Memorial of St. Juan Diego
“What Child is This?” Lyrics by William Dix, 1865
What Child is this who, laid to rest / On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, / While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, / Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, / The Babe, the Son of Mary.
Why lies He in such mean estate, / Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here / The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, / The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, / The Babe, the Son of Mary.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, / Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings, / Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high, / The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born, / The Babe, the Son of Mary.
The story of Christmas is a story of contradiction, just as our Gospel is today: mankind’s reaction to the arrival of God’s Son is not what anyone would expect. A baby lauded by angels; God guarded by shepherds? The eternal Word of God silent and asleep? The Son of God born only to die? The Word made flesh? A virgin bearing a child?
But this is the story of reality after sin: what ought to be, is not. Sin frustrates the natural order, and this carol reminds us that Jesus entered right into that frustration, Himself being both a living contradiction but also a living harmony. Two seemingly incompatible realities—God and Man, separated since the Fall—united in one person.
When we recall the nativity of Jesus we might ponder how He should have been born, how the circumstances of His birth ought to have been. But Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that this is simply how things are in the broken, topsy-turvy reality of sin. We are like children who do something and do not receive the expected reaction from others. We think we know how things ought to be, relying on our own wisdom and judgement: imagine how silent the airwaves would be if we only spoke what we knew, rather than what we thought or felt. Imagine a society in which we did not dismiss others based on the assumptions we had of them. Conservatives are this way, liberals are that…people from this country or that demographic are this way or that…traditional versus progressive…and so the lines are drawn, especially in our hearts.
John the Baptist fell victim to the same ideological internment camps: he lived a disciplined, holy life and people dismissed him, believing him to be demonic. Yet how did they explain the droves of people that went to him at the River Jordan? Jesus comes, eating with many different kinds of people, living a holy life but not an ascetic one, very different from His cousin, John, and people dismissed Him as a glutton, a drunkard, and a person that keeps disreputable company. We so often rely on our own supposed knowledge of the Other, yet lack wisdom, which is tied not to knowledge, but charity. “Let loving hearts enthrone Him…” Him who bore the cross “…for me, for you.”
Christ is born for us all; Christ died for us all. “Come peasant, king to own Him.” The Spirit of God is one of unity; the spirit of the Enemy is of division. We lack the wisdom to judge another person because we lack the charity of Christ; just because you play a flute, doesn’t mean another will dance. Just because someone loves the Mass in Latin doesn’t mean they hate the Novus Ordo. The voting choices of a person doesn’t define their character or the extent of their beliefs. Consider today’s saint: a native peasant claiming to have a message from the Queen of Heaven. How often was he dismissed, simply because he was a poor Indian? We shattered children of Babel look to the holy infant asleep in Mary’s lap, together, and only in Him will we find the love we need to have true wisdom, and to do its works in this upside-down world, made right-side-up again by a God who defies and exceeds our expectations and narrow definitions.