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Archive for the ‘Birth of Christ’ Category

The Virgin, weighed

with the Word of God

comes down the road:

if only you’ll shelter her.

~St. John of the Cross

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Following Christmas the Church celebrates three other important people and events closely related to the Incarnation and Redemption: December 26th – the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr; December 27th – St. John, the beloved disciple; and December 28th – the infants of Bethlehem, the Holy Innocents. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross writes in The Mystery of Christmas that these all have a place around the Child in the manger:

st. stephen

One the day after Christmas the Church removes her white garments and clothes herself in the colour of blood, and on the fourth day in the violet of mourning: Stephen, the first marytr, the first to follow his Lord to death, and the infants of Bethlehem and Judea who were brutally slaughtered by crude henchmen, all have a place around the Child in the manger. What is the meaning of this message? Where now are the jubilant sounds of the heavenly choir? Where the peaceful bliss of Holy Night? Where the peace on earth? Peace to those of good will; but not all are of good will. Therefore, the Son of the Eternal Father must leave the splendour of heaven because the mystery of evil has wrapped the earth in dark night.

Darkness covered the earth and he came as light to illumine the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend him. To those who received him, he brought light and peace; peace with the Father in heaven, peace with everyone who like them are children of light and children of a heavenly Father, a deep interior peace of the heart; but no peace with the children of darkness. To them the Prince of Peace brings no peace but the sword. He remains for them a stumbling block of scandal against which they charge and are smashed. That is the one hard and serious fact which we may not allow to be obscured by the visible attraction of the Child in the manger. The mystery of the Incarnation and the mystery of evil belong together. The dark night of sin stands in stark and sinister contrast with the Light which came down from heaven. The Child in the manger extends its little hands and its smile seems to be saying what would come forth later from the lips of a man: ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened’; and the poor shepherds out on the hills of Bethlehem, who heard the good news of the angel, follow his call and make their way with the simple answer, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem’. Also from the kings from the orient lands, who followed the wondrous star with like simplicity, there dropped from the infant hands the dew of grace and ‘they rejoiced with great joy’. These hands give and request at the same time: you wise men, lay down your wisdom and become like children; you kings, give up your crowns and your treasures and bow down meekly before the King of kings; do not hesitate to take up the burdens, sorrows and weariness which his service demands.You children, you cannot yet give of your own free will, of you these little hands will request your gentle life before it has even begun; it can serve no better purpose than sacrifice in praise of the Lord.

baby jesus

‘Follow me’ say the little hands, words which later will come from the lips of the Man. Thus they spoke to the disciple whom the Lord loved and who is now also a part of the group at the manger. St. John, the young man with the pure, youthful heart followed without asking, ‘where to? why?’ He left his father’s boat and went with the Lord along all his ways, even to Golgotha. ‘Follow me’ – young Stephen understood this also. He followed the Lord in the struggle against the powers of darkness, the blindness of obstinate unbelief; he bore witness to him with his word and his blood; he followed him in his Spirit, the Spirit of love, which resists sin but loves the sinner, and even in death intercedes with God on behalf of the murderer. These are the figures of light that kneel around the manger: the gentle, innocent children, the faithful shepherds, the humble kings, Stephen, the enthusiastic youth and beloved apostle, John – all of them follow the call of the Lord.

St. John

In contrast to them, there is the night of incomprehensible callousness and blindness: the scribes who have information as to the time and place where the Saviour of the world was to be born, but who say nothing about ‘Let us go to Bethlehem!’ and King Herod who wants to kill the Lord of life. In the presence of the Child in the manger, the spirits line up to take sides. He is the King of kings and Lord of life and death. He utters his ‘follow me’ and whoever is not for him is against him. He also speaks for us and invites us to choose between light and darkness.

(Taken from The Mystery of Christmas, the title of a lecture given by Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross on January 13, 1931 in Ludwigshafen)

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4331084-praying-in-the-dark-with-a-rosary Today’s feast reminds us of the power of the Rosary and the value of prayer. It was established by St. Pius V on the anniversary of the naval victory won by the Christian fleet at Lepanto. Mary’s intercession was invoked through the praying of the Rosary by the faithful. The victory was attributed to her aide. The Rosary is a meditation on the life of Mary and a penetration into the mysteries of Christ. When we pray the Rosary we are following Mary’s example and are associating ourselves closely with the mysteries of salvation: the incarnation, passion and resurrection of Christ, the Son of God. To say the Rosary well requires recollection. Saying the prayers well and meditating on the events from the Gospels will nourish our interior life. The Rosary said well becomes for us a quarter of an hour’s meditation.

Lord, fill our hearts with your love, and as you revealed to us by an angel the coming of your Son as man, so lead us through his suffering and death to the glory of his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and  ever.   Amen

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We are approaching the end of the Christmas Season, which ends this coming Sunday with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. We have all been given a clear and intimate inspiration in our souls by God at His coming to us as the babe in a manger. This inspiration has urged us to greater generosity and a closer union with Him. Promptly and generously we will follow this inspiration, this star, with the faith of the Magi. Faith will allow this inspiration to guide us on our journey and it will lead us to the One we too are seeking.

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On this journey to find the One they were seeking, the Magi did not give up even when the star, this inspiration, had disappeared from sight. “We should follow their example and their perseverance, even when we are in interior darkness. This is a trial of faith which is overcome only by the exercise  of pure, naked faith.” (Divine Intimacy, #41, Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD)

 “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1: 6-7)

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“The kings have a special meaning for us, too. Even though we already belong to the external church, an interior impulse nevertheless drove us out of the circle of inherited viewpoints and conventions. We knew God, but we felt that he desired to be sought and found by us in a new way. Therefore we wanted to open ourselves and sought for a star to show us the right way. And it arose for us in the grace of vocation. We followed it and found the divine infant. He stretched out his hand for our gifts. He wanted the pure gold of a heart detached from all earthly goods; the myrrh of a renunciation of all the happiness of this world in exchange for participation in the life and suffering of Jesus; the frankincense of a will that surrenders itself and strains upward to lose itself in the divine will. In return for these gifts, the divine child gave us himself.”

(The Hidden Life and Epiphany –from The Collected Works of Edith Stein: The Hidden Life, ICS Publications)

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The poem, Romances, by St. John of the Cross is one most appropriate as a meditation for these last days of Advent, since it is one of his few works that takes up the themes of Advent and Christmas.

In Our Heavenly Father’s eyes, we are members of the Body of Christ. We are the Bride He has prepared for His Son from all eternity. In this poem St. John of the Cross paints a picture of this Bride.

This poem opens up a mystery that only those who say ‘yes’ to the Lord can fully see. And for us to do this we need to see with the eyes of Mary. Mary is the one person who was vigilant for the coming of the Lord. He came to her in her womb. More importantly, he came into her heart. He also yearns to come into our hearts.

The poem (which can be found here) ends with Mary holding her newborn babe, pondering how men acquainted with sorrow, now rejoice and how God so familiar with perfect joy, has found a way to take on man’s sorrows.

May our meditation on this poem help us appreciate this inexhaustible gift.

 baby in manger

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Things changed since the reign of the divine King was interpreted in terms of the psalms and the prophets. The Romans remained the rulers of the land and the high priests and scribes continued to keep the poor people under their yoke. Anyone who adhered to the Lord carried his heavenly treasure invisibly within himself. His temporal burden was not removed from him; on the contrary, many others were added. Yet, what he bore within himself was an exhilarating strength which softened the yoke and lightened the burden. This remains true today of every child of God. The divine life which is enkindled in the soul is the Light that came into the darkness – the mystery of the Holy Night. The one who bears it within himself understands its meaning. For others, on the contrary, it remains an enigma regardless of any explanation

The Mystery of Christmas, Incarnation and Humanity – Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

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