Committed Sustained Informed - Intercession
New Bethlehem Heart
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"New Bethlehem Heart"

"The Season of Silent Love"

          Today we live in a very 'noisy nation' and in the midst of much "digital distraction". Consequently, at this time of year having an authentic experience of the "heart" of Christmas--its deeper, inner meaning--is becoming increasingly more counter cultural. For it means silencing the "cultural cacophony", the "societal sirens, bells and whistles", and journeying interiorly and courageously into our hearts. Christmas is addressed, first of all, to the human heart. Jesus has come to make his home in the heart of humanity.  From the Fullness of the Father's "Heart" one Word has been spoken in the world: Jesus! The Word has come to dwell among us so as to dwell within us.

          Verse 3 of the Christmas Carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem", begins with these lyrics:

 "How silently, how silently the wondrous Gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts the blessing of his heaven".

Two thousand years ago as shepherds kept the night watch over their flock, in sacred silence Jesus was given to the world as Gift. Today he continues to be given in silence to humble, human hearts that are opened to receive him. "Contemplative prayer is silence, the "symbol of the world to come", or "silent love" (CCC 2517). We have been created for "the world to come"--for Heaven; we have been created for beatitude, the "beautific vision" of God, where, Face to face in Heaven "We shall see him as he is" (1Jn. 3:2B). We have been created to be in the presence of the divine. This is one of the fundamental lessons of Christmas.

          Our Catholic religion is a religion of the Incarnation (of God en-fleshed in a human nature): "A religion in which God and humanity are face to face" (God Day By Day. Vol. 4, p. 78). With the birth of Jesus we are now "face to face" with God. Jesus is the "face" of Love and Compassion: A face we can see, a voice we can hear, a life we can know, and a heart we can love. How wonderful  --even overwhelming-- it is to know that through the working of the Holy Spirit and Mary, God has a human face: Saving grace has a human face that we can gaze upon with the eyes of our hearts in prayer.  "I want to see God" expresses the true desire of man" (CCC 2557): "Come," says my heart, "seek God's face"; your face, Lord, do I seek! Do not hide your face from me" (Ps 27:8-9).

          Christmas calls us back to our "Bethlehem beginnings". Symbolically, Bethlehem is the place where contemplation is born  --in a mutual gaze of "silent love". We learn "at the manger" to gaze in silence and stillness--to adore him! God's gaze changes me. Jesus took upon himself a flesh and blood humanity so that each of us could become truly mystical--an authentically spiritual being in his presence. Here "at the manger" faith is born. One must be a contemplative first in order to become an effective intercessor. One needs to learn how to truly gaze at Jesus, Love Incarnate--how to truly face Jesus--before one can truly "face" the world with a loving, interceding heart.  One has to become a "God gazer" first. One must learn to gaze truthfully and lovingly at Jesus in silence before one can see the face of Jesus truthfully and lovingly in the rest of humanity.

           As we learn to gaze on the face of Jesus in contemplative prayer, our hearts are purified and, in time, we learn to gaze on the face of all humanity with love and compassion. For an intercessor, it is absolutely essential to pray for others with the love and compassion of Jesus in one's heart. In the gaze of  contemplation we are formed more and more in the image of Jesus; hence we begin to see interiorly more with the eyes of his heart, hear more with the ears of his heart, discern more with his heart, and love more with the love of his heart.   

          St. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, prays, "May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call" (Eph.1:18). Contemplative, communal, intercessory prayer is very much a charism of the heart, and it is most definitely "his call". A popular Christmas Carol asks, "Do you hear what I hear?"; "Do you see what I see?"; "Do you know what I know?" The questions are not asked as a boast; rather, God desires everyone to hear his voice, "see his face", and know his personal love. This is what we desire in our prayer for others. As we begin to grow in "his call", we begin to experience a sincere solidarity with all people--a mystical identification with all of humanity. Then, the mystery of Christmas is beginning to be fulfilled in our lives.


1)   What has been your experience of contemplative silence during this Christmas season?

     2) In what way(s) is God's gaze in prayer changing you?


Any scripture cited in the text; 2 Cor. 4:6; 2 Cor. 4: 18; Eph. 1:18; Eph. 3: 17-19


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