Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Eve and the Ancestors of Jesus

The birth of Jesus is actually the climax of a story that began in the Garden of Eden and which continues into our own time. Jesus was born into an all-too-human family whose own story is filled with saints and sinners, the faithful and those who fell, and all types in between. And their experiences form an indispensable part of our understanding of who Jesus is and who we are as his followers: these ancestors of Jesus are also our spiritual ancestors and we owe them a debt of thanks.
 
Pope Francis reminded us of this in his General Audience on June 25, 2014:
If we believe, if we know how to pray, if we acknowledge the Lord and can listen to his Word, if we feel him close to us and recognize him in our brothers and sisters, it is because others, before us, lived the faith and then transmitted it to us. We have received faith from our fathers and mothers, from our ancestors, and they have instructed us in it.

"The Jesse Tree"
from The Capuchins Bible (ca. 1180)
 
Today’s Gospel includes the Benedictus—the great hymn of praise of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. In it, the happy father praises God for keeping his promise of salvation made to the prophets and patriarchs (and matriarchs!) of generations past. This hymn is traditionally included in the Church’s Morning Prayer and reminds us that each day—and, of course, Christmas—is a time to give thanks for the gift of the Light of the World: “the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
 
On this Christmas Eve, ask the holy ancestors of Jesus to pray for those Christians who continue to face persecution and oppression and for all those who dwell in darkness, that they may know the coming of Christ in a special way on this holy night.
 
Prayer +
Come quickly, we pray, Lord Jesus,
and do not delay,
that those who trust in your compassion
may find solace and relief in your coming.
Who live and reign with God the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal, Mass for morning of December 24)

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