St. John in his prologue reveals to us the Divine nature of the Child born of Mary. He went beyond what everybody could plainly see: an infant wrapped with swaddling clothes and laying on a manger. Lest our eyes deceive us into trivializing this child, he tells us who this is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This child is “the Son whom God has made heir of all things, and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word.”
Being that people who “sat in darkness and the shadow of death,” we would find the exposure to Divine light in the fullest degree to hurt and even blinding. Prisoners who emerge from the darkness of dungeons shield their eyes when exposed to the radiant light of the open sky. And so when He, who is “the Light of the human race” came to us, He hid the splendor of his glory under the veil of humanity, specifically, He assumed the humble likeness of a new-born infant. This humble likeness He assumed so that the eyes of our faith may be accustomed to that radiance. Whenever our eyes get used to this glory, He increases the degree of the radiance a little every time: He cures the sick at one time and then increases the radiance a little bit more by multiplying bread. He increases the radiance a little bit more by walking on water, and then a little bit more by resurrecting the dead. The radiance of his glory gets brighter from the transfiguration to the resurrection to His ascension into heaven. St. Paul says “When he had accomplished purification from sins, He took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels as the name He inherited is more excellent than theirs.”
Looking at the Christ child, the words of St. Bede the Venerable comes to mind: “Straightly is He, whose throne is in the heavens, confined in the narrowness of a crib, so that He might open wide to us the joys of His eternal kingdom. He that is the Bread of Angels reclines in a manger, that we as sanctified beasts might be fed with the corn of his flesh…He who sits at the right hand of the Father goes without shelter from the inn, so that He may for us get ready many mansions in the house of His heavenly Father.” He hid his glory for our sake. Thus, St. Ambrose said: “Because of thee, weakness: within Himself, Power; because of thee, poor: within Himself, all riches. Do not measure by what your eye sees, but acknowledge this: that you are redeemed.”
For us to be accustomed to his glory, we must stay long enough in the light he shows. We must remain with him in contemplation like Mary and Joseph. We must remain with him in adoration like the shepherds. And when our eyes are used to the radiance that we see, He prepares us to see something more, something higher, something greater. And staying with Him, we do not only increase in the sharpness of vision. We likewise increase in holiness and grace. “From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace.”
“Come then, let us observe the Feast,” said St. John Chrysostom, “for this day, the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been implanted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.” All these take place because the One born to us is the refulgence of Divine glory. May we see His glory today – the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth!
We ought to get back the dimension of the sacred in the liturgy. The liturgy is not a festivity; it is not a meeting for the purpose of having a good time. It is of no importance that the parish priest has cudgeled his brains to come up with suggestive ideas or imaginative novelties. The liturgy is what makes the Thrice-Holy God present amongst us; it is the burning bush; it is the Alliance of God with man in Jesus Christ, who has died and risen again. The grandeur of the liturgy does not rest upon the fact that it offers an interesting entertainment, but in rendering tangible the Totally Other, whom we are not capable of summoning. He comes because He wills. In other words, the essential in the liturgy is the mystery, which is realized in the common ritual of the Church; all the rest diminishes it. Men experiment with it in lively fashion, and find themselves deceived, when the mystery is transformed into distraction, when the chief actor in the liturgy is not the Living God but the priest or the liturgical director. - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Chile, 1988)
Do we still need sacred space, sacred time, mediating symbols? Yes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the "image," through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the capacity to know the mystery of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified. - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Spirit of the Liturgy )