I thought by way of a homily for this Christmas night to share with you a letter I received in response to our Christmas Card to her this year. Our card was a photograph of a Statue we have in our Infirmary Chapel of Mary holding the Infant Jesus:



Dear Abbot Steele and the Community,

Your Christmas Card was the first we received and I loved it! The way Mary looks at the Infant Jesus is so tender. I remember looking at my son, Isaac, the same way when he was just a few days old. Protective, nurturing, caring, very strong but gentle — exactly what a vulnerable little person needs. The bond lasts a lifetime and is only severed by death. However, the love never stops, it goes on beyond time.

In these incredibly selfish times, when everything is about ‘Me’ and the ‘God-of-Self,’ motherhood demands the exact opposite. That is why so many women are struggling with motherhood today, including myself. We have been brought up to be terribly, terribly selfish. Becoming a mother will literally and brutally knock it out of you/me. It is one of the most magnificent opportunities our dear God gives women: to say, “No,” to a culture that is so selfish, and to say, “Yes,” to God. Motherhood is a terribly solemn “Yes.” I can understand a tiny fragment of what Mary was saying “Yes” to, as the mother of Jesus. Mothers, naturally, closely follow their children and their development, with all the incumbent sorrows and joys; if you strike a child, you are striking the mother.

I think Mary was a very down to earth, practical mother. Too many image show her as a sappy, saccharine sweet, two-dimensional personality. It’s disappointing because it reflects on all women and all mothers. People don’t want to know that she breastfed Jesus, a necessary and wonderful way to nourish new life. She would have wiped his cute little bottom, and laughed when he tasted his first lemon and made a sour face. Those things are so important to God, and were so important to Jesus. The Incarnation is truly an amazing and fantastic thing. I hope by the grace of God to enter heaven one day and meet the Mother of God, to be embraced by her, and acknowledge and rejoice in the privilege of carrying Jesus inside us.

I have missed you all very, very much. Hopefully, 2022 will permit me to have the privilege of your wonderful hospitality again.

Much love, … .

This letter says much of all that needs to be said to us this night, when our God comes to us as vulnerable little child in need of our love, protection and nurturing. These things call us out of ourselves in a love that reaches out beyond the self to The Other, so that ‘we can love the Lord our God with our whole heart, and with all our souls, and with all our strength, and our neighbour as ourself’ (Luke 10:27) — as a mother would her little child. The birth we celebrate on this holy night calls us to tenderly embrace Emmanuel, that terribly vulnerable little God in our midst. (Matthew 1:23; 18:20) For this is the message the angel brought to the shepherds, to all of us who are called to shepherd this little Lamb of God (Matthew 1:20-21; John 1:29): “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12) In this little-one-in-our-midst we are called to see the future of the world, and to do what we can to ensure that he thrives and comes to full maturity. (Luke 2:40, 51-52) May the great and wonderful blessing of this Christmas night be yours … to love and nurture throughout all the coming year and all the years ahead!

By Dom Steele Hartmann OCSO