Bishop Richard J. Malone celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ before a few hundred people during the annual midnight Christmas Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo Thursday.
"We gather in this cathedral this midnight hour for something even more, something deeper than even the most marvelous Christmas concert," Bishop Malone said. "We come to touch, and be touched, by the mystery of Christmas. Not, of course, mystery in the sense of a vexing problem to be solved, but mystery in its theological meaning, as a reality just too rich to be grasped by our minds. A truth so wondrously profound that our belief in it flowers best in reverent faith and adoration rather than in complete comprehension. So it is that we speak of the mystery of God.
"Though God is totally other, hidden, glorious, he communicates himself to us through creation, and he reveals himself to us through the prophets. And then we come to the heart of the matter, the reason for us being here tonight. Our God has revealed himself totally and fully as love in the birth of Jesus Christ. This is the mystery of Christmas. (It is) the eternal word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ, Son of God, son of Mary. It is in this Child's birth that the grace of God has appeared. Because of this birth, unlike any other, the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light."
The bishop spoke of the natural awe that children have when they discover life. He also talked of Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Polish-born American rabbi who Bishop Malone called one of the 20th century's greatest spiritual writers, and wondered if we have taken the meaning of Christmas for granted.
"Have we reduced Christmas to an annual trip down memory lane," Bishop Malone asked. "Those trips are good for us, but we don't want to reduce Christmas to that. If so, we need Heschel's reminder that our very awareness of the divine in God begins in wonder. Heschel says that the beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living."
Christmas provides a new opportunity for renewed faith and brighter hope, according to Bishop Malone, and calls people to take a risk by accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and become transformed in the process.
"Tonight, with thankful amazement of what God has done in the birth of His Son, we prepare to receive His Body and Blood, because this infant Child, who is God and man, grew up," the bishop said. "He taught us how to live and love, and gave His life for our salvation, rising from the dead to make possible resurrection for you, and for me, and for all who struggle to be faithful. This infant is our hope and our salvation. Amazing, isn't it?"