Matthew the evangelist has a special interest in telling his readers that Jesus should be called «Emmanuel». He well knows that this could end up jarring us and seeming strange. Who can be called by a name that signifies «God with us»? However, this name contains within it the nucleus of the Christian faith, and is at the center of the Christmas celebration.
The final mystery that surrounds us on every side and that we believers call «God» isn’t something far off or distant. This mystery is with us and with each one of us. How can we know it? Is it possible to believe in a reasonable way that God is with me, if I don’t have some personal experience, no matter how small?
Ordinarily we Christians haven’t been taught to perceive the presence of God’s mystery within ourselves. That’s why many imagine this mystery as off in some undefined and abstract place in the universe. Others seek this mystery adoring Christ present in the Eucharist. More than a few try to listen to this mystery in the Bible. For others, the best way is Jesus.
Without doubt, God’s mystery has a way to make itself present in each one’s life. But it could be said that in today’s culture, if we haven’t experienced it in some way within ourselves, it’s difficult to find it outside of ourselves. Or to turn this around: if we do perceive God’s presence in our interior, it will be much easier to trace it in our surroundings.
Can this be? The secret consists, above all, in knowing how to just be, with our eyes closed and in a gentle silence, welcoming with a simple heart that mysterious presence that encourages and sustains us. It’s not about trying to think about it, but just «welcoming» the peace, the life, the love, the forgiveness… that comes to us from the most intimate place within us.
When going deep within our own mystery, it’s normal to meet up with our fears and worries, our wounds and sufferings, our mediocrity and our sin. We don’t need to get upset, but just remain in the silence. The loving presence that is at the most intimate depth of ourselves will go about calming us, freeing us, healing us.
Karl Rahner, one of the most important theologians of the 20th century, affirms that, in the midst of the secular society we live in, «this experience of the heart is the only one that can help us to understand the faith message of Christmas: God became man». The final mystery of life is a mystery of goodness, of forgiveness and salvation, a mystery that is with us: within everyone and within each one of us. If we welcome it in silence, we will come to know the joy of Christmas.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf