Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Epiphany, the "manifestation of God to all nations," a liturgical part of the Christmas season, holds within it an invitation: What we have seen, contemplated, touched, "the Word made flesh”, we must joyfully announce to the world, by bearing witness to it in our lives, "because Christmas is not only a memory of the past, but a fact that takes place before our eyes". The announcement "To you is born a Savior," tells us " the manifestation of God is aimed at our participation in the divine life within us the realization of the mystery of his incarnation. This mystery is the fulfillment of the vocation of man. "
This was the appeal Benedict XVI addressed to eight thousand people attending the first general audience of the year, on the eve of the Epiphany. "The feast of Christmas - he said - fascinating today as it once was, more than any other major feast of the Church, is fascinating because everyone somehow senses that the birth of Jesus has to do with humanity’s deepest aspirations and hopes". "Consumerism can divert attention from this inner longing, but if the desire to accommodate that child who brings news of God who came to give us life in its fullness in our heart, then the lights of Christmas decorations can become a reflection of that Light that is the incarnation of God. "
But "the liturgical celebration of Christmas is not just a recollection, it is also a mystery, it is not only memory, but also presence, two inseparable aspects: we must experience the Christmas season as the Church presents it”, already in prospect of Easter. The ''Christmas liturgical season extends for 40 days from 25 December to 2 February, from the celebration of Christmas Eve, to the motherhood of Mary, from the Epiphany, through the baptism of Jesus and the wedding at Cana, to the Presentation in the Temple, just as similarly the Easter season forms a unit of 50 days until Pentecost. "
Christmas is "the beginning of the central mystery of salvation, Jesus begins his offering of himself from the very beginning of his human existence", and "it is interesting to see that in some Eastern icons, the Child Jesus is at times represented in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger that is shaped like a tomb". The Incarnation and Easter are in fact "two inseparable key points of the one faith in Jesus Christ."
The night of Christmas is "deeply rooted in the great vigil of Easter, when redemption is accomplished in the glorious sacrifice of the dead and risen Lord. The same crib, as the image of the Incarnation of the Word, in the light of the Gospel story, already alludes to the Passover and it is interesting to see how in some of the icons of the Nativity in the Eastern tradition, Jesus is represented as a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger that has the form of a tomb, an allusion to the time when He will come down from the cross, be wrapped in a shroud and placed in a tomb cut into the rock. Incarnation and Easter are not next to each other, but the two are inseparable key points of the one faith in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God and Redeemer. The Cross and Resurrection presuppose Incarnation. "
"We need to redeem this Christmas season - the conclusion of the Pope – from an overly moralistic and sentimental reading. The celebration of Christmas gives us not only examples to imitate, such as humility and poverty of the Lord, his kindness and love towards men, but is rather an invitation to us to let ourselves be totally transformed by the One who took on our flesh ".