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What the Holy Fathers Say About Christmas

As we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s birth, we invite you to reflect on a collection of quotes from the Holy Fathers about the meaning of Christmas. May these selections bring you to a renewed contemplation of the joyous miracle of the incarnation.

The Basilica decorated for Christmas

Emmanuel, God with Us

“’Populus, qui ambulabat in tenebris, vidit lucem magnam’ – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’ (Is 9:1).

Every year we listen again to these words of the Prophet Isaiah in the moving context of the liturgical re-evocation of Christ’s birth. Every year these words take on new meaning and cause us to relive the atmosphere of expectation and hope, of amazement and joy typical of Christmas.

To the people, oppressed and suffering, who walked in darkness, there appeared ‘a great light.’ A truly ‘great’ light indeed, because the light which radiates from the humility of the crib is the light of the new creation. If the first creation began with light (cf. Gen 1:3), how much more splendid and ‘great’ is the light which inaugurates the new creation: it is God himself made man!

Christmas is an event of light, it is the feast of light: in the Child of Bethlehem the primordial light once more shines in humanity’s heaven and dissipates the clouds of sin. The radiance of God’s definitive triumph appears on the horizon of history in order to offer a new future of hope to a pilgrim people.” – from Pope John Paul II’s message on December 24, 2001

“The reading… we have just heard begins solemnly with the word ‘apparuit’… ‘there has appeared.’ This is a programmatic word, by which the Church seeks to express synthetically the essence of Christmas. Formerly, people had spoken of God and formed human images of him in all sorts of different ways. God himself had spoken in many and various ways to mankind (cf. Heb 1:1).

But now something new has happened: he has appeared. He has revealed himself. He has emerged from the inaccessible light in which he dwells. He himself has come into our midst. This was the great joy of Christmas for the early Church: God has appeared.” – from Pope Benedict XVI’s message on December 24, 2011

What the Incarnation Means for Believers

“Christmas is a decisive event, an eternal fire that God has kindled in the world, and must not be confused with ephemeral things… Christmas must not be reduced to a merely sentimental or consumerist feast, full of gifts and good wishes but poor in Christian faith, and also poor in humanity. Therefore, it is necessary to curb a certain worldly mentality, incapable of grasping the incandescent core of our faith, which is this: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father’ (Jn 1:14). And this is the heart of Christmas; rather, it is the truth of Christmas, there is no other.” – from Pope Francis’ message on December 23, 2020

“The birth of Christ helps us to become aware of the value of human life, the life of every human being, from the first instant to natural death… Let us prepare ourselves, dear friends, to meet Jesus, the Emmanuel, God with us. Born in the poverty of Bethlehem, he wants to be the travelling companion of each one of us on our life’s journey. In this world, from the very moment when he decided to pitch his ‘tent,’ no one is a stranger.

The Nativity portrayed in the third arch in the Rosary Garden at the National Shrine

It is true, we are all here in passing, but it is precisely Jesus who makes us feel at home on this earth, sanctified by his presence. He asks us, however, to make it a home in which all are welcome.

The surprising gift of Christmas is exactly this: Jesus came for each one of us and in him we have become brothers.” – from Pope Benedict XVI’s message on December 24, 2006

Jesus is the Light of World

“[L]ook at the Child Jesus, who came into the world to bring God’s love, who makes all things new. With His birth, Jesus made Himself a bridge between God and mankind, reconciled earth and sky, and recomposed the whole human race in unity. And today He also asks you to be little ‘bridges’ where you live… Sometimes it is not easy, but if we are united with Jesus we can do it.” – from Pope Francis’ message on December 16, 2019

“The liturgy of Christmastide invites us to hasten joyously to the stable at Bethlehem to meet Jesus Christ, our Savior: ‘Come, faithful! Come, let us adore the Lord Jesus!’. Let us open the doors of our hearts to him, so that he will accompany us now and throughout the year that is about to begin… May the light of Christ, that shone upon humanity on Christmas Night, shine upon you and light your steps in the New Year.” – from Pope John Paul II’s message on December 29, 2004

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