Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Prayer

Within a few hours, it will be Christmas. Around Rome, there is a tremendous sense of waiting. Just a couple of yards away from me, one of my Community is busily arranging the Nativity scene under the altar in our chapel. Downstairs, in the main chapel, one of our seminarians is likewise engaged. Both will be beautiful. Both will be peaceful and silent.

There is a special peace about Christmas Eve, even in the midst of all that needs to be done for the Feast. Yes, life is busy, but it is also purposeful. Wrapping gifts is also beautiful: it is people centred, other-centred. Christmas is not about ‘me’, but, instead, is about ‘you’ and ‘us’. As I walked through the market this morning, it seems that the entire population of Rome will receive stalls.

For my own part, I have been deeply touched by the e-mails I have received as a result of breaking the news of my forthcoming move. Even as I write, my room is littered with the inevitable sorting of papers, books etc….and I think of a young couple who travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem with no more than could be conveniently carried on the back of a donkey.

What were their feelings? Did they panic as Mary realised that she was going into labour? Did Joseph worry that a slight stumble on the part of the donkey would hasten the birth, so that Jesus might be born on the roadside, with no shelter other than the love that he and Mary would shower on him in abundance?

Fortunately, their worst fears were not realised. Jesus was born in a stable, but it was a shelter from the cold and dark. There was a fire and some degree of comfort. There was joy and peace.

…and I think of those people for whom this Christmas will be a time of anxiety, loneliness and, perhaps, despair. May they find some peace, companionship and hope.

May those who are hungry and thirsty find food and drink, those who are searching, find the object of their search, those who are homeless, find shelter.

For so many families, Christmas is a time of togetherness. May those who are divided by discord, or by illness, or by death, know comfort and unity. May those who are waiting at the bedsides of their loved ones be at peace.

Where parents have lost a child, may they be comforted and may their child come home to them, at least in their aching hearts if not physically.

May those who are happy know even more happiness.

May the Christ Child be born in our hearts, in our lives and in this beautiful world that is sometimes a little bit crazy. I can never forget that, during the funeral of Pope John Paul II, when so many world and religious leaders turned towards each other and offered the Sign of Peace, for a couple of minutes, we truly had world peace. May that peace spread throughout the world this Christmas.

God bless you and all those whom you know and love,
Sr. Janet