diofav 23

Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

gallagher fredSomething moves inside the Jewish girl – moves and turns like a dream of ancestors looking out from their dustbound time to the apex of history. Because she said “yes” to an angel, the girl’s lineage and lineage itself issues forth from a Child. And, within her, He moves and turns on a lowly beast’s worn back like the pouring of a cup in a catacomb to a weary heart, like bread given of a winter’s night for all those grown hungry.

Something moves and turns from stem and vine to Body and Blood, the Personal hymn of eternal time wherein this Child comes to meet us in our plight, moving and turning in the hay and the starlight. Something moves inside that girl, a memory of Jesse and David and Judean journeys to be illuminated by the beckoning stars of eastern skies. The Child moves in the deserts of the nomad, of Abraham and Moses, faithful and sad, holding freedom in their frontier hearts that move and turn in the night. We can see the breath of the girl whose eyes ever yearn for her Baby’s face. The road to Bethlehem moves and turns, and by night’s end, makes joyful and glad, as the Psalmist said, our humbled bones.

I am constantly amazed at how it was all laid out from the start, from the deserts of the prophets to the very night we are celebrating.

I’ve been reading lately about the Irish famine of the 1840s, called by the Irish the “Great Hunger.” It was in that famine that my great-great-grandfather John came to this country. The hunger of his body moved in his soul and he left his home for a harrowing journey that made my life of freedom possible. In my mind’s eye, I try to place myself at his farewell to his family in a fishing village in County Donegal. I try to imagine the crowded steerage over and the sickness that threatened everyone on the journey. In a way, in my imagination, I “remember” the meeting aboard ship of the girl, Mary, who would become his wife. I “remember” the birth of their son James, and the human string of victories and defeats and hardships and joys that proceeded from there and that made it all the way down to me and mine.

And now we all “remember,” in the Person of our greatest ancestor ever, the night the world changed, the moment Divinity came to us as One of us. And we will remember in the clarion call of scripture and in the liturgical, miraculous movement of our worship, the mystical radiance that is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the years to follow: the Child’s acquiescence to His mother and His loving apprenticeship under the ardent and protective eyes of Joseph, His interchange with teachers in the Temple, the wedding at Cana and the start of His public life, the healing and the teaching, the agony and the scourging, the hanging and dying upon a cross and the rising again to His Father.

But our starting point is that starlit night when shepherds took heed of their rambunctious lambs. We remember the birth of Jesus and we remember that we are made in His image: sons and daughters all. We have living in us our past not only from some seawall slip in a Donegal village, but also from a little cave stable in Bethlehem.

His journey to us, perilous and magnificent, is perhaps the greatest celebration of family there can ever be. History moves and turns.

John and Mary Gallagher wound up in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1841, receiving their Eucharist there and baptizing their son James. And, in the last days of 2017, I am somehow a part of that. I can almost smell the incense and see the smoke moving and turning as it rises in the air above the altar. And so, too, am I a part – as we all are – of the moving and turning of Jesus from His Blessed Mother’s womb out into the brilliant starlight, a fine and blessed Child. And this Christmas all the hungry world crowds in to see Him, moving and turning our hearts, right there at His manger.

Fred Gallagher is an author and editor-in-chief with Gastonia-based Good Will Publishers Inc.