Abbot’s Christmas Message 2021

Abbots Christmas Message 2021

Christmas is a precious day, a joyful season, and an eternal reality in our faith. It celebrates the incarnation and birth of the Eternal Word, the Word of God, into time and space. Long ago to be sure, but still the same river of time we share, and the same earth we inhabit. Christmas is a time that invites reflection on who we are, what we are meant to be, and the end to which we are destined.

When we consider it, the first Christmas, perhaps, was not so different from the one we are about to celebrate. Politically, the people of ancient Israel were deeply divided between those, like Mary and Joseph, who remained loyal to ancient customs, laws, and hopes of their people. Others, however, saw opportunity to profit economically, socially, or politically from the invaders, the forces of the Roman Empire, which brought some measure of peace, but a peace built on submission and oppression.

Economically, only a few of the Jewish people could expect treatment with dignity, employment, or wealth. For many, life was a grinding cycle for existence, or a tenuous grip on meeting only the most basic of needs. Sometimes, even the consolations of the Jewish faith seemed far away because so many of the priestly and Levitical groups had reduced worship and prayer to banal formulas and routine exploitation, covering their own scandalous behavior. Underneath it all, zealots burned with resentment against occupation, yearning to re-establish the Kingdom of David.

Into this cauldron of contending groups and contentious ideas, in the deep of night, amidst the silence of the fields, a star shone, angels sang, shepherds stirred and three wise men journeyed toward a stable in Bethlehem, where a little child was held close by his Virgin Mother Mary under the watchful eye of Joseph, the child’s foster father, the guardian of the Redeemer and the guarantor of his place under the Law of Israel.

This child would grow to reveal the full depth and power of the Eternal Father’s love. Jesus of Nazareth, trained as a carpenter, would throughout three years of public ministry teach, preach, work miracles, rebuke corruption and then, finally, suffer and die on the Cross to redeem us from our sins. His death, atoning for the full weight of human sin and failure, leads to his resurrection, opening for us the opportunity for a new relationship with God. That relationship offers all men and women the opportunity to live truly in the light of Christ – and enter the fullness of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Our need for Christmas, and all that it initiates, all that it reveals, and all that it promises, is no less than the need of ancient Israel. His grace can transform our world and our lives – if only we allow it!

May each of us belonging to the wider Saint Anselm community recognize and embrace this Divine Infant, who captures us with the joy of his smile, welcomes us in the warmth of his embrace, transfixes us with the radiance of his eyes, and blesses us with his upraised and outstretched hand! From all of us at the abbey, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!


Abbot Mark A. Cooper, O.S.B.

Abbot of Saint Anselm Abbey