Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What shall we offer Him?

What shall we offer Him?

What shall we offer Thee, O Christ,
Who for our sakes hast appeared on earth as man?
Every creature made by Thee offers Thee thanks,
The angels offer a hymn; The heavens a star;
The wisemen gifts; the shepherds, their wonder;
The earth, its cave; the wilderness, a manger.
And we offer Thee a virgin mother.
O pre-eternal God, have mercy on us!
(Lord I Call, Vespers of the Nativity)

As online stores warn us of the final days after which “Christmas delivery” is not possible and local marketers tempt us to buy from them “the perfect gift for the person who has everything” (something that will wind up in a drawer or a closet and then at a yard sale as just some thing), we pause as we prepare for the Nativity of our Lord.

Rampant capitalism urges us in a relentless tide to buy, buy, buy, and to give gifts, to splurge. “You deserve it”. But the simple hymn listed above, from the Vespers of the Nativity, beckons us to something much different, far deeper, and of infinitely more value: The question, “What shall we offer Thee, O Christ?” Everything made gives thanks in some way, and humanity offers the Virgin Mother of God for this miracle. But what thanks do I myself give?

The Icon of the Nativity shows an ox and an ass peering into the manger. These animals do not appear in the Gospel accounts in Matthew and Luke. Rather, they are found in Isaiah 1:3, “The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.” Do we recognize our Master as the dumb animals do? Will we be found on Christmas Day, peering into the manger, giving thanks to the King of Glory, receiving Him in the Eucharist as we give Him the only thing we can: ourselves?

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