During the Advent and Christmas seasons, Christians often recall the many names by which the promised Messiah was known in the Bible, such as “Emmanuel” (or “Immanuel,” as it is also spelled).
In the book of Matthew, we see this name applied directly to Jesus.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:22-23)
For Catholics, this takes on a unique meaning when viewed in the light of the Eucharist. In the Eucharist is found the real presence of Jesus, providing a profound way for God to be “with us.”
St. John Paul II reflected on this reality in a Christmas message in 2004.
The divine Child whom we adore in the crib is the Emmanuel, God-with-us, who is really present in the sacrament of the Altar. The wonderful exchange, the “mirabile commercium,” that takes place in Bethlehem between God and humanity becomes constantly present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, which for this reason is the source of the Church’s life and holiness.
Before such a great gift and mystery we are left speechless! “Adoro te devote,” we will say at Christmas, already making out in the shadows of a grotto the drama of the Cross and the shining triumph of Christ’s Pasch.
While Jesus is certainly with us in a number of ways, the Church teaches that he is uniquely present in the Eucharist.
Emmanuel is a beautiful name with great symbolism. It should remind us that God is truly with us and we can receive him the next time we go to Mass.