Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence - Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

THE NATIVITY by Michaelangelo da Carravagio

The peace and beauty of this Christmas morning prompts me to extend this greeting and blessing to you, faithful reader of my Blog.

This Christmas I am contemplating the Christ Child in the manger with eyes of faith more than with the eyes of Christmas sentiment.  However cold and unsentimental it may seem to you, dear reader, I am fascinated by the apparent contradiction of this helpless infant being the most powerful person in the universe.

This month, on my little ranch, the sheep are having their lambs.  As I observe those newborn lambs getting on their feet within minutes of their birth, nursing and then following their mother, I am struck by the contrast with the condition of a newborn human baby.  The latter is totally helpless at birth.  It cannot focus it’s eyes, it cannot nurse without the help of its mother, it cannot move itself from where it lies, it cannot communicate except by crying.

The mystery I contemplate today is not only why God chose to send his son to us, but that God chose to send his son to us not as a fully grown mature man but as a helpless human infant.

The profundity of the mystery is clearly stated in the Prologue to his Gospel by the Evangelist, Saint John:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  ALL THINGS WERE MADE BY HIM:  AND WITHOUT HIM WAS MADE NOTHING THAT WAS MADE (emphasis added).

In ages past one could look at the smallest amount of matter and not think of the creative power of Jesus.  But all that changed on July 16, 1945.  On that day the world’s first nuclear explosion took place on the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico.  6.2 kilograms of plutonium were exploded in a nuclear fission with the force of 18 tons of TNT.

The power of the atom had been unleashed.

Who created the atom?  The atom, all atoms, was created by the person lying in that crib as a helpless human infant.

I have always marveled, as I am sure that many others have marveled, at the fact that the explosion of the first atomic device was named the “Trinity Project.”  Why was it so named.

The person credited with having given the project that name was one of the fathers of the atomic age:  Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer.  Dr. Oppenheimer was known to be a Jew.  Yet, he, a Jew gave the project a name which obviously refers to the Trinity of Persons in God.

When asked why he had chosen that name, Dr. Oppenheimer gave an interesting answer:

He attributed it to the poetry of John Donne. “In 1962, General Groves, the Director of the Manhattan Project, wrote to Oppenheimer about the origin of the name, asking if he had chosen it because it was a name common to rivers and peaks in the West and would not attract attention, and elicited this reply:[19]”  [Wikipedia]

I did suggest it, but not on that ground… Why I chose the name is not clear, but I know what thoughts were in my mind. There is a poem of John Donne, written just before his death, which I know and love. From it a quotation: “As West and East / In all flatt Maps—and I am one—are one, / So death doth touch the Resurrection.”[20][21] That still does not make a Trinity, but in another, better known devotional poem Donne opens, “Batter my heart, three person’d God;—.”[22][23]
So, it would seem that Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer was spiritually closer to Christ than anyone would have suspected.
I preached on the infinite power concealed in the infant Christ child lying in the manger in a homily at Midnight Mass in Corpus Christi Cathedral twenty-five years ago.  Since that time I pursued my hobby of reading works on Cosmology, the study of the creation of the universe.  I have shifted my attention from Christ, the creator of the atom with its immense power, to Christ the creator of gravity, the ‘glue’ that holds everything, and I do mean everything, together in the universe, from the interrelation of the electronic particles within the atom to the interrelation of  stars, planets, moons and even galaxies.
Now we have arrived at the end of the road for science.  Scientists have been able to explain just about everything else in the  physical universe, but I have yet to discover a scientific explanation for gravity.
Beginning with Sir Isaac Newton, scientists have been able to develop all kinds of mathematical formulae to predict the working of the force of gravity, but they have not been able to tell us the source or the nature of gravity.  They have struggled with “String Theory” and “Loop Theory” but there is no consensus that any of it explains anything.
All science can tell us is that gravity is a force.  A force that can be analyzed and measured.  But science cannot tell us WHAT gravity IS, or what is the source of this force known as gravity.
To the believer, to the Christian, there can only be one answer:  gravity is an expression of the infinite power of Jesus Christ.
This Christmas, and every Christmas, I invite you to gaze upon the representation of the Christ child lying in the manger, and to gaze upon the Host elevated at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, and to look  with the eyes of faith into the mystery of this great gift which God has given us and to become more and more aware of the infinite power hidden behind that which we see only with our physical sight.
Have a blessed and merry Christmas!

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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