When you come up our driveway here at this monastery where I am so fortunate to be assigned, the title of the convent faces you, emblazoned on the wall in black, cast-iron letters: Monastery of the Infant Jesus. And, as always, I enjoy playing mentally with words, and today the word “infant” is particularly appropriate to be meditated upon. In the gospel of today’s Mass, the archangel Gabriel announces to Zachary, the husband of Elizabeth, that, despite their old age, he and his wife are going to be blessed by their first and only baby. Zachary, a Jewish priest, whose vocation among God’s people involved much public speaking, finds it hard to believe what the archangel is telling him. So the angel gives him a sign that is also a form of punishment for his incredulity. He is to be struck deaf and dumb until the birth of the baby whom his wife will conceive. That child is to become the great John the Baptist, who will introduce Christ to the world. The word “infant” comes from the Latin meaning “not speaking.” An infant, in the basic meaning of the word, is a child so young that it cannot yet speak. In the mind of the Latins, when the child begins to speak, it is no longer an infant. And my Dominican Sisters live here in the monastery of the Infant Jesus and celebrate Christmas not only as the birthday of Our Divine Lord, but as the patronal feastday of their monastery, since every newborn baby is non-speaking, and remains so for one or two years.
How paradoxical: the second Person of the Blessed Trinity whom we adore as the Word of God, comes into our world as a baby who cannot speak. But of course, as he lies in the manger or in his mother’s arms, he doesn’t have to speak; he is immensely eloquent by what he IS. In due time, he will speak to us the words of eternal life. So, as we prepare to celebrate his holy birth among us, let us be grateful that he humbled himself to come among us with all the simplicity of an infant who had to learn the words of his native language, Aramaic, one by one as he developed in ordinary human ways. This blessed child, unable to speak, is the Word of God, the incarnate Word, who would say later, “It is not by bread alone that man lives, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.