Mary laid Jesus in a manger, a feeding trough, as a hint that one day He would be bread for the world. Moreover, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a town whose name means “House of Bread.”
Scripture is filled with signs and symbols foreshadowing the Good News of the Gospel. Carefully construed, every detail has meaning. Each event leads to the next as the story of the Father’s love for His children unfolds.
The Catechism teaches that signs and symbols occupy an important place in human life. As Catholics we believe that everything in the universe is an embodiment of God’s love. A sunset, a mountain, a flower, a leaf, a tiny insect, even a grain of sand, are all expressions of the Father. Made in His image, the human person above all creation most clearly reflects God’s love to the world.
Put another way, the body is a sign of God.
“The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it.” (TOB 19:4)
In short, there is a theology to our bodies that offers hints of God’s loving plan for us. Furthermore, the one flesh union of husbands and wives is the greatest sign on Earth of God’s love for us and our call to union with Him. St. Paul speaks of this mystery in his letter to the Ephesians.
“For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” (Eph, 5:31-32)
John Paul II brings this mystery to life in his prophetic teaching Theology of the Body. Marriage, he explains, is a sign of the Christ’s love for the Church, which is a sign of the Trinitarian Mystery of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Mystery of God.
“God has revealed His innermost secret: God Himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.” (CCC 221)
The love between the Father and the Son is so great and so powerful that it creates a third person, the Holy Spirit. Thus, it becomes clear how God created marriage as a sign of His faithful and fruitful love. The love between a husband and wife is so great and so powerful that in the normal course of events it produces a third person.
Made in God’s image, we participate in God’s love in a distinct way. We are the only creatures able to consciously cooperate with His loving, life-giving, act of creation. Our male and female bodies are an integral part of this design. There are no coincidences with God.
This Christmas let us ask Mary our Mother, the Mother God, to help us gaze upon the love of the Father revealed in the Infant asleep in the manger. Let us also ask for the eyes to see the Mystery of God revealed in our own bodies. May we “treasure these things and reflect on them in our hearts.” (Luke 2:19)
Abundant peace and blessings to you throughout the New Year!
PS. Fun fact: The baby Jesus in the photo above belongs to Carrie Gress. It was first given to Pope John Paul II who gave it to George Weigel who then gave it to Carrie. As Carrie says, “best regift ever.”