O Emmanuel

O Antiphons

O Emmanuel,
Rex et legifer noster,
expectatio gentium,
et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos,
Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel,
our King and Lawgiver,
the one awaited by the gentiles,
and their Savior:
come to save us,
Lord our God.

Christ is born to us. Glorify him.

Desire of all nations. Emmanuel. The Gospel in a nutshell. Our desire: God with us. In the dark and cold of winter, God with us. In the bright sunshine of spring and summer, God with us. In loneliness and belonging, in calm and chaos, God with us. In sleeping and waking, in life and death, God with us.

In a transplant ICU in a Pittsburgh hospital, when the mother-hopes of the decades-ago birth of a firstborn son begin to fade one by one, this is a time when desire, presence and God conjoin. When the new life born out of present suffering, this young boy, Lucas, too young to understand, even too young later to remember, looks uncomprehendingly at medical technology and this person lying in a hospital bed, this is a time for a God who is with us. When the fierce fight to survive, to live, of a young Oklahoma son loses its force, when time is measured in milliliter drips, punctuated by beeps and chirps and the breath-like sound of machine pumps, this is a time for Emmanuel.

Our secularized world does not understand Christmas. If it did, it would cease now with the bright lights, the relentless onslaught of packaged muzac, the greeters and the plastered smiles. It would halt forever the talk of consumer spending, of “Christmas cheer,” and the checking of lists. If this secularized world took its wisdom from Holy Mother Church, it would disconnect the lights, take down the tree, put away the music, and don sackcloth. It would sit in ashes. And it would look in on an ICU room in Pittsburgh and go there and learn wisdom. It would go to meet God with us.

The atheists and other anti-Christian bigots have it wrong. Christians didn’t take over pagan holidays and call it Christmas. Rather, Christians simply lived out what Christmas means. They stormed the beaches of darkness, turned the waters red with their blood, and planted the Holy Cross firmly in the soil of death. It was not an attempt to copy someone else’s celebration. It was a mission to trample down death by death. Dagon bows before the Holy Ark, hands and feet broken in pieces on the threshold. God with us.

It is cruel, this dying of loved ones during the season the world knows as Christmas. Unutterably cruel. But God is with us. God knows what it’s like to watch the slow, horrible death of a Son. On the bitter cold walks on Chicago’s streets, in Pittsburgh’s hospitals, in the long, silent moments of the deathwatch, God with us.

Christ is born to us. Glorify him.

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