Epistle: Titus 2:11-14 Gospel: Luke 2:1-14
One of the most interesting devotions ever to develop within Catholicism is the Infant of Prague. This model [at this point, I placed a particularly garish example of one on the altar], rescued by a friend from the garbage where grandchildren of a recently deceased devout grandmother had discarded a wealth of devotional items, has the cope painted on, but some models are designed so that one can make cloth copes in the colors of the different liturgical seasons, and change them. Sort of a “dress-up doll” for priests! Around its neck, I have the Infant of Prague chaplet.
The original statue, in a convent in Prague, was damaged in a war, so that the hands were destroyed, and in the seventeenth century, when the church’s priest was praying, he heard a voice say to him, "Have pity on Me and I will have pity on you. Give Me My hands and I will give you peace. The more you honor Me, the more I will bless you." He repaired the hands, and various miracles occurred, and the devotion to the Infant of Prague was born.
We hear, in today’s epistle, that “the grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all people”. The grace of God appeared in the birth of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God who took on humanity so that we human beings might take on divinity, restoring the image of God in which we were created, but which has been broken through sin.
And this miraculous birth, which took place through the grace of God, could only take place with Mary’s cooperation, through her saying “yes” to the divine call, communicated by the angel Gabriel.
Christ’s Incarnation was not just an event that took place 2,000 years ago, however. It is continued in our lives as Christians each time we, like Mary, say “yes” to God’s call to us in our daily life. Christ is born in the stable of our mundane, ordinary lives, whenever we show love to one another, whenever we feed the hungry or clothe the naked, whenever we bring about peace and justice in our small part of the world.
The Infant Christ says to us today “Give Me My hands, and I will give you peace.” The call is not to repair the hands on a broken statue – the call is to offer our own hands to Christ, to do His work today. So when you receive the Infant Christ in Holy Communion in a few moments, offer Him your hands – and whenever you see a statue of the Infant of Prague, or the figure of the Infant in a crèche – give Him your hands. Christ will give you the blessing of peace. Merry Christmas!