Christ's Invisible Coming This Christmas 2020

Dec 23, 2020

Stephen J. Loughlin, Ph.D.

Dear Friends,

As we approach the close of 2020, I cannot help but be astounded at the graces God has bestowed on us this year, most especially through the support and prayers offered by you on behalf of St. Bernard’s! I offer to you my hearty, humble, and appreciative thanks.

With Advent rapidly coming to its end and the celebration of Christmas nearly upon us, I ask you to keep St. Bernard’s in your prayers and to consider making a final year-end gift to help us continue in our ministry of forming men and women for the purpose of serving the Church through diverse forms of lay and ordained ministries, theological scholarship, and Christian service in society. The need is now greater than ever. Online donations can be made here.

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In many ways, this Advent season and Thanksgiving holiday just celebrated have been most trying, as these are times traditionally when we draw together with family and friends in appreciation for all gifts received and in anticipation of the coming of Christ ever more into our lives. Many of us are accustomed to that joyful silence that is appropriate to the reception of great things, that inexpressible thanks that we offer up with our lives in the face of the glory that God is. But to do this in the solitude and isolation imposed upon us by the pandemic is something that seems to taint this joy, and for some even to rob the very delight that is found in sharing these things with those we love and the communities to which we belong – and this fact becomes even more poignant as we approach the celebration of Christmas itself.

St. Bernard might have something to say that speaks to this situation. In Sermon 5, In Adventu Domini, he describes three advents or comings of our Lord. Two of these are visible – as a child in Bethlehem, and in glory at the end of days – while the third is invisible, a coming that is experienced in an ongoing way in this life, but is “hidden” to all except those who know and love Him. He is the way that one travels, the One who accompanies and guides us on our journey, He is our strength, our rest, and our consolation along this path.

During this time of Advent, but especially in our solitude and isolation, St. Bernard might see this not as a curse but rather as a blessing, one where, having been deprived of the better part of communal endeavors, we might be ever more attentive to that invisible coming of Christ into our lives, that we might hear His presence in the gentle breeze, or be attentive to his quiet advent in the still of night in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Let God’s word, then, “enter into your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life” and thereby imitate Mary’s fiat before her Lord. “Feed on goodness, and your soul will delight in its richness. Remember to eat your bread, or your heart will wither away. Fill your soul with richness and strength. If you keep the word of God in this way, it will also keep you. The Son with the Father will come to you. The great Prophet who will build the new Jerusalem will come, the one who makes all things new.

These are words not just for the cloistered but for all Christians who are on the way to meet their Lord, words that inspire us to meet the challenges of our day and to draw ever nearer to Him. We, at St. Bernard’s, suffer as you do during these times. However, we rejoice heartily in these difficulties by taking St. Bernard’s advice to draw closer to our Lord and to work even harder in these times to share the jewel that St. Bernard’s is to all who stand in need of it.

We pray that in this Christmas season you too may receive the blessings of these times in “good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over” and that whatever hardship you endure may be turned to a blessing in only the way that God Himself can affect.

Fraternally Yours in Christ,

Stephen J. Loughlin, Ph.D.

Dr. Stephen J. Loughlin is President and Professor of Philosophy at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry in Rochester, NY. Dr. Loughlin earned his Master's and Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Toronto. Before coming to St. Bernard’s, Dr. Loughlin was an Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at DeSales University in Center Valley, PA., a position he held for almost 20 years. Dr. Loughlin’s academic work has appeared in The Thomist, Nova et Vetera, Pro Ecclesia, and Josephinum, and his areas of research interest include Medieval philosophy and Thomistic anthropology. Dr. Loughlin deeply loves teaching, having engaged in the profession for 25 years. Dr. Loughlin has been married for the past 30 years to his lovely wife, Carol, who recently retired as a NICU nurse.

Abundant thanks to Patti Doerr for capturing these stunning photos of our Rochester campus while attending our recent Advent Candlelit Mass and Carols celebration.