POSTSCRIPT / December 25, 2011 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Christmas love story passes by the manger

PATH TO MANGER: It is Christmas, merry or otherwise!

To many Filipinos, this is a day of thanksgiving for whatever is on the family table, as well as a day of hoping for something better. Above all, it is a day of giving, in the same spirit that Jesus has given Himself to us.

Today, I pray most sincerely for President Noynoy Aquino, my kumpare’s son, that he be guided along the path to the Manger of Bethlehem, and succeed — for his own sake and that of this nation waiting for redemption.

To our readers, casual or constant, thank you for reading and reacting to The Philippine STAR.

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REFLECTIONS: For today’s Postscript, I borrow from the reflections of Pope Benedict XVI during a general audience at the Vatican last Wednesday. Below are excerpts from his catechesis:

“The greeting on everyone’s lips is ‘Merry Christmas! Season’s Greetings!’ Let us ensure that the exchange of greetings not lose its deep religious significance, and that the exterior aspects playing upon our heartstrings not absorb the feast. External signs are beautiful and important, so long as they do not distract us, but rather help us experience Christmas in its truest sense — the sacred and Christian sense.

“The Church introduces us to the great Mystery of the Incarnation. Christmas, in fact, is not a mere anniversary of Jesus’ birth — it is more — it is the celebration of a mystery that has marked and continues to mark mankind’s history — God Himself came to dwell among us.

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TODAY, FOREVER: “How can (we) live out now an event that took place so long ago? How can (we) participate fruitfully in the birth of the Son of God, which took place over 2,000 years ago?

“During the Holy Mass on Christmas Night, we repeat as a refrain to the responsorial psalm: ‘Today a Savior is born for us.’ This adverb of time ‘Today,’ which is used repeatedly throughout the Christmas celebrations, refers to the event of Jesus’ birth and to the salvation that the incarnation of the Son of God comes to bring.

“This event reaches beyond the limits of space and time and becomes actual, present. Its effect continues. In indicating that Jesus is born ‘today,’ the liturgy does not use a meaningless phrase, but underscores that this birth affects and permeates the whole of history.

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EVENT OF JESUS: “The celebration of Christmas renews our certainty that God is really present with us, still ‘flesh.’ In that Child born in Bethlehem, God drew near to man. We can encounter Him now — in a ‘today’ whose sun knows no setting.

“Modern man — a man of the empirically verifiable — finds it increasingly difficult to open his horizons and enter the world of God. The Redemption of mankind certainly took place at a precise and identifiable moment in history, in the event of Jesus of Nazareth.

“But Jesus is the Son of God. He is God Himself, who not only spoke to man, showed him wondrous signs and guided him throughout the history of salvation, but became man and remains man. The Eternal entered into the limits of time and space, to make possible an encounter with Him ‘today.’

“When, within liturgical celebrations, we hear or proclaim this ‘Today a Savior is born for us,’ we mean that God offers us ‘today,’ now, the possibility of acknowledging and receiving Him like the shepherds in Bethlehem.

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REDEMPTION: “Bethlehem should be considered in the light of the Paschal Mystery, (as) part of the redemptive work of Christ. Christmas and Easter are both feasts of the Redemption.

“Easter celebrates it as the victory over sin and death: It signals the final moment, when the glory of the Man-God shines forth as the light of day. Christmas celebrates it as God’s entrance into history, His becoming man to restore man to God.

“It marks, so to speak, the initial moment when we begin to see the first light of dawn. But just as dawn precedes and already heralds the day’s light, so Christmas already announces the cross and the glory of the resurrection.

“While Easter falls at the beginning of spring, when the sun breaks through the thick, chilly mists and renews the face of the earth, Christmas falls right at the beginning of winter, when the sun’s light and warmth seek in vain to awaken nature enwrapped by the cold. Under this blanket, however, life throbs and the victory of the sun and warmth begins again.

“The incarnation of God’s Son appears not only as the commencement and condition for salvation, but as the very presence of the mystery of our salvation. God becomes man; He is born a babe like us; He takes on our flesh to conquer death and sin.

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GOD STOOPS: “At Christmas we encounter the tenderness and love of God, who stoops down to our limitations, to our weakness, to our sins.

“Let us look upon the cave of Bethlehem: God lowers Himself to the point of being laid in a manger — which is already a prelude of His self-abasement in the hour of His Passion.

“The climax of the love story between God and man passes by way of the manger of Bethlehem and the sepulcher of Jerusalem.

“Let us joyously live the feast of Christmas. Let us live this wondrous event: The Son of God again is born ‘today’; God is truly close to each one of us, and He wants to meet us — He wants to bring us to Himself.

“He is the true light, which dispels and dissolves the darkness enveloping our lives and mankind.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 25, 2011)

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