Dear Members of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter,
Pope Benedict XVI has just published the third book in his remarkable series, Jesus of Nazareth. It is a delightful little book (127 pages!), a kind of coda to his previous two studies of the life of Jesus, which are very significant accomplishments theologically. There has been a lot of silliness in some of the reviews, that the Pope has decreed a new date for the birth of Christ. But his point is simple and clear: our focus should be on the great message of eternity: God came down from heaven and joined himself to one of us, so that through this Person we are able by adoption and grace to become His sons and daughters.
Ezra Pound defined poetry as “news that goes on being new.” This is one of the remarkable characteristics of Christmas. It continues to awaken wonder and hope in us. “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria” (Luke 2:1f.). Notice how St. Luke takes such care to locate the Incarnation at a real and objective point in history. How interesting, then, that the Incarnation should be the one great truth that transcends the ages.
This would have come as a complete surprise to Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor to proclaim his own divinity. His delusions about his own immortality notwithstanding, we remember Caesar Augustus today for no other reason than he happened to be the emperor when Jesus was born. Jesus became the hinge of history, the standard by which all lives will be measured – “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).
“All that is not eternal is eternally out of date,” C.S. Lewis reminds us. Many of the things our world thinks are so important turn out to be of little moment when measured from the perspective of eternity. Let us use this Christmas season to reflect on this truth and wisely invest for the future.
With my prayers and good wishes for a happy Christmas and invoking God’s blessing as we begin our second year,
Faithfully in Christ,
Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson