Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ in the Diocese of Rochester,
Through the centuries painters and sculptors have given us numerous depictions of the Nativity scene. The stable is pictured with Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child as the central figures. Angels, shepherds, kings and usually animals complete the scene. The stable is open! We can look inside and see the child. Seeing, we marvel at what God has done for us.
In the birth of this child, God has truly become "Immanuel, God with us." As a child God has drawn so near to us that we can address Him in the intimate language reserved for a vulnerable, tender and beautiful infant. We have direct access to the heart of this child, and we can become his friends.
At this time of year, Christmas memories from our youths are often present. For most of us, Christmas was a time of great joy. Our memories center on Christmas Mass in our parish churches; Christmas dinners at home with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins; favorite recipes lovingly prepared and shared every year. Gifts were exchanged, and the hallowed memories of those who had gone before us into eternal life were shared with reverence and joy. Christmas memories rarely fade away completely. We may put them aside during the busyness of our year, but they emerge at Christmas to remind us of past blessings and to gladden our hearts.
For me personally the visit to the crib in the parish church of my youth continues to be a refreshing visit and a source of unbridled joy. While most of us have depictions of the stable and crib in our own homes, there is something special about entering the door of one’s parish church — the door of faith — and making a visit to the manger scene where the memory of the Christ Child’s birth is celebrated. With the altar nearby, we are reminded that this child will grow to adulthood and freely lay down His life for us. In the mystery of the Eucharist, Christ’s coming is not reserved only to the past. It is celebrated every day.
The Year of Faith, which we are celebrating at the present time, uses the "door of faith" as an image for the journey we are invited to make this year. This door is always open to us, inviting us to cross its threshold and enter into deeper friendship and union with God. It is my hope and prayer this Christmas season will not only strengthen the faith of our Catholic people but will also be the impetus to bring others through this door to closer intimacy with God.
Throughout the Christmas season, I will pray that you and your loved ones will enter the "door of faith" once more and, with memories from the past, see with renewed eyes of faith the Savior who came to free us from our sins and bring peace to our troubled world.
A blessed Christmas to you and all whom you love.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
+ Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham