as our personal spirituality goes I find that keeping it simple is often the best policy. As Our Holy Father St Benedict said “let the prayer" (after the Office) “always be short” and one of the best short prayers I know, and use many times each day, is the prayer revealed to the Servant of God, Sr Maria Consolata Betrone OSC, “Jesus, Mary, I love you, save souls”. Short as it is, this prayer is nevertheless very deep, theologically. Again we see here that Jesus and Mary are inseparable and we offer both of them our love, but not just for ourselves - no one goes to heaven alone - but on behalf of all mankind, for we are all brothers and sisters and children of the one Heavenly Father. This little prayer compels us to remain open-hearted to God which of course is nothing to fear, for as Jesus revealed to Sr Consolata, "Do not think of me as a harsh God, because I am foremost the God of love!”
So in 2015 let us live, Sr Consolata’s “Littlest Way of Love” as we offer “All for Jesus, through Mary, with a smile”.
Wishing you all a trule blessed and joyful Christmas,
Presiding Bishop and Abbot