Among the numerous reflections related to Christmas that one comes across, especially from among the saints, is that of Blessed James Alberione who gave his 10-unit Pauline Family Jesus Master: Way-Truth-Life as the very basis of the Pauline charism. His reflection on the ‘manger’ in the Christmas Crib had him consider the manger itself as symbolic of the Way, the Truth and the Life that Jesus is.
The Manger as WAY
When the Father decided to put his plan of salvation for fallen humankind into action, he did not choose to send His only begotten Son in a fabulous manner, i.e. amidst the splendour of a palace or the comfort of a stately villa but through simple human means, i.e. “ born of a woman” (Gal 4:4) and born amidst the lowliest of God’s creatures, the ox and the ass, in a stable. And Mary, God’s chief instrument in the salvation drama, places him in a ‘manger’, a trough from which the animals had their feed.
Further, the place where Jesus grew up prompted Nathaniel to ask: “What good can come from Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46) The reign of God begins like a mustard seed. Very significant to recall here are the Lord’s own words: “If you had faith as tiny as the mustard seed…..” (Mt 17:20). Indeed, it is from little acorns that grow mighty oaks, the mightiest being the Son of our Creator-God, a child born in a manger—Emmanuel, God-with-us. “Blessed is the one who begins from the manger,” says Alberione whom Blessed Pope Paul VI called “a Marvel of our Times.” The manger not only bore the immortal God of Creation born in mortal form to be the Way to the Father but became the WAY. O yes! Everything begins from the manger! We begin with partaking of a meal laid in the manger for us!
The Manger as TRUTH
“What is Truth?” asked Pilate of the very personification of the TRUTH that he took for granted (Mt 18:38)! In being laid in the manger, Jesus became at once both food and the receptacle of food for the hungry, making the manger the centre of the story of salvation. Looking at it from a different perspective, James Alberione, whom Pope Saint John Paul II termed “the First Apostle of the New Evangelization”, considered the manger a lamp that must give light to all humanity. As the Evangelist says, “He [Jesus] was the true light that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9)! Since then, everything flows from the Son of God, who is the Light, the Truth and Wisdom of the Father whereby all of the human and theological sciences find their centre in the manger, because the true Master is Christ, the infant-Lord of Bethlehem.
All light comes from Jesus the Truth who was to the manger born so to say! God in His mercy gives us His wisdom. With the receptacle having borne the TRUTH in flesh and blood the manger becomes the Truth, the Truth that was commissioned to set us free (cf Jn 8:32b). And if we have begun with the manger, we shall find in it all the light we need to illumine our way through life.
The Manger as LIFE
The manger is “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14) and is thus implicit of life. All the good things that we could ever desire or seek, we find in the Christ-child lying on the hay in the manger, grace-filled like nothing else ever! There we find life! Jesus is totally poor in terms of earthly possessions but he is absolutely rich in heavenly goods, or better still, he both has and is the true wealth of the Father and of men, that wealth being life itself—“I came that they may have life and have it in abundance” (Jn 10:10b).
Given the times and the circumstances in which we live, the ideal thing to do this Christmas is to go to his manger with trust and express before him our heart’s desires that include the needs of humanity, the needs of our fellow members in our Small Christian Communities, the needs of those we love and who love us. Would that we cared to remember everyone and, expanding our hearts, specially reach out to those in need of spiritual help even as we allow the surreal sight in the manger to fill our hearts with gratitude untold for the sheer magnificence of the earth-shaking event that the Nativity of the Lord actually is! Seen from this perspective, the Manger that was life-giving in that it bore life in all its fullness invites us all to be life-giving, making Christmas a celebration of LIFE that flows to us from the TRUTH that the WAY is!
(Published on 12nd December 2016, Volume XXVIII, Issue 50)#