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Christmas Mass During the Day

December 25, 2022
The Agape Community Chapel decorated for Advent

Today’s Invitation

To have an ecological conversion: Today we invite you to explore the ecological implications of Christmas using Elizabeth’s Johnson’s perspective of the incarnation; engage with Pope Francis’ call for ecological conversion in Laudato Si; and embody a transformed relationship with the Earth via the witness of Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai of the Green Belt Movement and the Agape Community in Massachusetts. 

Commentary by Jim Robinson

Christmas Mass During the Day

Reading 1

Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the one who brings good news,
announcing peace, bearing news of good things,
proclaiming salvation, and saying to Zion, “YHWH reigns!”
Listen! Those who keep watch raise a cry,
together they shout for joy;
for they see directly, before their eyes,
YHWH restoring Zion.
Break out together in song,
O ruins of Jerusalem!
For YHWH comforts the people,
and has redeemed Jerusalem.
YHWH bares a holy arm
in the sight of all the nations;
all the ends of the earth will behold
the salvation of YHWH.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 98:1, 2-3a, 3b-4, 5-6

Response: All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of Our God.

Sing a new song to the Creator of Life
who has worked wonders,
Whose right hand and whose holy arm
have brought salvation.
R: All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of Our God.

The Creator has made salvation known;
has shown justice to the nations,
And has remembered in truth and love
the house of Israel.
R: All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of Our God.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of Our God.
Shout to the Most High all the earth,
ring out your joy.
R: All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of Our God.

Sing psalms to the Author of Life with the harp,
with the sound of music.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
acclaim the Magnificent One.
R: All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of Our God.

Reading 2

Hebrews 1:1-6

In times past, God spoke in fragmentary and varied ways
to our ancestors through the prophets;
in these final days, God has spoken to us through the Only Begotten,
who has been made heir of all things
and through whom the universe was first created.
Christ is the reflection of God’s glory,
the exact representation of God’s being;
all things are sustained by God’s powerful Word.
Having cleansed us from our sins,
Jesus Christ sat down at the righthand of the Glory of heaven —
as far superior to the angels
as the name Christ has inherited is superior to theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Own; today I have begotten you,”
or, “I will be your parent, and you will be my child”
or, as when God brings the Firstborn into the world,
“Let all the angels of God worship you”?


John 1: 1-18

In the beginning
there was the Word;
the Word was in God’s presence,
and the Word was God.
The Word was present to God
from the beginning.
Through the Word
all things came into being,
and apart from the Word
nothing came into being
that has come into being.
In the Word was life,
and that life was humanity’s light —
a Light that shines on in the darkness,
a Light that the darkness has never overtaken.

Then came one named John, sent as an envoy from God,
who came as a witness to testify about the Light,
so that through his testimony everyone might believe.
He himself was not the Light;
he only came to testify about the Light
— the true light that illumines all humankind.

The Word was coming into the world —
was in the world —
and though the world was made through the Word,
the world did not recognize it.
Though the Word came to its own realm,
the Word’s own people did not accept it.

Yet any who did accept the Word,
who believed in that Name,
were empowered to become children of God —
children born not of natural descent,
nor urge of flesh
nor human will —
but born of God.
And the Word became flesh
and stayed for a little while among us;
we saw the Word’s glory —
the favor and position a parent gives an only child —
filled with grace,
filled with truth.

John testified by proclaiming,
“This is the one I was talking about when I said,
‘The one who comes after me ranks ahead of me,
for this One existed before I did.’ ”
Of this One’s fullness we have all had a share —
gift on top of gift.
For while the Law was given through Moses,
the Gift — and the Truth — came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the Only Begotten,
ever at Abba’s side,
who has revealed God to us.

The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.



The ecological implications of Christmas

In Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love, Elizabeth A. Johnson, CSJ depicts the birth of God as an event in which the Creator enters into a new form of intimacy with each and every creature. Johnson observes that the gospel opens with the phrase “in the beginning,” which echoes the opening line of the book of Genesis, attuning the reader to the connection between the incarnation and the original generation of creation. As we read in John’s gospel, it is through the Word (Gr. Logos) that “all things came into being,” from the fiery unfolding of the Big Bang to the diverse patterns of matter that constitute the present moment. The mystery of the incarnation affirms that the infinite God takes on finite flesh (Greek sarx). The Word from which the entire cosmos has emerged actively becomes embodied, taking on a concrete and personal shape within creation in order to, in Johnson’s words, “shed light on all from within.”

Johnson highlights the significance of the specific language employed in the prologue, noting that the gospel writer does not assert that the Word became a human person (Gr. anthropos), let alone a man (Gr. aner), but flesh (Gr. sarx), which is “a broader reality.” In this respect, while the type of flesh that God takes on is specifically human flesh, the incarnation is not merely a human event, but a cosmic event with ramifications for all enfleshed beings. As Johnson has it, “the flesh assumed in Jesus Christ connects with all humanity, all biological life, all soil, the whole matrix of the material universe down to its very roots.” This perspective connects with the scientific insight that all human bodies are inextricable from and interdependent with a wider web of planetary and cosmic life.

Drawing on the work of Danish theologian Niels Gregersen, Johnson refers to the birth of Christ as the “deep incarnation,” a phrase which signals the cosmic implications of Christmas. Though God has ceaselessly indwelt and accompanied creation through its evolutionary unfoldment, the deep incarnation initiates a new intensity of union between Creator and creation: “a union in the flesh.” Jesus, the deeply incarnate God, embodies divine presence in a manner that impacts the entire cosmos. Just as the birth of Jesus has cosmic ramifications, so too does his passion and resurrection. The crucified Christ suffers, dies, and is buried in solidarity with all beings who suffer and whose lives come to an end. Expanding on the “deep incarnation,” Johnson ultimately proposes a vision of the “deep resurrection,” which accounts for the cosmic significance of the Easter event. She proposes that the resurrection of Jesus of Nazarath, who was embedded in the flesh of the cosmos, signals the coming of new life for all sarx. As Johnson has it, “the evolving world of life, all of matter in its endless permutations, will not be left behind but will likewise be transfigured by the resurrecting action of the Creator Spirit.”

Johnson’s theological vision empowers us to approach the birth of Christ, as well as his death and resurrection, as events with cosmic significance. By celebrating the birth of Christ, and by deepening our relationship with the deeply incarnate Jesus at Christmas, we might simultaneously celebrate our connectedness with the wider web of creation in which God takes on flesh. Just as the body of Jesus is interwoven with the entire web of life, we might sense our  own interdependence with this web. We might commit ourselves to live in imitation of Jesus of Nazarath, who was connected to all flesh, who loved all creatures, and who lived in special solidarity with the marginalized. As we turn toward Jesus, and toward the creatures to whom he and we are so intimately connected, we might more fervently turn away from the practices and systems that harm creation. We might, in a special way, turn away from theologies and spiritualities that denigrate the material world, the world of sarx in which God constantly meets us.

Dr. Elizabeth A. Johnson, CSJ, is Professor Emerita of the Theology Department at Fordham University and a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph. She has served as president of both the Catholic Theological Society of America and the American Theological Society. In 1981, Johnson became the first woman to receive a PhD in Theology from Catholic University. She has since received fifteen honorary doctorates. Johnson’s She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Discourse (1992) received the Grawemeyer Award in Religion. For more information, click here.

Commentary by Jim Robinson

Jim Robinson is a member of the Religious Studies department at Iona College, associate director of the Deignan Institute for Earth and Spirit and a member of Agape’s Mission Council..

Engage Catholic Social Teaching

Environmental Justice

In Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home (2015), Pope Francis invites his readers to enter into an “ecological conversion.” For Francis, this green conversion (Greek metanoia) is intimately linked with the personal relationship between Christians and Jesus. As Francis has it, we must undergo “an ‘ecological conversion,’ whereby the effects of [our] encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in [our] relationship with the world around [us].” Johnson’s Christology offers an especially generative frame for considering the link between encounter with Jesus and ecological conversion. To encounter Jesus is to relate to the deeply incarnate and deeply resurrected one, the Word undergirding everything that exists, the person whose flesh lovingly connects with the entire material universe.

Pope Francis’s employment of the term “ecological conversion” connects with an established pattern of use within the lineage of Catholic Social Teaching, dating back to Pope John Paul II’s employment of the term in his “General Audience” on January 17, 2001. In this address, Pope John Paul II declares that “we must…encourage and support the ‘ecological conversion’ which in recent decades has made humanity more sensitive to the catastrophe to which it has been heading.” The advocacy for ecological conversion in papal encyclicals and general audiences can itself be contextualized in relation to a wider lineage of theological production. For instance, Elizabeth Johnson advocates “conversion to the circle of the earth” in Women, Earth, and Creator Spirit (1993), and Rosemary Radford Ruether advocates “converting our minds to the earth” in Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology (1983).

For Pope Francis, the “ecological conversion” that we must undergo entails a dramatic shift in our patterns of seeing and being. It involves the active cultivation of gratitude—a practice that is central to the Ignatian spirituality that is Pope Francis’s spiritual home—which leads us to recognize and respond to the gifted nature of reality, and to imitate God’s endless generosity in our own lives. Furthermore, the ecological conversion that we must undergo moves us into an attunement to our interdependence. It “entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.”

Francis is careful to emphasize that the ecological conversion we must undergo is not merely a personal turning, but a collective transformation, a “community conversion.” Projects of “self-improvement” by individuals will not be capable of constructively responding to the complexity of our eco-social crisis. As Francis has it, “social problems must be addressed by community networks and not simply by the sum of individual good deeds.” The ecological conversion that the deeply incarnate Jesus calls us to must move us into relationship with persons and communities who are working to build a more just and sustainable future. Together, we must work to resist and transform the practices and systems that promote the devastation of our earth.

Read Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home (2015) here.

Read John Paul II’s “General Audience” here.


A Contemplative Exercise

We invite you to spend some time praying with Johnson’s assertion that the Word became flesh to “shed light on all from within,” as well as her understanding that “the flesh assumed in Jesus Christ connects with all humanity, all biological life, all soil, the whole matrix of the material universe down to its very roots.”

Inspired by your engagement with Johnson’s insights, feel your way into a recognition of your own body’s embeddedness in the wider web of fleshly existence. Welcome the healing light of Christ into your body, sensing its presence in every part, from your feet to the top of your head. Welcome this light in a special way into places of tension, such as your shoulders. Relax into this gentle and healing light. Gradually envision the light of Christ flowing through your body into widening circles. The light fills your room, touching each of the walls and windows. The light fills your apartment or home, from the floors to the ceiling. The light fills your town, touching every tree and bird, every building and person. The light fills this planet, touching soil and plants, waterfalls and rivers, radiating out into the open sky. The light fills the entire cosmos, touching our Milky Way galaxy with its planets and stars, touching every galaxy, filling every centimeter of space. Through this light, and through your very flesh, sense your close connection with all other creatures. Bow before this light of Christ, and commit yourself to the love and care of every being that it touches.

A Witness

Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai

Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai (1940-2011) was born in Nyeri, in Kenya, Africa. Maathai, the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate, is the founder of the Green Belt Movement (GBM). The GBM is committed to the empowerment of women and girls, the building of community, the promotion of democracy, and the development of constructive responses to ecological degradation. The GBM is directly responsible for the planting of 51 million trees throughout Kenya since its founding in 1977. Maathai received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. “When we plant trees,” Maathai observes, “we plant the seeds of peace and hope.”

You can read more about Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement here:


A Community

Agape Community

Agape Community is a lay Catholic community rooted on 34 acres on the ancestral homeland of the Nipmuc Nation, in the Quabbin Reservoir Watershed, in Hardwick, MA. Founded in 1982 by Suzanne Belote Shanley, Brayton Shanley, Nancy James, Steve James, and Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, the community moved to Hardwick in 1987. Agape is animated by commitments to antiracism, radical nonviolence, ecotheology, daily prayer, music and celebration, community service, and voluntary simplicity. The property consists of two homes: St. Francis House and St. Brigid House, a hermitage set apart for contemplative prayer, a writer’s hut named “Levertov” after the poet Denise Levertov, and a large organic garden which provides the majority of the vegetables that sustain the community’s vegan diet. Both St. Francis House (built in 1989) and St. Brigid House (built in 1999) are run entirely on solar power. St. Brigid House is insulated with straw bales, and includes a composting toilet. While rooted in the Catholic tradition, Agape is interfaith in its outreach and practice. The community is embedded in a wider web of communities and institutions including the New England Buddhist Peace Pagoda, Sirius Community, Pax Christi, and the Catholic Worker Movement.

Visit Agape Community here.


“Mary of the Cosmos” icon (2004)

Sr. Bernadette Bostwick is a member of Green Mountain Monastery in Greensboro, VT, a Catholic monastery committed to incarnating ecotheological ideals. According to Bostwick, “Mary of the Cosmos” is an icon that “celebrates the sacredness of Earth and all beings in the community of life held inside her maternal embrace.”

View “Mary of the Cosmos” and read more about Sr. Bernadette Bostwick, the icon, and Green Mountain Monastery.