Alpha es et O

Alpha es et O

Christmas. Fr Leon Pereira tells of the unconquerable love of God revealed in the incarnation.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

It was not so with us at our beginning. We did not mark our entrance into the world so much with a word as with a wail, when we first drew breath on being born. We did not ask to be born, and this is a reproach many a teenager will fling angrily in the face of his or her parents: ‘I didn’t ask to be born!’

None of us asks to be born; none asks to die. Just as we tenuously claimed this life at our birth with a wail, so we must relinquish this same life when the time comes either with our own wailing or with that of those left to mourn us.

We do not ask to be born, we do not ask to die, and in the days after Christmas and New Year, when many lonely people will attempt suicide, the one thing that eludes us all is oblivion. We cannot cease to be, even when we die. Existence, the thing we do not ask for in our conception and birth, is the same thing we cannot get rid of at our death.

We cannot stop existing because our existence is caused by God’s love for us, and his love for us does not change.

Although we did not ask to be born, there is one person who did: the Word of God. The Word chose to be born, and created his own mother. ‘The Word’ may sound a little abstract to us, but it is the least abstract thing in the world because this Word is a baby. The Word was made flesh and we beheld him in the manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, worshipped by his parents and shepherds and angels and wise men, and lastly by us also. Life itself took on human life and became as we are. The Word became a baby and shared in our vicissitudes: exile, fear, flight, persecution, sorrow, suffering and death. And he did so because human life is his gift—and it is good.

We grasp instinctively that life is good and naturally fight to live, to protect the life which is so fragile within us. Yet the Word who has life in himself did not shield himself. He was born in the cold, and died stripped and naked, shivering in a fever, transfixed to a cross, with his arms not raised in self-defence but wide-open, accepting the awful horrors prepared for him by those who could not understand.

Our life, our birth and our death are not accidents or afterthoughts, but fall within the power of God’s providence. The only reason we exist is because God loves us, and he will never stop loving us. Whatever the circumstances of our conception, we are not accidents. Holy Scripture reminds us that

God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world
and destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ.

We were chosen in Christ before the world was established, chosen from eternity to be brothers and sisters of the Son, to be echoes of the Word.

We were chosen in the Word before the world was made, and that is why no evil from that creation, from nature or human volition, can destroy us. It may crush us, and it may even kill us, just as it killed the Word-made-flesh by crucifying him. But the worst the world has to offer is not good enough, or rather, not bad enough, to defeat the Word who became a baby for us.

As the Gospel tells us,

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Because the Word of life lives, we also, who were chosen in him, will live.

In the beginning was the Word, and in the end there will be the same uncreated Word, uniting to Itself our own created word, echoing the Word in perfect beauty, no longer as a wail—but as song and laughter in eternity.

Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10 | Hebrews 1:1-6 | John 1:1-18

fr Leon Pereira is chaplain to the English-speaking pilgrims in Medjugorje, Bosnia & Herzegovina.