Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord | Rev. Br. Andrew Brookes explains how we disciples of Jesus are to enflesh or mother the Word and bring forth Christ.
We celebrate today the Birthday of Jesus. God took human flesh and was born in Bethlehem because he wants to be conceived, born and made manifest in the flesh of every human being.
Christmas does not just mean that Mary is the mother of Christ, and Mother of God’s Word, but that each of us is called to enflesh God’s Word. All disciples are called to be mothers. Jesus said ‘Anyone who does the will of my Father is my mother and brother and sister (Mt 12:50).’ There is no distinction here between male and female disciples: we are each to be his mother.
The biological understanding of a mother at the time of Christ was that she receives and enfleshes the principle of life, normally the semen, that she received, further nurturing the child after giving birth. The core idea remains valid, even if we now know she contributes an ovum to what she receives. Mary received not semen, but the Eternal Word of God which is the ultimate principle of all life. ‘Through the Word all things had being (Jn 1:2).’ Like her, we are all called to be mothers of Christ: to conceive, birth and manifest Christ to the world. We should not think of that in biological terms, though it truly involves human lives and flesh. As Jesus himself said when someone blessed the womb that bore him and the breasts that suckled him: ‘More blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it (Lk 11:28).’
We should look to Mary’s spiritual qualities more than her biological relationship to Jesus if we want to learn from her how to conceive, birth and manifest Jesus. Mary is the model par excellence of how we are to enflesh or mother the Word and bring forth Christ.
We are to conceive by daring to believe the Word can be received and actually enfleshed in us, in the mortal flesh of me and each of you. For nothing is impossible to God, however much we dismiss ourselves or how wretched we actually are. We are to give the Incarnate Word and all the words he spoke a warm welcome and fertile womb in which to grow by a radical and often renewed offering of all that we are and have to God. For behold, each of us is to be the servant of the Lord. We are to obediently let every word of Christ be done to us by our full and prompt obedience to it. We are to keep believing that the Lord will fulfil his words to us, in good times and hard times. We are to magnify the Lord in praise, since praise opens us still more to God’s presence and action within us. We are to ponder and keep his word in our hearts, treasuring them with love, and turning them over so are minds are progressively illumined by their truth. We are to guard them from all who would snatch them, and even Christ himself, away from us or kill off their influence. We are to accept the challenge and pain that following the Word involves. We are to urge others to obey him too.
All this will mean a life of grace has been conceived in us, and that faith, hope and love in and of the Word which is Christ are at work in us. We will be changed from within. Virtues will be born in us. Our moral thinking, our sense of justice and mercy, our self-control and our courage will all increase. And our lives will birth and manifest good works pleasing to God and words that and speak of Christ to others, such that those who see us and hear us will see Christ. We may also help form Christ in others, offering them the Word of Life, forming them in Christ, helping them manifest him in their lives. This is a kind of mothering too.
Through it all the Word will continue to receive flesh and, more people will become children of God. Let us then contribute to this by learning from Mary to be mothers of Christ, and so celebrate Christmas not just today but throughout the whole year.
Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. of a window in the Priory of Santa Sabina, headquarters of the Order of Preachers in Rome.