As we enter the season of Advent, the Archbishop of Brisbane offers us this pastoral message, reflecting on the profound issues raised by the process of the Family Synod, in light of the pastoral teachings of Pope Francis.
Marriage has been much on the Church’s mind in recent times. The first of the two sessions of the Synod of Bishops on marriage has recently been held in Rome and the second will follow next year.
In another sense, marriage is much on the Church’s mind every time we enter the Advent season. We look to Christmas as the celebration of the marriage between heaven and earth.
The Word takes flesh as God becomes one of us. Speaking of man and woman, the book of Genesis says that “the two became one flesh” (2:24); and so it is when Jesus is born in Bethlehem. Divinity and humanity become one flesh. That’s what the Incarnation means.
The Incarnation was an event that took place at a certain point in history: Jesus was conceived and born in a particular time and place. But the Incarnation is more than an event that took place once. It’s the way God is and the way God works always and everywhere. The real God is found always and only in the flesh, and that’s what Christmas celebrates.
This has many implications. St Paul’s encounter with the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus brought him face to face with God-in-flesh (Acts 9:1-9). He heard Jesus saying “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” – not “Why are you persecuting the followers of the Nazarene?” but “Why are you persecuting me?” Out of that experience, St Paul came to speak of the Church, extraordinarily, as the Body of Christ.
The Church is a human institution; it is flesh. But it’s very much more because the Holy Spirit has been breathed into the flesh of the Church to make it the Body of Christ. That’s what we recognise when we exchange the sign of peace before Communion: before I receive the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, I acknowledge that you and I are part of the Body of Christ, the Church. That’s what makes the sign of peace more than an ordinary greeting and why it’s placed where it is in the rite.
So too the sacraments of the Church are more than just human rituals. They are moments, gifts of God, in which the power of Christ touches the flesh of human lives.
In the greatest of the sacraments, the Eucharist, it’s Christ himself who speaks in the Liturgy of the Word; it’s Christ who offers himself in the Liturgy of the Eucharist as the altar of his sacrifice becomes the table of his feast.
This is why the Mass is much more than a community get-together, however important the bond of fellowship may be. It’s the celebration of the marriage of heaven and earth: the two become one flesh. But there’s more to the mystery of the Incarnation...
To read full text of this Advent Pastoral Letter, CLICK HERE.
To watch Archbishop Coleridge delivering his Pastoral Letter on the CathNews YouTube channel, CLICK HERE.