Christmas 2018

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(Original in the room of St. Paul of the Cross, Sts. John and Paul’s Retreat, Rome)

Saint Paul of the Cross, who founded the Passionists, often spoke about the link between Bethlehem and Calvary, the Crib and the Cross. When he would build the Crib each Christmas at the first Passionist church at Monte Argentario in Italy, he would place a cross behind the child Jesus in the Crib to remind those who would pray there of the true meaning of Christmas: “for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven”.

When we remember the Crib and the Cross together, there is no danger of a purely sentimental approach to Christmas, because we realise that even in the stable at Bethlehem, the love of God which is revealed is a sacrificial love, the kind of love that lays down its life.

Through the mysteries of the Crib and the Cross, God not only reveals himself to us as Love incarnate. He also invites us into the mystery of his love, into the very heart of God himself. Jesus says, in Saint John’s gospel, that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes might not be lost but might have eternal life”.

Saint Paul of the Cross would say that God is most easily found in and through the humanity of Jesus. Bethlehem and Calvary, then, are places where we can find God, where our journey to God can begin, and where our relationship with him, our love for him can grow.

Fr. Paul Francis Spencer, C.P.

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