… when there broke a holy night over the darkness.
I pray that Advent has been a time of emptying, clearing out, and freeing up–so that your heart is now open to embrace and cherish the Infant King born to us this night in a meager manger.
Interestingly, the word manger is French, meaning to eat, so I pray we may render our hearts as humble mangers for the Christ Child to enthrone. An ordinary manger is used to feed animals, but Christ converted His manger into a storehouse of eternal life. Participating in that same sacrifice, offered at every Holy Mass, may we feed upon the Eucharistic Christ in the mangers of our souls, thus being converted from sinful beasts into deified lovers.
Christ’s first act in this world was to give Himself to us in weakness, emptied of His right glory, concealed in the swaddling clothes of our humanity, as a wordless sign of self-giving which anticipated His Sacrifice on that other wooden artefact, the Cross.
And on that note, I leave you with the Fathers and their wisdom, until I happen to post again. May you enjoy a blessed new year in the new life which Christ offers at every turn!
“In the Old Testament a Hebrew virgin (Miriam) led an army through the sea (Ex. 15:21); in the New testament a king’s daughter (the Virgin Mary) was chosen to be the heavenly entrance to salvation.”
— St. Ambrose, Synodal Letter 44
“When God became known to us in the flesh, He neither received the passions of human nature, nor did the Virgin Mary suffer pain, nor was the Holy Spirit diminished in any way, nor was the power of the Most High set aside in any manner, and all this was because all was accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Thus the power of the Most High was not abased, and the child was born with no damage whatsoever to the mother’s virginity.”
— St. Gregory of Nyssa, “Against Eunomius, Hom. II”, PG 45, 492.
“Today, Bethlehem has become like the firmament above, for in that town angels hymning God take the place of the stars and the Sun of righteousness in a marvelous way takes the place of the physical sun. Where God so wills the laws of nature are overcome. And God so willed, it was in His power, and He did save man, for all things are obedient to God. Today, the eternal One becomes what He was not. While still being God, He also became human without ceasing to be divine. This wondrous and ineffable condescension was hymned with a loud voice by all His angels.”
— St. John Chrysostom, [CITE?]
“We confess two nativities in Christ: one of the Father–eternal; and one which occurred in these latter times for our sake. … After the normal nine-month gestational period, Christ was born at the beginning of the tenth, in accordance with the law of gestation. It was the birth that surpassed the established order of birthgiving, as it was without pain; for, where pleasure had not preceded, pain did not follow. And just as at His conception He had kept her who conceived Him virgin, so also at His birth did He maintain her virginity intact, because He alone passed through her and kept her shut.
While the conception was by ‘hearing’, the birth was by the usual orifice through which children are born, … [for] it was not impossible for Him to pass through the gate without breaking its seals. Hence, the Ever-Virgin remained virgin even after giving birth and never had converse with a husband as long as she lived.”
— St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. 3; 4, Ch. 14.
Christ willed to be born in Bethlehem for two reasons. First, because “He was made . . . of the seed of David according to the flesh,” as it is written (Romans 1:3); to whom also was a special promise made concerning Christ…. Therefore He willed to be born at Bethlehem, where David was born, in order that by the very birthplace the promise made to David might be shown to be fulfilled. The Evangelist points this out by saying: “Because He was of the house and of the family of David.” Secondly, because, as Gregory says (Hom. viii in Evang.): “Bethlehem is interpreted ‘the house of bread.’ It is Christ Himself who said, ‘I am the living Bread which came down from heaven.‘”
As David was born in Bethlehem, so also did he choose Jerusalem to set up his throne there, and to build there the Temple of God, so that Jerusalem was at the same time a royal and a priestly city. Now, Christ’s priesthood and kingdom were “consummated” principally in His Passion. Therefore it was becoming that He should choose Bethlehem for His Birthplace and Jerusalem for the scene of His Passion.
At the same time, too, He put to silence the vain boasting of men who take pride in being born in great cities, where also they desire especially to receive honor. Christ, on the contrary, willed to be born in a mean city, and to suffer reproach in a great city.
Christ wished “to flower” by His holy life, not in His carnal birth. Therefore He wished to be fostered and brought up at Nazareth. But He wished to be born at Bethlehem away from home; because, as Gregory says (Hom. viii in Evang.), through the human nature which He had taken, He was born, as it were, in a foreign place–foreign not to His power, but to His Nature. And, again, as Bede says on Luke 2:7: “In order that He who found no room at the inn might prepare many mansions for us in His Father’s house.“
— St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 35, 4.
Worthily celebrating the feast means drawing near the divine Christ child with deep gratitude and humility even as the Magi approached the celestial revelation of divine love with their symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, even as the Shepherds did so with their guileless faith, simple piety, and undivided heart. The spiritual joy that the faithful experience at this time of the year is so very different from the emotional, external, and temporary pleasures that the world offers. Christian joy wells forth from a deep spiritual awareness of God’s unbounded love revealed so fully in the incarnation of God the Word.
— Fr. William DeBovik, RIP, Hartford, CT
P.S. Taking a feather from a friend, I recommend banishing mobile and media devices from common living areas in your home, if only for the holiday season.