Struggling to stay Catholic? You're not alone. Faith seeks wonder to flourish. I'll share it when it shows up.

Original Christians didn't have a New Testament. They relied solely on the Logos, the Word of God, for at least two generations before anything like a New Testament existed.

Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel which has come to you… as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf…. – Colossians 1:5-7 (RSV-CE)

I grew up in a Christianity that looked only to the Bible for God's revelation. One of the most freeing parts of becoming Catholic was that it put the horse back in front of the cart. God reveals himself first through his Incarnate Word, the Christ. Scripture is one essential component of the Deposit of Faith, but it's not the only one. Equally important is Sacred Tradition, the authoritative oral teaching handed on by the Christ to us through his apostles and their successors, the bishops. The earliest Christians became Christian not because they had a canon of Scripture, but because they had people like Epaphras revealing the mystery of Christ in word and deed.

This frees my soul because it means the Christ continues to speak. From the realm of Spirit, the Word Incarnate sounds in Scripture and Tradition, yes, but also through reality when the mind stills what the senses convey. That happened for me an hour ago in mass when, in a quiet moment, I pondered the figures in the parish nativity scene.

Among the usual suspects present at the birth, a young, innocent looking shepherd held up a lamb toward the infant Christ. Symbolism of the sacrificial lamb, certainly, but it took on new prominence when I noticed his companion, an older, more rustic shepherd positioned behind Mary. Seemingly lurking behind the Virgin Mother, his careworn, frankly creepy pose revealed something interesting. Instead of a lamb, he was holding a basket of fresh fruit: apples and a cluster of grapes.

Suddenly, I saw not two shepherds but echoes of Cain (the farmer) and Abel (the herdsman). In silence and in symbol, this simple nativity scene preached a secret homily: the Incarnate Logos is restoring our reality fractured by the original murder, reconciling violence and victim in the presence of his mother. If these shepherds paying homage suggest Cain and Abel, then the Blessed Virgin Mary between them becomes their new Mother, a new Eve, giving birth to them in the new creation of her divine son in the manger.

This wasn't in the homily. It's certainly not in the Scripture. And though consistent with Tradition, it is no explicit human teaching. It is simply attentiveness to what the Christ is saying, this first day of the New Year, the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. So like Epaphras, I offer it to you.

He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son… He is before all things, and in him all things hold together… and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. – Colossians 1:13, 17, 20 (RSV-CE)

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Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1965, 1966 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.