As I have mentioned previously, one of my favorite prayers in the Mass is one that the congregation never hears. When the priest prepares the sacramental bread and wine before the consecration, he whispers: “By the mingling of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” To share in the divinity of Christ. What does that mean? The mystical notion that Christians are “divinized” is particularly influential within Roman Catholic spirituality. It does not mean that we stop being human and become gods and goddesses. Rather, because the Son of God “emptied” (i.e. humbled) himself by becoming one of us, he transformed the human condition so that we might reflect in ourselves the very life of God. Consider an analogy: when a blacksmith casts a piece of metal into the furnace, it does not, strictly speaking, become fire; rather, it approaches the temperature of its source of heat. So too Catholics, who meet Christ in the Scriptures, the Eucharist, and the Church, become like the Son, our source of holiness.
On Tuesday, September 8, the Church celebrates the Nativity of Mary, the Mother of God; for our parish, the day is a minor patronal feast. One reason Catholics are devoted to the Blessed Mother is that she embodies the profound union with Christ to which all of us are called: the body no longer subject to pain or death; the soul perfectly conformed to the will of God. Reflecting on the meaning of this feast, St. Andrew of Crete writes: “Today this created world is raised to the dignity of a holy place for him who made all things. The creature is newly prepared to be a divine dwelling place for the Creator.” In short, grace makes us “bearers” of Christ to the world.
In strange times like ours, it is difficult to say exactly what concrete form “bearing Christ” will take. People often find themselves prevented from engaging in such routine activities as meeting friends and family, or going to school, and work, and even church: what then? Indeed, the Nativity of Mary follows Labor Day, when we celebrate the value and dignity of work. Yet for Catholics, truth takes precedence over action, however noble. Instead of concentrating what is not possible at the moment, namely, a “normal” schedule of activities, let us recognize the dignity Christ bestows upon us: to be a living reflection of God’s wisdom and love in our world.