The Christmas Mystery Lives On!

The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at St. Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington on Christmas Eve, and at St. James Church in Falls Church on Christmas Day.

Today we once again experience the wonder and joy of Christmas!

"‘…behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you, who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'"

With those first shepherds, we, too, have come "in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger." We have come to the stable. We enter and, with the eyes of faith, we see the Infant Savior and with Mary and Joseph looking on, we adore Him. He is so small, yet He is God's only-begotten Son. His tiny arms reach out in love to draw us closer to Him. How wonderful it is to be here. We do not wish to leave!

More precisely, we do not wish the reality that is Christmas to disappear: the Infant Jesus, lying in the manger, true God and true man, our Savior and Lord!

In fact, the reality that is Christmas does not disappear. Jesus Christ continues to renew His birth. How?

In one very real and unique way, Jesus is born again and is truly present every time the Holy Mass is offered. St. Edith Stein puts this so beautifully: "After ‘the trees are lit and the presents exchanged' the bells toll for midnight Mass in which ‘the miracle of the holy night is renewed on the flower-decked altars with their burning candles.'"

Of course, we would love to see with our human eyes the Infant Jesus lying in the manger. With the eyes of faith, we do see Him in every Mass, lying beneath the signs of bread and wine, truly and really present in our midst, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

In this Christmas Mass, Jesus our Savior and Lord reaches out to each of us. He does this in every Mass. In turn, we reach out to Him in welcome, and in Holy Communion, we invite Him to make His home within our hearts. Yes, in every Mass — in this Mass — the Lord Jesus renews the reality that is Christmas in our midst. This is why we participate in the Mass actively and consciously at least every Saturday night or Sunday throughout the entire year. How could we live without Him?

In another real way, Jesus Christ continues to renew His birth. How? By being born again within each of us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: "Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us" (§ 526). Every time we meet the Lord in prayer, every time we hear His living word and reflect on it, we are being formed in His image and His presence is being deepened within us. Of course, receiving the sacraments, especially penance and the holy Eucharist, increases His life-giving presence within us. In all these ways, Jesus Christ renews the reality that is Christmas within each of us. Every day — this day — let us welcome Him with joy!

Yes, Jesus Christ renews His birth today in our midst. As we welcome Him with hearts full of wonder and joy, we offer Him a gift: the gift of an open heart, willing to let Him be born in us. Because He once accepted the adoration of the shepherds and the gifts of the three wise men, He now accepts the gift of our hearts. He will make His dwelling within us and transform us, so that we will be His living presence wherever we go.

The reality that is Christmas continues as Jesus Christ renews His birth in us. This Christmas, and on each day that follows, let us renew this mystery of Christmas by praying often these simple yet profound words: "Live, Jesus, in our hearts forever!"

A blessed Christmas to each and every one of you! May Christ's peace, joy and love embrace you today and always!

Bishop Paul S. Loverde


Bp. Paul S. Loverde is the bishop of the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia.

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