A Reflection on The Nativity of Our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Daily Devotions

The Third Mystery of the Holy Rosary

Our Father…

Saint Emma Monastery really knows how to celebrate this great mystery!  Part of my earliest memories of Monastic Christmas is our secret caroling tradition at Saint Vincent.  We used to take the novices on a long walk and get them exhausted so they would sleep until we came around on Christmas Eve candles in hand, and Christmas Carols on our lips.  We would awaken the novices and stick a candle in their hands and bring them with us to continue our singing all through the monastery—the only day of the year when such a ruckus is heard in our quiet halls.  During my novitiate in 1976 we were still climbing the stairs and singing loudly for the sisters to hear the great and good news—“Hark the Herald Angels Sing!”  After the sisters moved here, we tried to continue some of the joy of those early Christmas Eves.  Still we grab the novices and juniors, and younger monks like me to come over to sing the joy of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus.  We join voices, and languages—German, Vietnamese, Portuguese, French—and even English to sing the praises of the whole world, of every nation, kingdom, language, and tongue.  Indeed, there are more songs and music about Christmas than about any other celebration during the whole year.  Thus, surrounding the birth of Christ there is much human affection and warmth.(Baker)  Even though the Dying and Rising of Christ is the greatest celebration of the Christian Year, without his birth he could not die or rise!  Indeed, the Child lying in the manger is truly God’s Son. God is not eternal solitude but rather a circle of love and mutual self-giving. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Indeed as our Holy Father, Pope Benedict (the second most famous Bavarian in all of history—we know this on his infallible word…Archabbot and Pope STORY); he writes: this is Christmas: “You are my son, this day I have begotten you”. God has become one of us, so that we can be with him and become like him.  As a sign, he chose the Child lying in the manger: this is how God is. This is how we come to know him. And on every child shines something of the splendor of that “today”, of that closeness of God which we ought to love and to which we must yield – it shines on every child, even on those still unborn.(Benedict XVI)  In one of the earliest sermons about the Nativity of the Christ we read from Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (AD 380) this startling and politically incorrect statement: “Let the Jews be offended, let the Greeks deride; let heretics talk until their tongues ache. Then shall they believe, when they see Him ascending into heaven; and if not then, yet when they see Him coming out of heaven and sitting as Judge.”  Indeed, this faith-filled bishop and theologian Saint Gregory has something for us to ponder.  How can we keep from singing?  How can we not wish people Merry Christmas?  How can we not sing carols?  Either this is the Day the LORD has made or it is not!  A contemporary story from my memory of Scott Hahn’s sharing will help us to realize the kind of resistance to the mystery of the incarnation that is still very much alive in our world.  As the story reveals, there are some who find even talking about the mystery of the Father and the Son, to say nothing of all our singing and celebrating, an offense and a scandal.

Several years ago Dr. Hahn wanted to have a theological debate with an Imam about the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  He met with a famous Imam who was teaching Islam at a university in eastern Pennsylvania.  As I remember Scott’s account, this Islamic  clergyman met Dr. Hahn for lunch and they began to plan for this public debate.  At a certain point in the conversation Scott Hahn said something about God, the Father; the Imam slammed his fists on the table in this very public place and loudly proclaimed: “I will not let you insult ALLAH…”  Dr. Hahn was a little taken aback, but continued to share calmly with the clergyman.  Scott asked him, “Do you not believe that God is kind, merciful, almighty, all-knowing; and are these not fatherly traits.”  The Imam responded of course ALLAH is all these things, but he is not Father.  That is merely your anthropological projection upon him.  He went on to assure Scott that if he used this reference again that he would have to leave the table and cancel the debate.  The lunch conversation continued on pins and needles, but it continued until Dr. Hahn slipped and spoke of the Son of God.  This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Before he left the table, the Imam had to attempt some kind of explanation to help Scott understand why he was so insulted and offended.  This is the analogy the Imam used.  “As you know Dr. Hahn I am moving from eastern Pennsylvania to a Mid-western university.  When I signed the contract for my new apartment, I did not carefully read the small print.  Later I realized that “no pets were allowed” in this rent.  I love my dog, but I will not just give him to another master.  Before I leave the east and move west, I will shoot my dog.  This is the way we are to ALLAH.  We are his pets.  To call God, Father, or Son, is to blaspheme God.  Good bye Dr. Hahn.”

  1. Suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream, and said to him: Joseph, son of David, have no fear… It

is by the Holy Spirit that She has conceived this Child.  (Mt. 1: 20)  – Hail Mary…

 

What fear?  What fear would have been at the threshold of Saint Joseph’s heart?  Perhaps it’s the fear of the crowd, the village, the rumors, and the gossips.  Perhaps this very natural and even worldly fear could have attacked Saint Joseph’s peace and calm.  However the rest of the story found in the gospel helps us to understand that the fear this just man was dealing with involved much more than public opinion.  Saint Joseph, a righteous man, had to deal with the fear of God.  The law of the Lord demanded that a woman of Israel who was promiscuous should be executed because she brought the stain of sin onto the people.  Such an offense had to be publicly punished so that the community would never tolerate adultery, or promiscuity.  If indeed, Mary was no virgin than he would defile his own marriage before it began.  News of the conception of the Child was very disturbing for Saint Joseph.  Was he such a poor judge of character that he could be so wrong about this woman?  How could she betray his trust?  All these painful questions were like storms in his heart and in his dreams.  Saint Joseph must have tossed and turned all night after he heard that Mary was with child.  Indeed, the most disturbing thought was that he had to carry out the full extent of the law, and he had to be the first to stone his own beloved, Mary.  This righteous man needed the startling comfort of an angel of the Lord appearing to him, even in his sleep, when he was most vulnerable and most hurting; Saint Joseph needed to hear the voice of the angel address these fears and nightmares: “Joseph, son of David, have no fear…It is by the Holy Spirit that She has conceived this Child.”

Indeed, he is a son of David, he is in the line of the royal family of Israel.  He is a fearless son of a fearless king who as a boy faced the giant Philistine threat, Goliath, and overcame the invulnerable foe with a single stone and a slingshot.  Saint Joseph also inherited the name of that son of Jacob who had many dreams and to whom the Lord spoke his promise of salvation for the whole family of Israel during the dreaded famine over all the earth.  Indeed, the whole world was, and still is hungry for the word of the Lord, the only one who can satisfy our hunger and raise us up from starvation.  He who is the Bread come down from Heaven is born in a cave in Bethlehem, the city of bread.

In the Icon of the Nativity, the Eastern Church has a further story of Saint Joseph illustrated.  We all know that Satan can appear in many forms.  In this Icon, the evil one is as an old man who is tempting Saint Joseph and disturbing him. Satan is telling Saint Joseph that virgin birth is impossible. He’s telling Joseph, the just man, that he would be a foolish man, if he believes such a story from his betrothed. This story comes to us from Holy Tradition. The sad Saint Joseph shows us not only his personal predicament but also the dilemma of all mankind that struggles with the difficulty of accepting, that which is “beyond words or reason.”

Saint Joseph resisted this temptation, but our world still doubts and many do not believe, even very scholarly people do not believe.  So, we in the western church must sing and cry out with our sisters and brothers from the East:

“Your birth, O Christ our God, dawned the light of knowledge upon the earth. For by Your birth those who adored stars, were taught by a star, to worship You, the Sun of Justice and to know You, Orient from on High. O Lord, glory to You.”

“Today, the Virgin bears Him who is transcendent, and the earth presents the cave to Him who is beyond reach. Angels, along with shepherds glorify Him. The Magi make their way to Him by a star. For a new child has been born for us, the God before all ages!”

(Aslanoff)

 

Glory be to the Father…

  1. She is to have a Son and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins. (Mt. 1: 21)  – Hail Mary…

This unexpected and miraculous Child is not an ordinary offspring.  Even his name gives but a glimpse of his true nature.  He is a son whom they must name “Jesus”.  This somewhat common name at the time and even today in some Latin cultures, Jesus, HaySus, it is a popular name.  It means YHWH helps or YHWH saves.  Indeed this time the LORD saves his people from their sins.  Not just another political enemy who is ruining their lives on earth, but a divine savior who saves his people from their sins.  From all that keeps them separated from God and eternal life with the LORD God.  This good news from the Angel to Saint Joseph is even more profoundly good news for every generation and people and nation.

Abbot Nikon takes up a serious question found in the tradition.  With many generations of believers the holy abbot asks: “Why did God become Man?  We have even more cause to fall in fear and reverence before the Lord and cry out: Lord, what is man, that Thou didst not disdain a virgin womb, that Thou didst hide Thy Divinity and didst deign to become a man?”  The only answer that arises amid such speculation is LOVE.  As Saint John the beloved disciple would write, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.”  Indeed, the Lord did not need us.  He does not need anyone or anything, but he wanted us.  He wanted to make us in his own image and likeness that we might have eternally delightful conversation, face to face with the LORD Our God.  Abbot Nikon continues to reflect upon the mystery of human creation and the greater mystery of human redemption as he writes,  “Man was so fine and beautiful before the Fall into sin, and even more so after his redemption by the Lord, that Saints to whom the mysteries of heaven had been revealed, e.g. Makarios of Egypt, would say: ‘there is nothing finer than the human soul either on earth or in heaven’… Lest man fall into despair and utterly perish, the Lord promised him that in time the family of the wife (not the husband) – i.e. Christ, born of a Virgin, by the Holy Spirit – would crush the head of the serpent and would save man.  It is this mysterious event that we now celebrate.  In taking on human flesh, the Lord raised man above the ranks of Angels, and robed him in glory greater than that of Adam in Paradise before the Fall”( Abbot Nikon).

In the west Saint John of the Cross also reflects upon the true dignity of man.  One of his sayings of light and love gives us a glimpse of his meditation.  “116. The entire world is not worthy of a human being’s thought, for this belongs to God alone; any thought, therefore, not centered on God is stolen from him.”  One human thought is worth more than the entire created universe as Saint John goes on to reflect upon human dignity.  We are made in God’s image and likeness and we are summoned to share with him our joy and suffering.  Indeed, the LORD God Almighty loves us and wants us to give him our every thought, musing, mediation, and memory.  He longs to love and cherish all we are and all we have.  The LORD Our God wants to reveal to us his blessed and glorious affirmation of who we are and what we uniquely do in our thoughts, words and actions.  Indeed, our human freedom is seen in the ways we love and serve by our every thought and action, day in and day out for the Glory of the Father, in the name of the Son, Jesus the Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Glory be to the Father…

  1. All this happened to fulfill what the Lord has said through the prophet: The Virgin shall be with Child and give birth to a Son, and they shall call Him Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God is with us.’  (Mt. 1: 22-24)

– Hail Mary…

 

The Prophet Isaiah made this prediction centuries before the birth of Christ, “The Virgin shall be with Child and give birth to a Son…”  He spoke these words in response to the King who was trying to avoid the LORD and his will for the people.  King Ahaz was afraid, very afraid of the threats that Aram was plotting against him.  Without any hesitation Isaiah challenges this frightened king of Judah, “Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm!”  This is a great challenge for any king or other political leader in any generation, even today.  Isaiah does not stop there however, he invited the King Ahaz to ask the LORD for a sign…but the King in feigned piety replied, “I will not tempt the LORD!”  Ahaz, the hypocrite, prefers to depend upon the might of Assyria rather than upon the LORD.  The Prophet refuses to be pushed around by this frightened king; so he continues, “Listen, O house of David!  Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God?  Therefore the LORD himself will give you’re a sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”  This prophecy probably referred originally to the conception and birth of the future King Hezekiah, whose mother, at the time of Isaiah’s preaching would have been a young virginal woman.  However, the Evangelist Matthew and the church teaches that the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy has to do with the Son of David, the New David, the True King of Israel, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary.

Indeed, Jesus the Christ is both human and divine—he has a human nature, taken from his mother Mary, but he is not a human person. He is a divine Person—the Word who was with the Father from eternity and the Word who was God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is incarnate in this Child prophesied by Isaiah and borne by the Virgin Mother.  This is a great mystery, and it can be affirmed only in the light of faith.  Saint Gregory of Nazianzus wrote about this great mystery in one of his Christmas homilies: “He who was without Mother becomes without Father (without mother of His former state, without father of His second). The laws of nature are upset; the world above must be filled. Christ commands it, let us not set ourselves against Him. O clap your hands together all you people, because unto us a Child is born, and a Son given unto us, whose government is upon His shoulder (for with the cross it is raised up), and His name is called The Angel of the Great Counsel of the Father.”  These words of explanation and interpretation from 380AD throw a marvelous light on to the Christmas mystery we celebrate every year and we meditate upon every Rosary.  Indeed, it is our great joy to love God in his self-donation in the flesh and blood of his newborn Son, Jesus Christ.  This freely given love overflows into our love for our neighbor, who is made in the image and likeness of this same LORD God.  When we love and serve our neighbor, we love and serve God.  In doing this we fulfill our purpose and mission in the world, then our joy is true and our happiness is complete.  At least, it is as complete as it can be here in this world.

Glory be to the Father…

  1. In those days Caesar Augustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole world. And so Joseph went to Judea, to David’s town of Bethlehem – because he was of the house of David – to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with Child.  (Lk. 2: 1), (Lk. 2: 4-5)  – Hail Mary…

 

The all-powerful Caesar asserted his power; he had to count and name subjects, so that he could fairly tax them.  After all, it takes money, and lots of it, to build roads and maintain order in such a barbaric world, and his subjects should be glad that they enjoy the Pax Romana—even if it does cost a pretty penny.  Saint Luke does not share this imperial perspective.  Rather, he presents the true Ruler of Heaven and Earth as a child within the womb, and the One who thinks he is the Ruler of Heaven and Earth is pushing around his parents.  This irony unfolds in Saint Luke’s gospel from this published decree of Augustus to the written death sentence over the Cross of Christ, “This is the king of the Jews.”

Pope Saint Leo, the Great, writes about the mystery of this Child.   He rightly names this conception as the “unutterable condescension of the Divine Mercy, whereby the Creator of men deigned to become man, and be found ourselves in His nature whom we worship in ours.”  Without the full appreciation of the mystery of the incarnation we really cannot understand our own nature.  Not that we can explain away the hypostatic union, but each time we pray through this mystery we can deepen our appreciation of who God is in the Flesh of Christ and who we are who take his flesh and blood into our own flesh and blood.  Indeed, Saint Leo continues to reflect that the Son of God, “without loss of His own majesty, that He might advance us to His state and not lower Himself to ours. Hence both natures abiding in possession of their own properties such unity is the result of the union that whatever of Godhead is there is inseparable from the manhood: and whatever of manhood, is indivisible from the Godhead.”  The mystery of this Child is so powerful that all human authority and power is as nothing in his sight, in our sight.  As the Lord Jesus would later point out to Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.”

His espoused wife, who was with Child, the Virgin Mary had “her virginity fecundated by the Holy Spirit at one and the same time brought forth without trace of corruption both the offspring and the Maker of her race. Hence also the same Lord, as the Evangelist relates, asked of the Jews whose son they had learnt Christ to be on the authority of the Scriptures, and when they replied that the tradition was He would come of David’s seed, “How,” saith He, “doth David in the Spirit call Him Lord, saying, the Lord said to my Lord: sit thou on My right hand till I place thy enemies as the footstool of thy feet?” And the Jews could not solve the question put, because they did not understand that in the one Christ both the stock of David and the Divine nature were there prophesied.”

Pope Saint Leo continues to preach: “the Scripture saith, “Who can make a clean thing conceived of an unclean seed? is it not Thou who art alone?” David’s Lord was made David’s Son, and from the fruit of the promised branch sprang. One without fault, the twofold nature coining together into one Person, that by one and the same conception and birth might spring our Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom was present both true Godhead for the performance of mighty works and true Manhood for the endurance of sufferings.”  This is such good news for us; because, unless the Divine Son took on our full humanity, we have not been fully redeemed.

Finally this great pope and preacher concludes, “The Catholic Faith then, dearly beloved, may scorn the errors of the heretics that bark against it, who, deceived by the vanity of worldly wisdom, have forsaken the Gospel of Truth, and being unable to understand the Incarnation of the Word, have constructed for themselves out of the source of enlighten-merit occasion of blindness. For after investigating almost all false believers’ opinions, even those which presume to deny the Holy Spirit, we come to the conclusion that hardly any one has gone astray, unless he has refused to believe the reality of the two natures in Christ under the confession of one Person.”  This held true for the late forth to early fifth centuries, and it is still true for us today.  Look at the thousands of so called Christian Churches who all claim the title, “Christian” but do not all proclaim the truth of the Mystery of Christ, one Divine Person with two natures, both God and man.

Glory be to the Father…

  1. While they were there the days of Her confinement were completed. She gave birth to Her first-born Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.  (Lk. 2: 4-5)  – Hail Mary…

Saint Gregory of Nazianzus preaches this way about the days when Her confinement was competed and this first-born Son was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.  This Child Christ is well worth pondering with all the skills of our historical critical methods as well with all the saints of old.  The term “first born” in the original Greek does not demand more than one child.  Here Saint Luke is concerned with the hints of Old Testament fulfillment with the “first born” Israel.  In Exodus 4 we read in verse 22 “So you shall say to Pharaoh: Thus says the LORD: Israel is my son, my first-born.”  And in verse 23 Hence I tell you: Let my son go, that he may serve me.  If you refuse to let him go, I warn you, I will kill your son, your first-born.”  The term “swaddling clothes” found in the King James Version survives all new translations even “cloth strips”.  These bands, or rags, were wrapped around a newborn to keep the limbs straight by means of restraint.  “Place him in a manger” could mean an open feeding area, or feeding trough for animals; these places were for travelers who brought their animals with them.  The tradition of animals at the crib comes from Isaiah 1:3 “An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger; but Israel does not know, my people has not understood.”

We attend now to the words of Saint Gregory:  “This is our present Festival; it is this which we are celebrating today, the Coming of God to Man, that we might go forth, or rather (for this is the more proper expression) that we might go back to God – that putting off of the old man, we might put on the new; and that as we died in Adam, so we might live in Christ, being born with Christ and crucified with Him and buried with Him and rising with Him. For I must undergo the beautiful conversion, and as the painful succeeded the more blissful, so must the more blissful come out of the painful. For where sin abounded grace did much more abound; and if a taste condemned us, how much more does the passion of Christ justify us? Therefore let us keep the Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own, but as belonging to Him who is ours, or rather as our master’s; not as of weakness, but as of healing; not as of creation, but of re-creation.

To lead him away from his groveling imagination, and to show that He speaks not of the earthly birth, He says, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven. This He spoke, willing to draw him to the faith by the terror of the threat, and to persuade him not to deem the thing impossible, and taking pains to move him from his imagination as to the carnal birth. I mean, says He, another Birth, O Nicodemus. Why do you draw down the saying to earth? Why do you subject the matter to the necessity of nature? This Birth is too high for such pangs as these; it has nothing in common with you; it is indeed called ‘birth,’ but in name only has it anything in common, in reality it is different. Remove yourself from that which is common and familiar; a different kind of childbirth bring I into the world; in another manner will I have men to be generated: I have come to bring a new manner of Creation. I formed (man) of earth and water; but that which was formed was unprofitable, the vessel was wrenched awry; I will no more form them of earth and water, but ‘of water’ and ‘of the Spirit.'(St. Gregory of Nazianzus(AD 380).”

Glory be to the Father…

  1. There were shepherds in that region, living in the fields and keeping night watch …. over their flocks. (Lk. 2: 8)  – Hail Mary…

Our Holy Father offers his reflection upon this mystery, “The breaking of God’s light upon a world full of darkness and unsolved problems. The Gospel then relates that the glory of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and “shone around them” (Lk 2:9). Wherever God’s glory appears, light spreads throughout the world. Saint John tells us that “God is light and in him is no darkness” (1 Jn 1:5). The light is a source of life.”  “This path of light kindled ever anew by the mystery of Bethlehem, by that God who became a Child. In that Child, God countered the violence of this world with his own goodness. He calls us to follow that Child.”

“Tonight let us look at the shepherds. What kind of people were they? In the world of their time, shepherds were looked down upon; they were considered untrustworthy and not admitted as witnesses in court. But really, who were they? To be sure, they were not great saints, if by that word we mean people of heroic virtue. They were simple souls. The Gospel sheds light on one feature which later on, in the words of Jesus, would take on particular importance: they were people who were watchful. This was chiefly true in a superficial way: they kept watch over their flocks by night. But it was also true in a deeper way: they were ready to receive God’s Word through the Angel’s proclamation. Their life was not closed in on itself; their hearts were open. In some way, deep down, they were waiting for something; they were waiting for God. Their watchfulness was a kind of readiness – a readiness to listen and to set out. They were waiting for a light which would show them the way.”

“That is what is important for God. He loves everyone, because everyone is his creature. But some persons have closed their hearts; there is no door by which his love can enter. They think that they do not need God, nor do they want him. Other persons, who, from a moral standpoint, are perhaps no less wretched and sinful, at least experience a certain remorse. They are waiting for God. They realize that they need his goodness, even if they have no clear idea of what this means. Into their expectant hearts God’s light can enter, and with it, his peace. God seeks persons who can be vessels and heralds of his peace. Let us pray that he will not find our hearts closed. Let us strive to be active heralds of his peace – in the world of today (Benedict XVI)”.

Glory be to the Father…

  1. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and they were very much afraid. The angel said to them:  You have

nothing to fear.  (Lk. 2: 9-10)  – Hail Mary…

The glory of the LORD is the splendor that takes away our breath.

In Greek the doxa translates the Hebrew kabod.

Exodus 16:10 “When Aaron announced this to the whole Israelite community, they turned toward the desert, and low, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud!”

Exodus 24:17 “To the Israelites the glory of the LORD was seen as a consuming fire on the mountaintop.”

Indeed this is the fulfillment of Zechariah’s canticle when he prophesied that the “dawn from on high” would break upon us!

To see such kabod such doxa calls forth fear, trembling, even terror, for to see God or even his glory it was feared would result in death—and indeed it does death to ourselves and new life in Christ.  Contemplation is both a fire that purifies and a fire that unites!

Remember the call vision of Isaiah when he saw the Throne Room of  YHWH and he heard the angelic voices singing

“Holy, Holy, Holy”….what did he cry out?  “Woe is me I am doomed!”

Indeed, they have nothing to fear because the angel told them, “You have nothing to fear.”

Indeed, the joy of this holy night lights up the darkness that seems to overcome our tiny and fragile candle-light.

Sometimes we do not hear such good news.

Sometimes it takes someone like Saint Gregory to bring the great good news close to our ears and our hearts.

This great preacher cried out:

“Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him. Christ on earth, be exalted. Sing to the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope.”

We have nothing to fear because of our oneness with Christ.

Our fear arises from our sins, and these do not follow us into Christ.

Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all glory and honor are yours, almighty Father!

Glory be to the Father…

  1. I come to proclaim good news to you – tidings of great joy. This day in David’s city a Saviour has been born to you, The Messiah and Lord.  (Lk 2: 10-11)  – Hail Mary…

The angelic multitude proclaimed great good news to the shepherds and the Bishop of Triaditza greets us in a Nativity Homily,

“Beloved in the Birth of the God-Child!”  Now there’s a greeting!  Wonder if it’ll ever replace, “Merry Christmas?”

This bold preacher confronts the truth of our world; it is a place where darkness abounds, “A darkness bringing forth endless strife, contentions, and heresies, feeding the dark passions of fallen human nature, kindling the dark fire of its desire to place itself in God’s place, to become a god without God (Bishop Photii)”. This is the truth of our world even today.  Many so called new age religions proclaim that “I am god” or “I am divine”.  This is not unlike the original temptation that man and woman could grasp the knowledge of good and evil if they just disobeyed God.  All they had to do is eat of the forbidden fruit.  They no longer had to wait until the LORD chose to give them what they desired. They could make it happen themselves.  Grasp rather than receive; this is the way of our ancestors and of our contemporaries as well.  Perhaps it has been our own dark way.

“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (St. John I:5).  And how often the light has grown dimmer (not because of its powerlessness, but because of the powerlessness of men) in the midst of frenzied darkness, growing thicker and thicker around it. How vigorously false lamps, the servants of darkness, have insisted, and yet insist, on replacing, it with their showy luster.”

“How is it, then, that darkness will not consume the light?  How can the light resist?  And how are men to rejoice, today, and say that on this day «the whole of creation is gladdened; for the Lord and Saviour is born in Bethlehem, all pagan delusion has been cast down…”?

“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (St. John VIII:12). Christ alone is light by essence; and they, His disciples, were light by gift, by Grace, since they followed Him. And His life became their life; His light became their light.”  This is the Savior, Messiah, and Lord proclaimed by Saint Luke.  It seems that Saint John has discovered the full meaning of these titles of Jesus; indeed he is Light from Light, God from God, True God from True God.

Glory be to the Father…

  1. Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying: Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom His favour rests.  (Lk. 2: 13-14)  – Hail Mary…

“Peace on earth to men of good will” does not really translate the term eudokia, which means “good will” or “favor” but is not a human quality here it refers to the disposition of God toward us, it is divine favor upon us not a reward for our good will toward God.

Christ’s actual birth in Bethlehem shows forth the beautiful reality that God works with things according to their nature. Simply put, it makes perfect sense that a darkened world is tangibly illumined by divine, supernatural intervention upon the natural.

Christ’s actual birth in Bethlehem shows forth the beautiful reality that God works with things according to their nature. Simply put, it makes perfect sense that a darkened world is tangibly illumined by divine, supernatural intervention upon the natural. ( Father Wade)

As our beloved father, Saint John Chrysostom proclaims with such exuberance:

I behold a new and wondrous mystery!

My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody,

but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.

The Angels sing!

The Archangels blend their voices in harmony!

The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise!

The Seraphim exalt His glory!

All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

For this is all my hope, this my life,

this my salvation, this my pipe, my harp.

And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech,

I too, with the angels, sing: Glory to God in the Highest;

and with the shepherds: and on earth peace to men of good will.

Glory be to the Father…

  1. They went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in the manger; once they saw, they understood what had been told them concerning this Child. (Lk. 2: 16-17) – Hail Mary…

Cardinal Ratzinger reflected upon the animals we see every year in the nativity scene.

[Saint]“Francis [of Assisi] directed that an ox and an ass should be present in the cave of Greccio on Christmas night. He had told the nobleman John: ‘I wish in full reality to awaken the remembrance of the child as he was born in Bethlehem and of all the hardship he had to endure in his childhood. I wish to see with my bodily eyes what it meant to lie in a manger and sleep on hay, between an ox and an ass.’  The ox and ass are not simply products of the pious imagination: the Church’s faith in the unity of the Old and New Testaments has given them their role as an accompaniment of the Christmas event. We read in Isaiah: “The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand” (1:3). not only good news—in the sense of the promise of a future knowledge-but also a judgment pronounced on contemporary blindness. The ox and ass have knowledge, “but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.

We are but oxen and asses vis-à-vis the Eternal God, oxen and asses whose eyes are opened on Christmas night, so that they can recognize their Lord in the crib.

The one who failed to recognize him was Herod, who did not even understand when they told him about the child: instead, he was blinded all the more deeply by his lust for power and the accompanying paranoia (Mt 2:3). Those who failed to recognize him were “all Jerusalem with him” (ibid.). Those who failed to recognize him were the “people in soft garments”—those with a high social position (Mt 11: 8). Those who failed to recognize him were the learned masters who were experts in the Bible, the specialists in biblical interpretation who admittedly knew the correct passage in Scripture but still failed to understand anything (Mt 2:6).

Those who recognized him were the “ox and the ass” (in comparison to these men of prestige): the shepherds, the Magi, Mary and Joseph. But could things have been otherwise? Those with a high social position are not in the stable where the child Jesus lies: that is where the ox and the ass have their home.

When we place the familiar figures in the crib scene, we ought to ask God to give our hearts the simplicity that discovers the Lord in the child-just as Francis once did in Greccio. For then we, too, might experience what Celano relates about those who took part in Midnight Mass in Greccio—and his words echo closely Saint Luke’s words about the shepherds on the first Christmas night—each one went home full of joy. (Ratzinger)

Glory be to the Father…

RESOURCES:

The Gospel of Luke

By Luke Timothy Johnson

A Michael Glazier Book

The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minesota (1991)

Days of the LORD, The Liturgical Year

Vol. 7 Solemnities and Feasts

The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minesota (1994)

 

Interpretation: A Bible-Commentary for Teaching and Preaching Luke

By Fred B. Craddock

John Knox Press, Louisville (1990)

The Collected Works Of St. John Of The Cross,

translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD, and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD,

revised edition (1991), copyright ICS Publications.

The Gospel of Matthew

By Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.

A Michael Glazier Book

The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minesota (1991)

Interpretation: A Bible-Commentary for Teaching and Preaching Matthew

By Douglas R. A. Hare

John Knox Press, Louisville (1993)

Christ Our Life | Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J. |

A Homily for the Nativity of Our Lord, Dec. 25, 2007 |

From the November 2007 issue of Homiletic & Pastoral Review

http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2007/kbaker_nativityday_dec07.asp

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Vatican Basilica
Saturday, 24 December 2005

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20051224_christmas_en.html

The Incarnate God: The Feasts of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, Cathering Aslanoff, editor and Paul Meyendorff, translator (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995) pp. 103-121.

www.goarch.org

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Vorobiev (1945)

http://www.stjohndc.org/Russian/feasts/e_nativity_lord_vorobjev.htm

Lectionary Sermons: Christmas Sermon XXVIII: On the Feast of the Nativity VIII

By Pope St. Leo I (AD 390-461)

http://www.ancient-future.net/leosermonxxviii.html

Lectionary Sermons: Christmas

A Christmas Sermon By St. Gregory of Nazianzus(AD 380)

http://www.ancient-future.net/nazsermon.html

NATIVITY HOMILY

by His Eminence, Bishop Photii of Triaditza

http://www.orthodox.net/nativity/1999-nativity-bishop-photi.html

Christ the Light of the World

Father Wade L. J. Menezes, CPM

http://www.cuf.org/Homilies/Archive/122506b.asp

Homily on the Nativity of the Lord by St John Chrysostom

http://www.abbamoses.com/stjohnnativity.html

“Ox and Ass Know Their Lord”, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2007/kbaker_nativityday_dec07.asp