Once upon a time there was an old monastery high on a hill. Each Sunday, the village people filled the sanctuary. Young men wanted to become priests; young women yearned to be nuns. Then one Christmas it happened. No one why or how it happened, but it did. When the priests and nuns entered for worship--there was no one else there.
The abbot withdrew to pray like he had not for a long time. How could it be that no one from the village came to celebrate mass? But despite all the prayers and petitions, no answer came. In desperation, the abbot decided to seek the wisdom of the Rabbi Who Walks in the Woods. This mysterious man was occasionally seen from the turrets, and it was secretly whispered that God spoke to him. Not believing this but with nowhere else to turn, the abbot took his cloak and rushed out the gate to find this man. Perhaps the Rabbi could help.
After hours, the abbot caught a glimpse of a little hut nestled under some large snowy oaks. There in the doorway stood the Rabbi Who Walks in the Woods--smiling and beckoning the abbot to come in.
No words were exchanged, but each man looked into the others' eyes and knew this meeting was meant to be. As they looked at each other, they suddenly began to smile, then laugh, then cry great tears of joy. But soon the tears of joy gave way to sadness and sobs of deep grieving. Feeling cleansed and after a deep sigh, the Rabbi motioned for the abbot to sit on one of the logs that served as a chair.
Then the Rabbi spoke the only words that were said, "I have a message to you from God. What I am about to say, I can say only once. I can never repeat it. What I tell you, you can repeat only once. And you can never speak the words again. Do you understand?" The abbot didn't really understand, but nodded yes out of respect. Then the Rabbi said softly, "The Messiah is one of you."
The abbot said nothing, but his mind raced. "The Messiah is one of us? Who could it be? Is it Father Matthew? Surely it is Father Thomas? Sister Elizabeth? Dear God, how have we served you?" The abbot looked back to the Rabbi and both knew the meeting was over.
The abbot hurried back to the monastery, making plans to tell the rest. After evening prayers, the abbot asked that all remain. He said, "I have a message from the Rabbi Who Walks in the Woods. What I am about to say, I can say only once. I can never repeat it and neither can you. Do you understand?" They did not, but nodded out of respect. "The Messiah is one of us."
The priests and the nuns sat in stunned silence. "The Messiah is one of us?! Who can it be? Is it Father Peter? Sister Mary?"
The next day, things went on as usual. Except each time one brother did a deed of kindness to another brother, the one receiving thought, "Oh, that must be Jesus. See how he cares for me." And the one giving thought, "Oh, that must be Jesus. See how graciously he receives my offering." And each time one sister did an act of mercy for another sister, the one receiving thought, "Oh, she must be Jesus. See how her face shines." And the one giving thought, "Oh, she must be Jesus. See how humble she is."
It was not long before the people in the village saw a difference. "See how they love each other. See how they serve. See how much they love us."
The next Christmas, the sanctuary was full as the congregation praised God for all that God was doing. God was present in their midst as they celebrated whole heartedly. And once again, young men wanted to be priests and young women wanted to become nuns.