Letter from Father Sullivan
Christmas Eve 2020
Deep beneath the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is a small cave where an altar has been built to commemorate the exact spot where Jesus was born. This spot has been venerated since the earliest days of Christian faith. Over the centuries several churches have been built over that cave where Joseph and Mary found refuge awaiting the birth of the Word made Flesh. “There was no room for them in the Inn,” as the Sacred Scriptures recall, but the cave where the animals found shelter was sufficient.
The animals have long departed that little cave and the altar built over the holy place is beautifully decorated with silks and linen, multiple candlesticks and hanging lamps with flickering lights illuminating the place where the Son of God was born.
Several worn marble steps lead down into the cave from the nave of the Crusader era church. A certain dexterity is necessary to maneuver the descending steps, crowded with pilgrims …not always devoutly…making their way to the sacred spot. Coming to the altar of the Incarnation many kneel and bend to venerate with a kiss or a tender touch the silver star which marks the place where the Eternal God came to dwell among us in human flesh.
Christmas Eve never comes that I don’t recall the treasured moments I have been blessed to venerate that same spot, to kneel and kiss that silver star, recalling that this is the place where Jesus was born. This is the spot where God came down to earth. This is where our human flesh took on the dignity of the Divine, and the hope of eternity shone forth commemorated by that silver star.
The great pandemic which continues to seize us all has made us rethink everything, perhaps even our faith. But the celebration of Christmas reminds us of God’s presence, of Jesus’s love and the humble…initially indiscernible way…in which He comes to be with us.
May these Christmas days, as unusual as they are, be an occasion for all of us to consider—even in the midst of such uncertainty—the many blessings we have received, the reshaped priorities we have set and the graced encounters we have had with the presence of God and the joy He surrounds us with in one another.
Peace and blessing,
From my heart to yours in the hearts of Jesus and Mary,