At the Turn of the Year



Returning from Mass mid-evening on Christmas Eve, the sight of a slender crescent moon hung low over the trees, a suspended cradle, without support slung across the heavens, lit the sky.

We had just left a church where the symbolic figures of the Crib were centered on a cradle, the Christ-child born for us, come in his time, to share our time.

And at the time of sharing the Eucharist, the celebrant did exactly that for where a family came to receive and one of them was not a Catholic, he gathered them together, speaking to them with dignity and care, a hand on a shoulder. It took longer to distribute but showed us all, in a graphic way, that Eucharistic sharing is a central act of our Christian life.

One Monday lunchtime just before Christmas, I left Euston rail station in Central London to go to a meeting. Outside on the pavement a man sat, crossed-legged, his back against the wall. Tattered clothes hung loose about his frame, a sallow, unshaven face under ragged hair, a middle aged man begging on the streets of London in the days before Christmas.

Another man, walking ahead of me, not overly smart, his peaked cap pulled down on his head, stopped in front of the seated man and took out crisps and a bottle of coke from a plastic bag and gave them to him. A smile lit his face as he thanked him for his gift, a black Londoner bearing gifts to a fellow man, down on his luck, his white skin making no difference. I felt humbled by this example of simple generosity, he took time to stop, time to share a little, time to recognize another person.

A Eucharistic action indeed for that is what we are offered each time we celebrate the Eucharist together, a moment when Christ offers himself to us, recognizes our broken being and offers a still point of calm in a turbulent world.

A 6th century Syrian hermit, Philoxenos, said that “it is not he who has many possessions that is rich, but he who has no needs.”

Which takes us back to the distribution on Christmas Eve. The Lord does not satisfy us with goods or possessions but with his very self. With that gift we have no need of other gifts. In fact what we have been given we too can share with others.

Greetings for the coming year.

Chris McDonnell is a regular reader and commenter at Pray Tell.

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