The song opens with the following stanza: “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him, born the King of angels.” During Christmas, we celebrate the fact that the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, has taken on human nature, body and soul, becoming like us in all things except sin. It is fitting and proper that we should be called to worship the Christ child, the incarnate Word. After the angel proclaims this good news of great joy to the shepherds, their response is, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us” (Luke 2:15). They go on to glorify and praise God for what has taken place (cf. Luke 2:20).
Then there are the Magi who come to Jerusalem asking: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Matthew 2:2). Overjoyed when they found who they were looking for, “they prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures…” (Matthew 2:11).
The shepherds and the Magi come to worship the one, true and living God. It is a holy thing to reflect on the joyful mystery of the fact that God has become man, leading us to worship our God during Christmas. However, it should not end there. Christ himself remains in the flesh with us, “until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Like the shepherds and the Magi over 2000 years ago, we, too, are called to worship our Lord in the flesh.
Each and every human person is called to God give his due. This is practicing the virtue of religion. Jesus declares, “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10). As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Adoring God, praying to him, offering him the worship that belongs to him…are acts of the virtue of religion which falls under obedience to the first commandment (CCC 2135). Obedience which is meant to be loving obedience, modeled after Jesus who, “…humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
It is primarily in the Mass, the eucharistic liturgy, that we fulfill the First Commandment, and give the triune God adoration and worship. Every Catholic Church throughout the world is another Bethlehem. The word “Bethlehem” means “house of bread,” and it is no coincidence that this is where Christ was born, he who would one day make known, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). The Mass is where Jesus fulfills his promise to be with us always, not solely in a spiritual, mystical sense, but also in a bodily, physical sense. In the Mass we encounter Christ – body, blood, soul and divinity – in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Jesus Christ himself, truly present, and we, too, are called to respond like the Magi, to fall down prostrate and worship because Jesus is physically present no less so then he was at his birth.
We must worship the Eucharist. In worshipping the Eucharist, we are not worshipping a piece of bread or a cup of wine. In worshipping the Eucharist we are not sinning; we are not committing idolatry. Idolatry is when you worship something or someone who is not God. The Eucharist is God. On the contrary, it is, as St. Augustine proclaimed, a sin not to adore. Receiving Communion presupposes a disposition of adoration and worship.
Jesus is not only present during the Mass, but he is also present in the tabernacle, a stylized house for the bread of life. He is present in many chapels throughout the world which are specifically designed for adoration and worship of the Eucharist, perhaps even perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance. John Paul II helps us get to the heart of the matter through his words: “The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith…Let our adoration never cease” (CCC 1380)
We all must pray. What better place to pray then where God is physically present? If we love someone, we want to spend time with them. What better way to show Jesus how much we love him than to go before him in the Eucharist?
Our beloved late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II’s desire was that we might worship and adore our risen Lord, and while doing so pray for vocations. Why pray for vocations to the priesthood before the Blessed Sacrament? Because without men to respond to the divine calling of the priesthood, through the sacrament of holy orders, we would not have the sacrament of sacraments, the source and summit of our whole Christian existence.
In 2005 the Year of the Eucharist was meant to teach us something. It was meant to help us focus on the infinite depths of God’s love, sacramentally present in the Eucharist. The year has ended, but God’s love never ends. Jesus remains with us in the Eucharist until the end of time. We are meant to continue to grow in our love and adoration of God. May we, like the shepherds, go to see this thing which has taken place, and glorify and praise God. May we, like the Magi, seek out our Lord, fall prostrate, do him homage, then open to him the treasure of our very lives. May we sing with all the joy in our hearts and heed the words, “O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”