Christmas, a treasure to be handed down
Emmanuel Lengaigne (Mini-Lien 501)
We have just commemorated the death of Cardinal Lavigerie and we are preparing to celebrate the feast of the Society. While preparing this editorial, I asked myself: how did our confreres in the first caravans experience their first Christmas?
It was certainly not a Christmas with large crowds and even less with family. For some of them, it must have been a bare Christmas on unfamiliar roads among people they did not know and a language they had not yet mastered… But their Christmas was probably closer to the experience of the birth of the Lord in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
Incarnation was not easy. Jesus did not come into a world where everything was fine. He came in simplicity to bring a word of hope, a word of life, a message of love that resonates deep within us.
What our confreres experienced at the beginning of the Society and which we were able to experience in a daily life that might have seemed ordinary is an extension of the Saviour’s coming into the world. We do not always realise how many people are impressed by our missionary life. If we remember the transformation of the Church where we served in Africa, we can rejoice and give thanks for having been able to make our contribution to it. How many of us celebrated Christmas in small chapels that have now become parishes or even dioceses? What we have experienced is a treasure of which we are the custodians. A treasure that tends to be less and less known in Europe.
Since the origins of humanity, God has deposited in the heart of each person a desire for fullness, for the absolute, which manifests itself in different ways. It is this desire that has motivated us in our missionary commitment. It is the same desire for wholeness that manifests itself in the many people of all ages who commit themselves to the service of the most vulnerable. If we are attentive, we discover much generosity around us. An attention to others that has become more evident during this period of pandemic.
Can we not respond to this desire for fullness that more and more people are seeking today by valuing our experience and our presence in Africa? In a secularised world, our experience, the treasure that we hold in trust, can be an opportunity for others to open up. It is also a way of continuing to participate in the coming of the Saviour into the hearts of men. We are depositaries of a treasure that we could share more in the world.
This year, Christmas will not be as we would have liked it to be. We will probably have some restrictions and we all regret it. We also know that the essential is elsewhere. That the coming of the Saviour that took place in a given place and time is to be renewed in each person, in each generation! Christmas is also when someone welcomes the Lord for the first time in his or her life. Witnessing this is a source of joy and thanksgiving.