Remember then how our fathers worked out their salvation; remember the sufferings through which the Church has grown, and the storms the ship of Peter has weathered because it has Christ on board. Remember how the crown was attained by those whose sufferings gave new radiance to their faith. The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth that without real effort no one wins the crown. ~ from a letter written by St. Thomas Becket
Meister Eckhart once said: ‘What good is it that Christ was born 2,000 years ago if he is not born now in your heart?’
“Lord, we do far too much celebrating your actual coming in our hearts. I believe in God, but do I believe in God-in-me? I believe in God in heaven, but do I believe in God-on-earth? I believe in God out there, but do I believe in God-with-us?
“Lord, be born in my heart. Come alive in me this Christmas! Amen.”
(Living Faith, Vol. 4, # 3)
In his letter St. Thomas speaks of how many are needed to plant and water the faith that is spreading across the lands after the Incarnation. Eckhart, speaking more intimately to us as individuals, asks whether we can believe in our personal relationship with the babe. To kings and governments who see themselves as lords on Earth both thoughts are dangerous to their insecure grasping at power. History is replete with the results, and here are but two: Herod slaughtering babies in Bethlehem in order to kill the infant Jesus; Henry II inflaming four swordsmen to murder his former best friend Thomas in his own cathedral on December 29, 1170.
Today is the feast day for St. Thomas Becket (1118-1170). Becket was born in London and became a close friend of King Henry II. He was only a deacon when he was appointed chancellor of England. When he was ordained as archbishop of Canterbury, he underwent an abrupt conversion of life and began to defend the Church’s rights against the king. Becket had led a very debauched and worldly life and was placed into his position by his best friend Henry II in order to be a puppet of the state. Henry could not have foreseen the changes that his friend underwent once he became archbishop, however, and the two became enemies.
While the Christmas season is a time of unbridled joy, we need also recognize that not everyone shares our joy. Having the courage to follow the Holy Infant may gain you some enemies in this life. It is a courage that many lack as they love the opinions of friends or family more. Becket could have continued to live a long and easy life in the service of his friend and king. Instead he loved Christ; a love born in his heart.
If you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to watch at least once the 1964 movie Becket. Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton are magnificent in bringing this story to life.