"The Mystery of His Nativity" | Fr. James V. Schall, SJ | Catholic World Report
While secular courts deny what is obviously true and call it "law," Christianity joyfully proclaims that Truth can be both known and never exhausted
The phrase “the mystery of His (Christ’s) Nativity” is taken from the Preface of the Masses immediately before Christmas. This wording struck me for several reasons. One has to do with the notion of “mystery”. We actually know quite a lot about the Nativity of Christ. We know the place and the circumstances. We know the parents. We know the names of rulers and emperors around at the time. Much enterprise over the centuries has gone into denying these facts. Why these denials? Clearly, it is because, if those facts are true to careful and responsible investigation, as they are, we cannot maintain that here is just another birth of some unimportant Jewish child during the reign of Caesar Augustus.
Yet, with all the data, we still sense a “mystery”—something more is there.
The more important part of this “mystery” concerning this birth includes the issues of time, place, and circumstances, but it goes beyond them. “Mystery” does not mean something wholly unknown. It means rather knowing actually and accurately, but realizing more is there to be known. Indeed, no “mystery” may be seen by many in these facts of the time and place of Christ’s birth. Yet, they happened “in the fullness of time”, as if to say they involve a plan, an order, an intervention. That a child with a name was born of Jewish parents from Nazareth is intelligible. But in Bethlehem when Palestine was under Roman rule, when the “whole world was at peace”, is that not provocative?
The birth of any child is something of a “mystery”. Why, after all, do any human beings exist in the first place? They do not cause themselves to come to be or to be what they already are. Still, if we look at what is said and handed down about this particular Child, it becomes more complicated, more mysterious. His very name, or one of them, is “Emmanuel”, which means “God with us”. How can “God” be with us? Why would He want to be? The parents are aware that His origins are more than usual. His disciples come to associate Him with the Word of God.
He is “made” flesh. He dwells amongst us. He was from the “beginning”, we are told. In Him all things are “made”. We hear of the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. In the “Four Quartets”, T. S. Eliot wrote: “In my beginning is my end”. How can this be true of all of us unless it be true that the beginning and the end are ordered to each other?
At His birth, Christ’s conception becomes, as it were, public to shepherds, to the world. We wonder about the difference between a child’s initial conception and his birth nine months later.