Homily for Midnight Mass of the Nativity celebrated by Archbishop Eamon Martin
“We think tonight of families who are wounded or separated by war and violence, by mistrust or relationship breakdown. In a special way let us pray for families in Ukraine and Russia and other parts of the world who continue to suffer because of war”
“We pray that the lives of all children – born and unborn – will be protected from violence, trafficking, abuse, neglect or exploitation”
Just half a mile away from this Cathedral stands the famous Armagh Observatory that was founded by the Anglican Archbishop Richard Robinson in 1790. Through its great telescopes, astronomers in Armagh can study the stars and planets and explore the vastness of the universe.
At this time of the year, looking up into the night sky reminds me of the amazing miracle and mystery of Christmas:
To realise that, of all the millions of planets in the universe, God loved the world so much that He sent His Only Son here to be our Saviour – an event that God had been preparing for centuries!
To think that God, the Almighty, the creator of all that exists, is born in time as a little child, in a humble stable, to a poor family – the Eternal Word made flesh and living among us!
An ancient Latin hymn sums up the “great and mighty wonder” of Christmas: “O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum!”
“O what a great mystery,and wonderful sacrament,that animals should see the newborn Lord,lying in a manger!”
It can be difficult for us to comprehend that God loves each one of us personally, uniquely and intimately. Although God knows all our weaknesses and sins, God keeps on wanting us to become the very best that we can be. The Christmas story shows that we can become sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity. That is why Saint Paul in the second reading urges us to “give up everything that does not lead to God”.
Tonight, as we marvel at the wonder of the universe, and think of how heaven’s glory was revealed to simple shepherds. It is good to thank God for giving us this Earth to be our common home, and to pledge to care for our planet by being less wasteful, and more conscious of the damage that living selfishly can do to our environment.
Remembering that Jesus was born in the poverty of the stable, makes us thankful for the warmth and security of a home; and more conscious of those less fortunate than we are – the homeless, the refugee, the hungry, the sick, and the lonely.
Reflecting at Christmas time upon the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph brings to mind our own family members at home or away; and we think tonight of families who are wounded or separated by war and violence, by mistrust or relationship breakdown. In a special way let us pray for families in Ukraine and Russia and other parts of the world who continue to suffer because of war.
And, as we gaze in wonder and awe at God’s presence in the newborn infant Jesus, we thank God for children, who bring so much joy and happiness into our lives, especially at Christmas time. We pray that the lives of all children – born and unborn – will be protected from violence, trafficking, abuse, neglect or exploitation.
In his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si, On Care for our Common Home, Pope Francis wrote this prayer:
“All powerful God, you are present in the whole universeand in the smallest of your creatures.You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.Pour out upon us the power of your love,That we may protect life and beauty.Fill us with peace, that we may liveas brothers and sisters, harming no one.”
With that beautiful prayer, I wish you, and your families every blessing for Christmas and the New Year.
Beannachtaí na Nollag oraibh go leir.
+Archbishop Eamon Martin
Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland.
Preached at the Live broadcast of Christmas Mass by RTÉ and the European Broadcasting Union which took place at 11.00pm from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh.