By PATRICK METTS, Special to the Bulletin | Published January 10, 2024
A blessed and merry Christmas to you and your family! The Christmas season is filled with joyful celebrations with family and friends, beautiful liturgical celebrations, festive music, and certainly not least of all, delicious food.
This time of year is often a time of reflection and remembrance of Christmases past, and I have been struck recently by how often my memories of Christmas are marked by the special meals I’ve shared with loved ones. Whether it was enjoying delicious seafood with my grandparents on Christmas Eve, or the aroma of my mother’s famous breakfast casserole filling the house as we opened our first presents on Christmas morning, special foods are woven into the fabric of my family’s traditions.
Upon further reflection, it seems we are not only celebrating the birth of our Savior with the finest foods, but we are also attempting to recall and remember the joy and happiness from Christmases past as we repeat the menu year after year. These traditions struck me poignantly this year as I reflected on the story of the Nativity. Just as food is so central to the memories and traditions of my family, so it is also central to God’s story of his family.
I do not often think of Christmas as a particularly eucharistic feast in the church; however, during this time of eucharistic revival, I was pondering the eucharistic significance of the Nativity. As we reflect on the Nativity scene with a eucharistic lens, we soon see God’s desire to begin to plant these seeds in our mind and imagination of something that would come to fulfillment 33 years later on the night of the Last Supper.
We have heard the story of how Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means house (bêth) of bread (lehem). Christ was laid in a manger, a feeding trough and presented to the world. Similarly, he is laid on a ciborium at every Mass, each day around the world. We are given the opportunity to wrap Jesus in the “swaddling clothes” of our own hearts and bodies when we receive him in the Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is certainly the continuation of Bethlehem in the life of the church. Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, is made present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Except this time, he is veiled under the species of bread and wine.
How beautiful to reflect on God’s humility in the Incarnation. What a mystery it is that Jesus was born into the humblest of circumstances—that he was so exposed, vulnerable and needy for the care and protection of Mary and Joseph. God desired to be so intimately close to us that he “emptied himself” and came into the world in this humble way, and amazingly, his humility and love did not stop there. Again and again, he comes to us under the appearances of bread and wine. He waits for us to visit him in all the tabernacles of the world. He unites himself to us as we receive him in the Most Blessed Sacrament, the “Bread from Heaven” (Jn 6:31–33).
What an amazing gift we receive each time we attend Mass, when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, when we adore him in the Blessed Sacrament during adoration, and when we visit him in the tabernacles of our churches. Christ has become our true food and true drink. He has done this not only to be close to us, to nourish and transform us, but also to help us remember what he has done for us. We recall in this sacred meal our Lord’s amazing love for us and how he rescued us from darkness, sin, and death.
Let us remember this Christmas, as we gather with family and friends and continue the traditions from years past, the gift that Christ gives us in the Eucharist, and let us make Jesus in the Eucharist central in our lives and the traditions of our family.
Patrick Metts, LPC, is an associate director of the Office of Evangelization and Discipleship and a member of the archdiocesan Eucharistic Revival Task Force.