Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Friday, December 23, 2016

O Emmanuel ~ December 23


Mosaic 12th c ~ Santa Maria in Trastevere ~ Rome
O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God.


The angel of Joseph's dream (Matthew 1:22,23) gives Jesus a kind of nick-name, announcing, "He shall be called Emmanuel: God is with us." The gods of ancient Rome and Greece could have been given that name too, but those gods came to earth only to tease and trick us, even to make fools of us. No one ever said: "Oh, I want to be just like them."  Remember too, these gods never stayed long before flying back to Olympus.

The second verse of the French Christmas Carol, "O Holy Night" makes it plain - the difference between the ancient gods and Jesus, Emmanuel.

Led by the light of a faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient Land.
The King of Kings lay there in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need - to our weakness is no stranger,

Behold your King, before him lowly bend!
Behold your King, before him lowly bend!


I had Father Benedict Groeschel for Ascetical Theology when I was a first theologian in 1974. He shared this God-revealing story: That while walking and chatting with Mother Teresa along a busy street in the South Bronx, he came to realize she was no longer with him. Turning back to find her, looking into store windows and even asking strangers if they'd seen a  small nun in a white sari, he finally discovered her down in a basement stairwell next to a semi-conscious man who was smelling badly.

God is like this: searching us out where humanity finds itself living badly, semi-conscious (if at all), mistaken and smelling badly. But God doesn't come just to be with us, to comfort and clean us up, but to knock on our minds and hearts - to rally us out of our collective drunk. "I'm not into that justice stuff," the pious Catholic woman said with a waved hand.


Jesu, sol justitiae ~ 
Jesus sun of justice, have mercy on us.

Cor Jesu, justitiae et amoris receptaculum ~
Heart of Jesus, vessel of justice and love, have mercy on us.

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