President's Christmas Message - St. Bernard's

President's Christmas Message

Dec 19, 2023

Stephen J. Loughlin, Ph.D.

I’ve often entertained the reflection that at the moment of our Savior’s birth, the world paused from its descent into futility, ceased from its constant strife, and for one brief moment reverenced the coming of our God, catching its breath, incredulous in the face of this Incarnation! But then, after the angels and shepherds had had their time, and as the night closed in once again and deepened even further, the world continued on its way, having cast aside its wonder at the sight of the Christ Child, taking up once again that path to which it is despairingly committed by the sin of our First Parents: to the non-being from which it and the whole of creation was originally drawn.

It is all too easy for us, especially those advanced in years, to be overcome by the seemingly ceaseless contentions of our world and its maniacal dash toward destruction. Such is evident not only between contending nations, but also among those who unite in common cause, and even as friends. As a wayfarer in the City of Man, I understand the natural sadness and despair that visits those who realize that there is far more behind them than there is before them, that in addition to the afflictions of old age and the waning of their power and influence, there is the inexorable “march of time” that, as my mother was fond of saying, waits for no man.

I am ever so grateful for the gift of our God in revealing through His Incarnation not only the beauty of our humanity and the depths of His love, but also that no matter how much this world has assailed me and no matter how hoary and weary a warrior that I’ve become, there will always be more before me than what is behind. In this I see that the very condition of humanity is not the despair to which the people of this world call us, but rather that of hope, and not simply for eternal life, but that the very actions that I take in life as I shoulder my burdens really do have significance, that they are not simply taken up in vain, but that as I rise from my bed each day to face its multiple challenges, there is in the very fact of “showing up” the ringing affirmation of all that is good, true, and beautiful.

In light, then, of these things, we sing with St. Bernard*:

“O Nativity of spotless sanctity! O birth honorable for the world, birth pleasing and welcome to men, because of the magnificence of the benefit it bestows; birth incomprehensible to the angels, by reason of the depth and sacredness of the mystery!”

What wonders befall us each Christmas in the face of that magnificent gift of God who takes upon Himself the condition of our humanity! At that Nativity, we stand with the angels in awe and hope, and are drawn with them into an eternal song of praise and thanksgiving to God our Savior! The night is to be feared no more as the light of our lives both realizes and anticipates the Light that is to come. So, may the blessings of this season renew your hope, strengthen your arms, and bear you through the challenges you face as you honor with your lives that birth which is so pleasing and so welcome to us all!

A Merry Christmas to one and all, and all God's blessings to you in the new year.

*St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon on the Vigil of Our Lord’s Nativity: “On the Joy His Birth Should Inspire”

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 over 25 years. Dr. Loughlin has been married for the past 30 years to his lovely wife Carol who recently retired as a NICU nurse.