It is common on Christmas Eve to expect gifts; in the family of Therese of Lisieux it was no different:
“Dad loved to see my satisfaction, to hear my cries of joy when I took every surprise out of my ‘enchanted shoes’,” and my King’s contentment increased my happiness.
As we read above, Therese was accustomed to receiving mere material gifts accompanied by the affection of her sisters and her father. But God, “who is the God of surprises”, as Pope Francis said in a recent homily, wanted to give a different gift to our dear Therese because “Christmas is the time to contemplate God’s unheard of novelty.”
Let us accompany the continuity of this story:
“Jesus, however, in wanting to show me that I had to get rid of some of my childhood habits, He took away from me the innocent joys of this age. He allowed father, exhausted from the midnight Mass, to get bored with my shoes in the fireplace, and to prophesize these words that pierced my heart: ‘After all, how fortunate this is the last year!’”
Who, when hearing harsh words at family feasts or at end-of-year gatherings, no longer felt the desire to self-closure and climb the stairs of pride? How many families no longer celebrate together Christmas because unpleasant words were spoken that were not forgiven!
Let us look at Therese’s attitude:
“On that luminous night that projects the delights of the Blessed Trinity in a flash, Jesus, the sweet little child born an hour ago, changed the night of my soul into torrents of light… That night, when he became weak and suffering for my love, he made me strong and courageous, he clothed me in his armor… After stifling my tears, I quickly descended the stairs. Compressing my heartbeat, I took my shoes, put them in front of Daddy, and I happily took off all the objects, with the happy air of a queen.“
From a spoiled little girl to a lady of her own, the grace of Christmas Eve transforms her, even as young as she is, into a woman full of human and spiritual maturity. By divine grace and adherence of the heart, this girl who became known throughout the world, understood on Christmas Eve the mystery that is celebrated in her.
Going down the stairs was not a mere movement; it was an order from God obeyed by a girl with a poor heart that understood that holiness is a stairway to the “kingdom of heaven”, and this will be the way that Therese will faithfully follow in her journey with God. Ah, it is necessary to remember the unprecedented gift that she received from God himself on Christmas Eve:
“From this night of light, the third period of my life began the most beautiful of all, the fullest of graces in heaven… The task that in ten years I have not been able to carry out, Jesus carried it out at a glance, contenting Himself with my good will, which I have never lacked. Like his apostles, I could tell him: Lord, I fished all night and caught nothing. For me, even more merciful than for his disciples, Jesus himself took the net, cast it, and gathered it full of fish… He made me a fisherwoman of souls. I felt a great desire to work for the conversion of sinners, a desire I had never felt so pronounced… I felt, in a word, charity penetrating my heart, the need to forget myself in order to give pleasure, and since then I have been happy!” (Story of a soul)
Oh, wonderful gift!
Let us have the courage to ask for a Christmas Eve where the incarnate love of God overcomes the obstacles within us, which prevent our seeing others with eyes of love, living the descent necessary for charity to happen in our relationships. As a person attached to the eagle flying high in love for God and others, may God grant us such a grace that gives us the happiness of maturity, inner freedom and peace.
There are graces that God only grants us at Christmas, how about daring to ask for such an experience!
Pray for us, dear Therese!
A Merry and Holy Christmas!