Katie Faley: Salvation starts with a baby — the unfathomable humility of God
Cause of Our Joy / By Katie Faley
Happy new liturgical year! Wouldn’t it be neat if we stayed up until midnight on the night before Advent to count down to the moment when the old liturgical year turned into the new one?
We’d make a list of resolutions for the new liturgical year. We’d blow whistles and throw confetti. We’d start looking forward to all of the wide-open possibilities of the liturgical year to come.
There is a lot of hope that comes with a new year, so it makes sense that we begin the new liturgical year with the beginning of Advent — a time of hope in the coming of . . . a baby.
Who doesn’t love a good baby, right? I love babies. They’re so cute and cuddly. I’ve met my fair share of babies. I haven’t met a baby I don’t like. But there is one thing that is true of all babies:
They are helpless.
They rely totally on their parents and caregivers for everything.
“WHY A BABY?”
In a lot of ways, babies remind us of our own helplessness. Just like a baby relies on its parents for everything — nourishment, health, safety, love, care, nurturing — we rely totally on our own Creator.
Little children are very easy to love. Not only because they sometimes say silly things that make us laugh or make cute faces, but also because they are so blessedly innocent. Even when little children are troublemakers, we still love them because they don’t know any better.
This image is particularly comforting knowing that God looks at us like a parent looks at a little child. Even when we sin, we are still infinitely loved. Because, to God, we are precious and beloved children.
But, it’s the helplessness of babies which causes me every year at Advent to wonder, “Why a baby?” God chose to come to earth as a baby to save us. When the Old Testament speaks of the coming of Salvation, it’s usually images of kings and rulers. A baby isn’t really the picture of power or might.
God came as a baby to save the entire world from death. That seems like a lot to expect from a baby.
GROWING IN DEVOTION TO THE INFANT JESUS
The mystery of Christ’s Incarnation reminds us that God was willing to humble Himself so much, just to be near us. He accepted helplessness for humanity so that the world might know the joy of eternity.
Many saints knew this well and had a special devotion to the babyhood of Jesus.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus even included her devotion to baby Jesus in her religious name. Her life and vocation were a reflection of the simplicity of Christ’s childhood. For her, faith in God the Father was as simple and as natural as a child relying on its parents for everything.
Likewise, St. Anthony of Padua is often pictured holding the infant Jesus. He reflected on the unfathomable humility of God tenderly presenting Himself to humanity as an infant. Like the saints, we can use this new liturgical year to grow in devotion to the Infant Jesus.
When the shepherds learned of the birth of the Divine Child, they went “with haste” to adore Him. Just like the shepherds, we are called to go and adore the Infant Jesus with total trust. And just like the saints, we are called to imitate the humility of Christ born in a manger as a helpless baby.
My favorite Christmas song, “O Holy Night,” sums up the long and the short of it.
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining ‘til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
The soul felt its worth with His appearance. Without the birth of a baby, our souls would still be thirsting for the divine relief of salvation. Because of the birth of a baby, we have life in God.
This new liturgical year, my resolution is to keep in mind the image of the shepherds going “with haste” and in total trust to worship a baby who showed us what true humility and simplicity of faith look like.
KATIE FALEY is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria and digital marketing coordinator for the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. She has a master’s degree in theology and theological studies from the University of Notre Dame. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.