The marvellously radical nature of Christmas: Brother Artemio Vitores celebrates Holy Mass at the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

The marvellously radical nature of Christmas: Brother Artemio Vitores celebrates Holy Mass at the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem

Bthlehem, 20th December 2011

The Holy Mass held this morning, just a few days from Christmas, in the chapel of the Convent of Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, next to the Sanctuary of the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem, was intimate and full of anticipation. The celebration was presided by Brother Artemio Vitores, Custodial Vicar, and animated by the community of sisters who, as every morning throughout the period of Advent, brought the liturgy to life with the gentleness of service and Gregorian chants. As usual in this time of preparation for Christmas, the celebration was broadcast live by Tv2000 and could be seen in streaming on the institutional site of the Custody of the Holy Land.

The backdrop of the chapel of adoration where the Holy Mass was held was very moving, with its unadorned space and furnishings, which focuses all attention on the tabernacle holding the Eucharist, the living body of the Lord, on the fine golden crucifix, on the small altar, in front of which there is now an empty manger waiting, surrounded by splendid red poinsettias, for the happy event of the birth of the Saviour.

This birth of Jesus takes us by surprise and makes us more aware, Brother Artemio began in his homily, of the marvel of Christianity which lies in its concreteness and tangibility. “God is not an abstract entity, but a concrete reality, present in time and space, as we can read in the Letter to the Hebrews (1,1-2), “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe.” The Holy Land is the very place where the fullness of the times of the Revelation becomes real and concrete in space: here, in Nazareth, the Word became flesh; here, in Bethlehem, Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary. The story continues to the present, because Jesus is still and always present in the liturgy and in the Eucharist.” We bear witness to what we have seen and touched. “Because God,” Brother Artemio continued, “ became a man for our salvation, he became one of us. He worked with a man’s hands, he understood and thought with a man’s mind, he loved with a man’s heart. And he became flesh in the womb of a maiden from Nazareth, Mary. The figure of Mary is emblematic of a creature whose value lies, in the first place, in her faith: She opened the door so that God could enter the world thanks to her great faith, even before her womb. In fact, Mary offered herself to the Lord with simplicity and humility, like the poor woman of Yahvè who accepted carrying out the will of God. And we, who again conceive Christ in the Eucharist, like Mary we have to be capable of having him grow inside us, so that we can say with St. Paul: “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2,20)”.

This is the marvellously radical nature of Christmas, of a God who, becoming incarnate chooses the life of the greatest proximity to man, of becoming the living sign of divine friendship, as God, taking on our shape, on the one hand, comes to accomplish the project of the Father to build up a new alliance with all men, as the Prophets had announced, and on the other, raises human nature itself to the dignity of divine life. At Christmas, we can truly see, touch and kiss this God made a Child and make him our own, because “No one has ever seen God, The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (John 1,18) .

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti