In this octave of Christmas, the Gospel of Luke describes the shepherds who spent the nights in the fields to guard their flocks. These shepherds, to whom the birth of Jesus was announced by the angel, were also the first to go to Bethlehem to see the newborn lying in the manger. They were the first to adore the God made man, before going in turn to announce the Good News by glorifying the Lord.
Interview by Jean-Charles Putzolu – Vatican City
In the grotto of the Nativity, all eyes gently fall on the child in the manger. The gaze of Mary and Joseph is quickly accompanied by the gaze of the shepherds, then of the Magi from the East who will prostrate themselves before him, twelve days after Christmas, bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh. All worship the Lord. In the following interview, Father Jean-Paul Savi sj offers us a meditation to go further on the meaning of adoration.
The representations of the Nativity show the Magi and the shepherds turned towards the Child in an attitude of veneration. What does worship mean?
In the representations of the Nativity, the Child Jesus is the main character who attracts attention. So the Magi and the shepherds have an attitude of adoration before the baby Jesus because of his identity. Jesus is the Messiah and therefore adoration is defined as the first attitude of man who recognizes himself as a creature before his Creator. And so it is an attitude of reverence and love of one who puts himself in the presence of God and lets himself be seized by his greatness and his love.
Why would it be important today, more than ever, in view of the cacophony of a secularized era, to rediscover the taste for adoration?
Today, we are invaded by many noises and distractions. Just take the example of our cell phones. We have lots of notifications, messages coming in and distracting us a bit. So adoration as an attitude towards our Creator calls us to calm, to an attitude of recollection. Adoration allows us to become men and women of depth.
What can we learn from the shepherds around the child, from this pastoral spirituality?
The shepherds are modest, simple people from society, but whom God has chosen to announce to them the birth of Jesus. The second thing is diligence. Immediately after the angel’s announcement, the shepherds set out for Bethlehem. And so we must also be diligent in listening to the calls of the Lord, the God who speaks to us through our life, events, through friends, etc. The third thing is the proclamation of Christ. After the encounter with Jesus, the shepherds left to tell others about their experience of Christ. We too must be able to tell other people about Jesus, not only by our words, but also by our actions. And the last thing is the praise of God and knowing how to give thanks and glorify God for the lived experience, even if sometimes we live less good experiences.
How is worship a mystery?
When we speak of mystery, it is often something secret, something hidden, let’s say, inaccessible to human reason. But God reveals himself to us as he wants and when he wants. So the mystery goes beyond the limits of human reason. And in this sense, adoration, which is an act of faith, is a mystery in the sense that God, who is the object of our adoration, remains a being who can never be fully grasped, but who reveals himself to us through our life. So it’s a free gift from God, to reveal himself to us, and it can also come through worship.
What does God tell us with his incarnation as a little child?
This question reminds me a little of the meditation of the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius on the incarnation. And Saint Ignatius said: ‘here I will remember how the three divine persons contemplating the surface of the earth, covered with men, and seeing that all rush to hell, decree in their eternity, that the second person of the August Trinity become man to save the human race. In this meditation, I see that what God expresses to us through the incarnation is simply his infinite love, God who loves us so much, even sending us his Son to save us.