Even as we use new technologies for catechesis, communication, and to live-stream liturgies for the benefit of those who cannot be present with the assembly (or, when public liturgies are canceled, with the priests who continue to celebrate the Mass on our behalf), these technologies should always lead us to a greater fellowship and faith in the real world.
With that in mind, here are some ways in which we can root our Domestic Church (our family home) in an incarnational practice of the faith while practicing social distancing and living under stay-at-home orders.
“in catechesis it is Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God, who is taught – everything else is taught with reference to Him – and it is Christ alone who teaches – anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ’s spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips.” (no. 6)
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25, this quote may prompt us to consider what lessons the Christ child teaches us.
That God condescended to become man — indeed, a child — demonstrates that he desires a relationship of affection and love with us. The Second Person of the Trinity cleaves to humanity in the closest way possible by taking on our flesh and blood. He is “God with us” and continues to reach out to each one of us by extending the love and mercy of the Father.
Jesus also came in poverty, foreshadowing his deep concern for the poor and marginalized. St. John Chrysostom says “His desire was not to destroy, but to save; and to trample upon human pride from its very birth, therefore He is not only man, but a poor man.” Today it is in the face of the poor and downtrodden that we see the face of Christ himself, and by serving them we truly serve Christ. (cf. Matthew 25:31-46)
Finally, in the infant Jesus we see the innocent victim who will one day be led to sacrifice at Calvary. Born in Bethlehem, the “House of Bread,” his sacrifice continues to refresh our body and soul whenever we receive the bread of life in the Eucharist, for he offers to us his very body and blood, soul and divinity which hung on the Cross for our salvation.
As we await the coming of the Christ child at Christmas, let us continue to reflect on the great gift of the Incarnation and the lessons taught by a little child.
Thanks to everyone who joined me for today’s Ave Maria Press webinar “Where Two or Three are Texting: Incarnation and Sacrament in a Virtual World.” Below are my slides, notes, and links to related articles. I will post the video of the webinar here as soon as it is available.
If you have any questions that I wasn’t able to address during the session, please feel free to add them to the comments and I’ll do my best to respond with an answer!
Where Two or Three are Texting: Incarnation and Sacrament in a Virtual World
The young people in our schools and parishes are increasingly citizens of a virtual world where they carry out many traditionally “physical” activities, including living out their faith! Other Christian communities are experimenting with “online church.” What is an “online church” and is it an option for Catholics? How does the “digital continent” influence the way we prepare young people and catechumens to receive the sacraments? This webinar will explore these questions and offer some avenues for appropriate use of digital technologies in living our faith.
The webinar is co-sponsored by the National Conference for Catechetical Leaders, the National Catholic Educational Association, and the National Association for Lay Ministry. You can sign up for this free webinar at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/307966088.
A few months back, while going through some materials around the office, I came across a series of small books by a certain Fr. F.H. Drinkwater containing stories illustrating certain points in the Abbreviated Catechism of the Diocese of Birmingham (England). The stories themselves are charming and, on occasion, I may reprint one here (as near as I can tell the copyright on the books has expired).
This story, appropriate for the season, offers an excellent lesson on the meaning of the Incarnation:
There is a story of a young king in the olden days who really cared about his people, and was grieved to know how much they suffered from hunger and cold and pestilence. He did what he could by gifts of clothes and food, but his own resources were scanty, and the people were often too ignorant to do the best for themselves. When the king tried to teach them better ways of farming and building, he people made little response. ‘It’s no good telling the King ot troubles,’ they would say. ‘He could never understand what it is to work or to be hungry and cold.’
The young king felt discouraged and went to a wise old minister and asked his advice.
‘How can I win the confidence of my people?’ he said. ‘I want to show them how to put an end to some of their misfortunes, and help them to bear the others with courage. They do not know their king cares about them — tell me how I can make them understand.’
‘There would be only one way, I think, Your Majesty.’
‘Tell me, for God’s sake.’
‘If Your Majesty could go and live amongst them, not as king, but as one of themselves….’
That night a poorly-clad man left the palace; no one recognized the King and no one knew his secret but the old minister and two or three trusted servants. It was given out that the King had gone on a foreign journey. For months he lived in a poor hut, and lived and ate and worked as a peasant, tended the sick and helped the workers. His fellows soon got to love him and came to him for help and advice, and were very sorry when he said good-bye to them.
When he reappeared at the palace and once more went amongst the people in royal fashion, he was soon recognised by those who had known him as a labourer. the story spread, and thenceforward his people loved and trusted him because he had shown that he loved and cared for them.
To make us understand God’s love for us was the purpose of the Incarnation.
– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)
Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in a day of reflection with other employees of my diocese. The day was led by Sr. Renita Brummer, OSF, from the Chiara Center here in Springfield.
The theme of Sr. Renita’s reflections was “pregnancy” and its relationship to the mystery of the Incarnation. Mary, in becoming the mother of the savior, bore him in the womb and gave birth to the physical form of God on earth (which is why she is honored with the title Theotokos, or “God-bearer”). In doing so, “God became Man,” lived on Earth, suffered, died and was buried. After three days he rose and his earthly body was taken into heaven.
But we would be mistaken if we assumed that this great mystery was confined to the 33 years of Jesus’ life on Earth, ending with the Ascension. The Incarnation is an ongoing mystery, one we encounter in the Eucharist, the Church (which is, after all, the Body of Christ) and in our own lives. Sr. Renita’s question to us was simple: how are we being called to make Christ incarnate in the world today, in our lives?
You would think that, for someone working for the Church, this wouldn’t be such a hard assignment. But the truth is that I felt uneasy about any answers that came to my head. I decided that I needed to step back and ask a more basic question: what do I need to do to prepare myself for the task at hand? This brought me to Mary’s example; the brunt of my reflection for the day centered on Mary’s answer to the angel Gabriel: “May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)
To receive the Savior, Mary prepared herself through humility and submission to the will of God. In giving her scent she made herself smaller so that Jesus could entered into her (both physically and spiritually); that is, she made room for the Christ in her life by seeking nothing but to do the will of the Father. Through her humility she was made worthy to receive the greatest of blessings.
My goal for the rest of Advent (and beyond) is to seek humility through prayer — to ask God to renew my heart and bring it more into conformity with his will. Today, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, seems an especially poignant time to ask for humility through the intercession of the Mother of God and for the blessings of the Incarnation to be made more present in our lives.