Mystical Nativity - by BOTTICELLI, Sandro - from National Gallery, London
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Inspired by the Sermons-of the Dominican Friar Savonarola, this Painting is certainly Unconventional, and does not simply Represent the Traditional Events-of the Birth-of Jesus, and the Adoration-of the Shepherds and the Magi or Wise Men. Rather it is a Vision-of these Events, Inspired-by the Prophecies-in the Revelation-of Saint-John. Botticelli has underlined the non-Realism of the Picture, by including Latin and Greek Texts, and by-Adopting the Conventions-of Medieval Art, such as Discrepancies-in Scale, for Symbolic Ends. The Virgin Mary, Adoring a Gigantic Infant Jesus, is so-Large, that were she to-Stand, she could not Fit-under the Thatch Roof of the Stable. They are, of course, the Holiest and the most-important Persons in the Painting.
The Angels carry Olive Branches, which Two of them have Presented-to the Men they Embrace-in the Foreground. These Men, as-well-as the Presumed Shepherds, in their Short-Hooded Garments, on the Right, and the Long-Gowned Magi, on the Left, are all Crowned-with Olive, an Emblem-of Peace. The Scrolls wound-about the Branches in the Foreground, combined-with some of those held-by the Angels Dancing-in the Sky, read: 'Glory to God in the Highest, and on-Earth, Peace, Goodwill toward Men' (Luke 2:14). As Angels and Men move ever-closer, from Right to Left, to Embrace, Little Devils Scatter-into Holes-in the Ground. The Scrolls, held-by the Angels, Pointing-to the Crib, once read: `Behold the Lamb-of-God, which Taketh-away the Sin-of the World' the Words-of John-the-Baptist, Presenting Christ (John 1:29). Above the Stable Roof, the Sky has Opened-to Reveal the Golden Light-of Paradise. Golden Crowns hang-down from the Dancing Angels' Olive Branches. Most of their Scrolls 'Celebrate' Mary: 'Mother-of-God', 'Bride-of-God', 'Sole-Queen-of-the-World'.
The Latin Incarnatio (in: Caro, Flesh) corresponds to John 1:14 "And the Word became Flesh".
The Incarnation 'Implies' Three (3) facts:
Behold the Happy Time is 'Come', which was called the Designated Time: "When the Designated Time had come, God sent His Son to Deliver-from the Law, those who were Subjected-to it" - (Galatians 4:4). It is called the Fullness of Time, because of the Fullness of Grace, which the Son of God 'Came'-to 'Communicate' Men, by the Redemption-of the World.
Picture the Angel, who is 'Sent' as-Ambassador, into the Town of Nazareth, to-'Announce'-to the Virgin Mary, the 'Coming'-of the Word, Who Desires-to become Incarnate-in her Womb. The Angel 'Salutes' her, 'Calls' her Full-of-Grace and Blessed-among Women.
The Humble Virgin, 'Chosen'-to be the Mother-of the Son-of-God, is Troubled-at these Praises, because-of her Great Humility. But, the Angel 'Encourages' her, and Tells her that she has Found Grace with God, the Grace which brought Peace between God and Man, and the 'Reparation'-of the Ruin, Caused-by Sin. He then Tells her that she must Give her Son the Name-of Savior "You shall give Him the Name, Jesus" and that this, her Son, is the very Son-of-God, Who is to Redeem the World, and thus to 'Reign'-over the Hearts-of Men.
At last, Mary 'Consents' to be the Mother-of such a Son: "Let it be done to me, as you say". And the Eternal Word 'Takes' Flesh, and 'Becomes' Man: "And the Word became Flesh". Let us 'Thank' this Son, and let us also 'Thank' His Mother, who, in 'Consenting' to be Mother-of such a Son, 'Consented' also to be Mother-of our Salvation, and Mother also of Sorrows; 'Accepting' at that Time, the Great Sorrows that it would 'Cost' her, to be the Mother-of a Son, Who was to 'Come'-into the World, to-Suffer and Die for Man.
The Eternal Word 'Descends'-on Earth, to Save Man; and from-Where does He 'Descend'? "At One End-of the Heavens, it comes forth". He 'Descends'-from the Bosom-of-His-Divine-Father, Where-from Eternity (∞), He was 'Begotten'-in the Brightness-of-Sanctity. And Where does He 'Descend'? He 'Descends'-into the Womb-of a Virgin, a Child-of-Adam, which in-Comparison-with the Bosom-of-God, is an Object-of-Horror. Therefore, the Church 'Sings', "You did not Abhor the Virgin's Womb". Yes, because the Word is God, He (Divine Nature) is Immense, Omnipotent, Most Blessed, and Supreme Lord, and Equal-in-Everything to the Father. But in the Womb-of-Mary, He is a Creature (Human Nature), Small, Weak, Afflicted, a Slave, Inferior-to the Father.
It is Related-as a Great Sign-of Humility, in Saint Alexis, that although he was the Son-of a Roman Gentleman, he 'Chose' to-Live-as a Servant, in his Father's House. But, how is the Humility-of this Saint, to be Compared-to the Humility-of Jesus Christ? Between the Son, and the Servant-of the Father-of Saint Alexis there was, it is true, some-Difference; but between God (Divine Nature), and the Servant-of God (Human Nature), there is an Infinite (∞) Difference.
Besides, this Son-of-God (a Divine Person with a Human Nature), the Servant-of His Father (in His Human Nature), in Obedience-to Him, made Himself also the Servant-of His Creatures, Mary and Joseph: "And [He] was Obedient to them" - (Luke 2:51). Moreover, He made Himself even a Servant-of Pilate, who Condemned Him to Death, and He was Obedient-to him and 'Accepted' it; He became a Servant-to the Executioners, who Scourged Him, Crowned Him with Thorns, and Crucified Him; and He Humbly Obeyed them all, and 'Yielded' Himself into their hands. And shall we, after this, Refuse-to 'Submit' ourselves to the Service-of so Loving a Savior, Who, to-Save us, has 'Subjected' Himself to such Painful and Degrading Slavery?
He Gave Himself out of Love
Consider that the Eternal Word is that God, Who is so Infinitely (∞) Happy in-Himself, that His Happiness cannot be Greater-than it is, nor could the Salvation-of all Mankind, have 'Added' anything to it, or have 'Diminished' it. And yet, He has 'Done' and 'Suffered' so-much, to Save us, that if His Happiness (as Saint Thomas says), had Depended-on that-of Man, He could not have 'Done' or 'Suffered' more: "As if without him (Man), He could not be Happy". And, indeed, if Jesus Christ could not have been Happy, without Redeeming us, how could He have Humbled Himself, more-than He has-'Done', in Taking-upon Himself our Infirmities, the Miseries-of Infancy, the Troubles-of Human Life, and a Death, so Barbarous and Ignominious? None but God, was Capable-of Loving to-such-an Excess, such Sinners as we are, so Unworthy-of being Loved.
A Devout Author, says that if Jesus Christ had Permitted us to Ask Him to-'Give' us the Greatest Proof-of His Love, who would have Ventured-to Ask-of Him: that He should become a Child, like us; that He should Clothe Himself with all our Miseries; and make Himself, of all Men, the most- Poor, the most-Despised, and the most-Ill-Treated? Who would have Dared-to Ask, that He should be Put-to Death, by the hands-of Executioners, Cursed and Forsaken-by all, even by His Own Father, Who 'Abandoned' His Son, that He might not 'Abandon' us, in our Ruin? But that which we should not have had the Boldness, even to Think-of, the Son-of-God has 'Thought'-of, and 'Accomplished'. Even from His Childhood, He has Sacrificed Himself for us: to-Sufferings, to-Disgrace, and to-Death. He has Loved us; and Out-of Love, has given us Himself, in-order-that we, by-Offering Him as a Victim to the Father, in Satisfaction-for our Debts, might through His Merits, Obtain-from the Divine Goodness, all the Graces that we Desire. Let us, therefore, Continually Offer-to God, the Merits-of Jesus Christ, and through them, let us Seek and Hope-for every Good.
He Knew He was to Suffer
The Prophet Isaiah, 'Designates' our Lord Jesus Christ as "a Man of Suffering", because this Man was 'Created' on-Purpose-to Suffer; and from His Infancy, began-to 'Endure' the Greatest Sorrows that any Man, ever Suffered. The First (1st) Man, Adam, Enjoyed-for some-Time upon this Earth, the Delights-of the Earthly Paradise; but, the Second (2nd) Adam, Jesus Christ, did not-Pass a Moment-of His Life, without Sorrows and Anguish. Even from His Childhood, He was Afflicted-by the Foresight-of all the Sufferings and Ignominy, that He would have to-Endure, during His Life, and especially-at His Death, when He was to-Close that Life, Immersed-in Sorrow and Disgrace, as David had 'Predicted': "I have Reached the Watery Depths; the Flood Overwhelms me" - (Psalm 69:2).
Indeed, from the Womb-of-Mary, Jesus Christ 'Accepted' Obediently the Sacrifice which His Father had 'Desired'-of Him, even His Passion and Death, "Obediently accepting even Death" - (Philippians 2:8).
Hence it is True, that even from His Earliest Infancy, our Blessed Redeemer, every Moment-of His Life, Suffered a Continual Martyrdom, and He Offered it, every Moment for us, to His Eternal Father.
But what Afflicted Him most, was the Sight-of the Sins which Men would Commit, even after this Painful Redemption. By His Divine Light, He Knew-well the Malice-of every Sin, and therefore He Came-into the World, to do-away-with 'All' Sins; but, when He 'Saw' the Immense Number which would be Committed, the Sorrow that Jesus felt, was-Greater-than all the Sorrows that all Men ever Suffered, or ever will Suffer, upon Earth.
He Foresaw His Life of Sorrow
Consider the Great Bitterness which the Infant Jesus must have Felt-in Mary's Womb at the First (1st) Moment, when His Father Proposed-to His Consideration, all the Contempt, Sorrow, and Agonies, which He was to Suffer during His Life to-Deliver Men, from their Miseries: "Morning after Morning, He opens My Ear, and I have not Rebelled. I gave My Back to those who Beat Me" - (Isaiah 50:4-6). Picture Jesus, Speaking-by the Mouth-of the Prophet: "Morning after Morning, He opens My Ear", that is, from the First (1st) Moment of My Conception, My Father made Me Feel-that it was His Will, that I should Lead a Life-of Sorrows, and in the End, be Sacrificed-on the Cross. "And I have not Rebelled. I gave My Back, to those who Beat Me". And all this, I Accepted-for your Salvation, and from that Time onward, I Gave-up My Body to the Scourges, to the Nails, and to the Death-on the Cross. Consider that whatever Jesus Christ Suffered in His Life, and in His Passion, was all Placed-before Him, while He was Still-in the Womb-of-Mary, and He 'Accepted' everything that was Proposed-to Him, with Delight. But, in accepting all this, and in Overcoming the Natural Repugnance-of Sense, what Anguish and Oppression the Innocent Heart-of-Jesus, must have Suffered! He well-Understood, all He was to-Endure:
All this did our Redeemer 'Accept', every-Moment; but each Moment that He 'Accepted' it, He Suffered at once, all the Pains and Humiliations that He would afterward Endure. The very Knowledge-of His Divine Dignity, made Him Feel even-more, the Injuries He would Receive-from Men: "All the Day, My Disgrace is before Me" - (Psalm 44:15). He had Continually-before His Eyes, His Shame, especially that Confusion which He would One Day Feel, at-seeing Himself Stripped Naked, Scourged, and Suspended-by Three (3) Iron Nails, and so to-End His Life in the Midst-of the Insults and Curses of those very Men, for-whom He was to-Die, "Obediently Accepting even Death, Death on a Cross!" - (Philippians 2:8). And for what? To Save us Miserable and Ungrateful Sinners.
He was Born of a Stable
The Church, in-Contemplating this Great Mystery of a God, being Born-in a Stable, 'Exclaims', Full-of Admiration, "Oh, Great Mystery! Oh, Wonderful Sacrament! for Animals to Behold the Lord, Lying-in a Manger". In-order-to Contemplate-with Tenderness and Love, the Birth-of Jesus, we must Pray-to the Lord, for a Lively Faith. If without Faith, we enter-into the Grotto-of Bethlehem, we shall have Nothing, but a Feeling-of Compassion, at Seeing an Infant, Reduced-to such a State-of-Poverty, that being Born-in the Depth-of Winter, He is Laid-in a Manger-of-Beasts, without Fire, and in the Midst-of a Cold Cavern.
But, if we Enter-with Faith, and 'Consider' with-what an Excess-of Love it was, that God Humbled Himself, to Appear-like a Little Child, Wrapped-in Swaddling-Clothes, Placed-on Straw, 'Crying' and 'Shivering'-with Cold, Unable-to Move, Depending-for Subsistence-on His mother's milk; how then is it possible for us not to-Feel Gently Constrained-to give all our Affections-to this Infant-God, Who has Reduced Himself to this State, to make us Love Him! Saint Luke says that the Shepherds, after having-Visited Jesus in the Manger, "Returned, Glorifying and Praising God, for all they had Heard and Seen" - (Luke 2:20). And yet what had they seen? Nothing-more-than a Poor Child, Trembling-with Cold, on a little-Straw. But, being Enlightened-by Faith, they Recognized-in this Child, the Excess-of Divine Love. Inflamed-by this Love, they Went-on their Way, Glorifying God, for they had-had the Happiness to-Behold a God "Who had Emptied Himself", and Annihilated Himself for the Love-of Men.
He Came as a Child,
Adoration of the Magi,
The Son-of-God is Born Humble and Poor, in a Stable; there the Angels-of-Heaven 'Acknowledge' Him, 'Singing', "Glory to God in the Highest". But the Inhabitants-of the Earth, for whose Salvation, Jesus was Born, leave Him Neglected; only a Few Shepherds 'Come' and 'Acknowledge' Him to be their Savior. But, our Loving Redeemer, Desired-from the very-Beginning, to-'Communicate'-to us, the Grace-of Redemption, and therefore He Began-to make Himself Known, even-to the Gentiles, who neither Knew Him, nor 'Expected' Him. For this Reason, He 'Sent' the Star to give Notice-to the Holy Magi, Enlightening them at the same-Time, with Internal Light, in-order-that they might 'Come' and 'Acknowledge' and 'Adore' Him as their Redeemer. This was the First (1st) Grace 'Bestowed'-upon us: our 'Calling'-to the True Faith.
Oh, Savior of the World, what would have Become of us, if You had not Come-to Enlighten us? We should be like our Forefathers, who Worshiped Animals, Stones, and Wood. I give You Thanks today, on Behalf-of all Men.
The Magi, without delay, Set-out on their Journey, and by-means-of the Star, they arrived-at the Place, where the Holy Infant lay: "They Found the Child, with Mary His mother" - (Matthew 2:11). As they Looked-on the Child, they Felt an Interior Joy, and their Hearts were Drawn-toward Him. The Poverty and the Cries-of the Child were Darts-of Love and Fire, to their Enlightened Hearts. Yes, Jesus, the more Humbled and Poor I Behold You, the more You Inflame me, with Your Love.
The Child looked-at these Holy Pilgrims, with a Joyful Face, and thus 'Showed' that He 'Accepted' these First (1st) Fruits-of His Redemption. His Mother was also Silent, but by her Smiling Looks, she 'Welcomed' them, and 'Thanked' them for the Homage, Done-to her Son. They Adored Him in-Silence, and 'Acknowledged' Him for their Savior and their God, Offering Him Gifts-of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
Jesus, I also Adore You and Offer You my Whole Heart. Take it and Change it. Make it entirely Yours, so that it may Love nothing but You. Save me, and let my Salvation be, to Love You always, and without-Reserve. Mary, most Holy Virgin, I Hope for this Grace from You.
Saint Joseph, on his Return-to Palestine, heard that Archelaus Reigned-in Judea, instead-of his father, Herod. Therefore, he was Afraid-to Go-and-Live there. Having been Warned-in a Dream, he went to Live-in Nazareth, a City-of-Galilee, and there in a Poor Little Cottage, he 'Fixed' his Dwelling. In this House, the Incarnate Word Lived, during the Remainder-of His Infancy and Youth. And how did He Live? Poor and Despised by Men, 'Performing' the Offices-of a Common Working Boy, and Obeying Joseph and Mary: "And [He] was Obedient to them" - (Luke 2:51).
How Inspiring it is, to Think that in this Poor House, the Son-of-God, Lived-as a Servant, Fetching Water, Opening and Shutting the Shop, Sweeping the Floor. It is a Thought that ought-to make us all Burn-with Holy Love for our Redeemer, Who has 'Reduced' Himself to such Humiliations, in-order-to 'Gain' our Love. Let us Adore all these Servile Actions of Jesus, which were all Divine. Let us Adore, above all, the Hidden and Neglected Life, that Jesus Christ Led-in the House-of-Nazareth.
Proud Men, how can you Desire-to make yourselves Seen and Honored, when you see your God, spend Years of His Life in Poverty, Hidden and Unknown, to Teach us the Love of Retirement, and of a Humble and Hidden Life!
Christ with the Rabbis in the Temple -
Saint Luke relates-in his Gospel, that Mary and Joseph went every-Year to-Jerusalem, on the Feast-of the Passover, and took the Infant Jesus with them. It was the Custom, says the Venerable Bede, for the Jews making this Pilgrimage, to Travel-with the Men, Separated-from the Women, and the Children went-with either their Fathers, or their Mothers.
Our Redeemer, Who was then Twelve (12) Years old, Remained during this Solemnity, for Three (3) Days in Jerusalem. Mary thought He was with Joseph, and Joseph, that He was with Mary. The Holy Child spent all these Three (3) Days, in 'Honoring' His Eternal Father, by Fasts, Vigils and Prayers, and by Assisting-at the Sacrifices. If He took a little-Food, says Saint Bernard, He must have Obtained it by Begging, and if He took any Rest, He could have had no other Bed, than the Bare-Ground.
When Mary and Joseph 'Arrived'-in the Evening, at their Home, they did not-find Jesus, and so they Began-to Look-for Him among their Relations and Friends. At last, Returning-to Jerusalem, they Found Him in the Temple, Disputing-with the Rabbis, who, Full-of Astonishment, 'Admired' the Questions and Answers of this Wonderful Child. On Seeing Him, Mary said, "Son, why have You done this to us? You see that Your father and I have been Searching for You, in Sorrow". There is no-other Sorrow, like that which is Felt-by Souls who Love Jesus, when they Fear that Jesus has Withdrawn Himself from them, through some Fault-of theirs. This, was the Sorrow-of Mary and Joseph, which Afflicted them so-much during these Days; they perhaps Feared that they had 'Rendered' themselves Unworthy-of, the Care-of such a Treasure.
That is why Mary said to Him, in-order-to 'Express' this Sorrow, "Son, why have You done this to us? You see that Your father and I have been Searching-for You, in Sorrow". Jesus answered, "Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's House?" Let us Learn-from this Mystery, Two (2) Lessons:
the First (1st), that we must Leave all our Friends and Relations, when the Glory-of-God is in Question;
the Second (2nd), that God easily-makes Himself Found, by those who Seek Him, "Good is the Lord . . to the Soul that Seeks Him" - (Lamentations 3:25).
After Thirty (30) Years of Hidden Life, the Time came for our Savior to Appear-in Public, to Preach the Heavenly Doctrines, which He had Come-from Heaven to Teach us. Therefore, it was Necessary-that He should make Himself Known, as the True Son-of-God. But how many were there, who 'Acknowledged' and 'Honored' Him as He Deserved? Besides the Few Disciples who Followed Him, the Majority, instead-of 'Honoring' Him, Despised Him as a Vile Man and an Imposter.
This 'Confirmed', in the Fullest Manner, the Prophecy-of Simeon: "This Child is Destined to be a Sign, that will be Opposed" - (Luke 2:34). Jesus Christ was 'Contradicted' and 'Despised' by all. He was Despised in His Doctrine, for when He Declared-that He was the only-Begotten Son-of-God, He was called a Blasphemer, and as-such, was Condemned-to Death as Caiphas said, "He has Blasphemed, He deserves Death" - (Matthew 26:65-66).
He was Despised-in His Wisdom, for He was 'Esteemed' a Fool without Sense "He is Possessed by a Devil out of His Mind! Why Pay any attention to Him?" - (John 10:20). His Morals were 'Reproached' as-being Scandalous they 'Called' Him a Glutton, a Drunkard, and the Friend-of Wicked People "Here is a Glutton and a Drunkard, a Friend-of Tax Collectors and Sinners" - (Luke 7:34). He was Accused-of being a Sorcerer, and of having Dealings-with Devils "He Casts-out Demons, through the Prince-of-Demons" - (Matthew 9:34). He was called a Heretic, and One Possessed-by the Devil "Are we not Right, after all, in saying You are a Samaritan, and Possessed besides?" - (John 8:48). In short, Jesus Christ was considered-by all the People, so-Wicked a Man, that there was no-Need-of a Tribunal to Condemn Him to be Crucified "If He were not a Criminal, we would certainly not have handed Him over to you" - (John 18:30).
At last, the Savior Came-to His Passion and Death. What Contempt and Ill-Treatment, He 'Received'! He was Betrayed and Sold-by One-of His Own Disciples, for Thirty (30) Pieces-of-Silver, less-than would be given for an Animal. By another Disciple, He was Denied. He was Dragged-through the Streets-of Jerusalem, Bound-like a Thief, Abandoned by All, even by His Few-remaining Disciples. He was Treated Shamefully as a Slave, when He was Scourged. He was Struck-on the Face, in Public. He was Treated-as a Fool, when Herod had a White Garment Put-on Him, that He might be-Thought a Foolish Person, without any Sense: "He Despised Him as Ignorant", says Saint Bonaventure, "because He did not Answer a Word; as Foolish, because He did not Defend Himself". He was Treated-as a Mock King, when they put-into His Hand a Reed, instead-of a Scepter, a Tattered-Red-Garment upon His Shoulders, Instead-of the Purple, and a Chaplet-of-Thorns on His Head, for a Crown. After thus Deriding Him, they 'Saluted' Him: "All Hail, King of the Jews!" - (Matthew 27:29). And then they 'Covered' Him with Spittle and Blows. "They also Spat-at Him" - (Matthew 27:30); "Slapping His Face" - (John 19:3).
The Crucifixion - by GRÜNEWALD, Matthias, from Musée d'Unterlinden, Colmar
Finally, Jesus Christ, Willed to-Die; but by what Death? By the most Shameful Death, which was the Death-of-the-Cross: "He Humbled Himself, Obediently Accepting even Death, Death-on a Cross!" - (Philippians 2:8). Anyone who Suffered the Death-of the Cross at-that-Time, was Considered the Vilest and most Wicked-of-Criminals: "Accursed is anyone who is Hanged-on a Tree" (Galatians 3:13). The Names-of those who were Crucified, were always held-as Cursed and Infamous, so that the Apostle 'Wrote'-that Christ is made "a Curse for us" - (Galatians 3:13). Saint Athanasius, Commenting-on this Passage, says: "He is Called a Curse, because He Bore the Curse, for us". Jesus Took-upon Himself this Curse, that He might Save us from an Eternal (∞) Curse. But where, Lord, 'Exclaims' Saint-Thomas-of-Villanova, where is Your Beauty, where is Your Majesty in the Midst-of so-much Disgrace? And He Answers: "Ask not, God has Gone out of Himself". The Saint's Meaning was this: We should not 'Seek'-for Glory and Majesty in Jesus Christ, since He had 'Come'-to Give us an Example-of Humility, and make-'Manifest' His Love for-Men. This Love had made Him, as-it-were, Go out-of Himself.
In the Fables-of the Pagans, it is Related-that the god, Hercules, because of his Love-for King Augea, undertook to-Tame his Horses, and that the god, Apollo, out of Love-for Admetus, kept his Flocks for him. These are Inventions-of the Imagination, but it is of-Faith, that Jesus Christ the True Son-of-God, for the Love-of Men, Humbled Himself to be Born-in a Stable, to Lead a Contemptible Life, and in the End, to-Die by the hands-of Executioners, on an Infamous-Gibbet.
"Oh, Power of Love!" 'Exclaims' Saint Bernard. "You, the most-High, became the Lowest-of All!" Oh, the Strength-of Divine Love! The Greatest-of All, has made Himself the Lowest-of All! And why? Saint Bernard says that it was Because-of Love, regardless-of its Dignity. "Love Triumphs over God". Love does not consider Dignity, when there is Question-of Gaining-for itself, the Person it Loves. God, Who can never be Conquered-by anyone, has been Conquered-by Love; for it was that Love which 'Compelled' Him to make Himself Man, and to Sacrifice Himself for the Love-of Man. "He Emptied Himself", Bernard concludes, "in order that you may Know that it was through Love that the Highest, made Himself Equal to you". The Divine Word, Who is Majesty itself, Humbled Himself, so-far-as to-Annihilate Himself, so that Men might know how much He Loved them. Yes, says Saint-Gregory-Nazianzen, because in no other Way, could He better Show-forth the Divine Love, than by Abasing Himself, and Taking-upon Himself the Greatest Misery and Shame that Men ever Suffer, on this Earth. Man had the Boldness to Offend the Majesty-of-God; in-order-to 'Expiate' this Guilt, the Intervention-of the most-Excessive Humiliation was Necessary. Saint Bernard says, "The Lower He showed Himself to be in Human Nature, the Greater did He declare Himself in Goodness".
Your Physician will 'Come', says the Prophet, to 'Cure' the Infirm; and He will 'Come' Swiftly, like the Bird that Flies, and like the Sun which, on Rising-from the Horizon, Instantly 'Sends' its Light, to the other Pole. But Behold Him, He is already 'Come'. Let us Console ourselves, and Give Thanks-to Him.
Christ 'Cures' the Infirmities-of the Repentant Mary Magdalene, and 'Raises' her to Sainthood
Saint Augustine says, "He Descends-to the Bed-of the Sick", that is to say, He even Takes-upon Himself our Flesh, for our Bodies are the Beds-of our Infirm Souls. Other Physicians, if they Love their Patients, do indeed use all their Efforts-to Cure them; but what Physician, in-order-to Cure the Sick Man, ever Took-upon himself, his Disease? Jesus Christ has been that Physician, Who 'Charged' Himself with our Infirmities, in-order-to Cure them. And He would not 'Content' Himself with Sending another, in His Place, but 'Chose' to-'Come' Himself, to-Fulfill this Charitable Office, in-order-to Gain-for Himself, all our Love: "It was our Infirmities that He Bore, our Sufferings that He Endured" - (Isaiah 53:4). He 'Chose'-to Heal our Wounds, with His Own Blood, and by His Death, to 'Deliver' us from Eternal (∞) Death, which we had Deserved. In short, He 'Chose' to-'Swallow' the Bitter Draught, of a Life-of Continual Sufferings, and a Painful Death, to 'Obtain' Life for us, and 'Deliver' us from our many Evils: "Am I not to Drink the Cup, the Father has Given me?" He said to Saint Peter - (John 18:11).
It was necessary:
that Jesus Christ should Suffer such Degradation, to Heal our Pride;
that He should 'Embrace' such a Life-of Poverty, to Cure our Covetousness;
that He should be 'Overwhelmed'-in a Sea-of-Troubles, and even Die of Pure Sorrow, to Cure our Eagerness-for Sensual Pleasures.
God-the-Father 'Accepts' the Satisfaction-of His Son for our Sins-
Consider that since the Father has 'Given' us His Own Son to be our Mediator and Advocate with Him, and the Victim in-Satisfaction-for our Sins, we cannot Despair-of Obtaining-from God, whatever Favor we ask-of Him, if we Avail ourselves of the Help-of such a Redeemer. "Has He not also, with Him, Given us all things?" adds the Apostle.
What can God 'Deny' us, when He has not 'Denied' us His Son? None of our Prayers, Deserves to be 'Heard' or 'Granted' by the Lord, for we 'Deserve' Punishment, not Graces, for our Sins. But Jesus Christ, Who 'Intercedes'-for us, and 'Offers'-for us, all the Sufferings-of His Life, His Blood, and His Death, does indeed Deserve-to be 'Heard'. The Father cannot Refuse anything, to so-Dear a Son, Who 'Offers' Him a Price-of Infinite (∞) Value. He is Innocent; all that He Pays-to Divine Justice, is to Satisfy our Debts; the Satisfaction He 'Offers', is Infinitely (∞) Greater-than all the Sins-of Men. It would not be Just, that a Sinner should Perish, who Repents-of his Sins, and Offers-to God the Merits-of Jesus Christ, Who has already Atoned-for him.
Let us therefore 'Thank' God, and Hope-for all things,
from the Merits-of Jesus Christ.
The Divine Word, from the First (1st) Instant that He was made-Man, and an Infant-in Mary's Womb, 'Offered' Himself, to Suffer and Die, as the Ransom-of the World: "He Surrendered Himself to Death" - (Isaiah 53:12). He Knew-that all the Sacrifices-of Goats and Bulls, Offered-to God in Times-past, had not been Able-to Satisfy-for the Sins-of Men, that it Required a Divine Infinite (∞) Person, to Pay-the-Price, of their Redemption.
Wherefore, on 'Coming'-into the World, Jesus said, "Sacrifice and Offering, You did not Desire, but a Body You have Prepared-for Me. Then I said, I have Come" - (Hebrews 10:5-7). "My Father", said Jesus, "All the Victims already Offered-to You, have not Sufficed, nor could they Suffice, to-Satisfy Your Justice; You have given Me this Body, so that by-Shedding My Blood, I might Appease You and Save Men. Behold, I Come; I am Ready. I Accept everything, and I Submit Myself in everything to Your Will". Humanly-speaking, He felt Repugnance, for Human Nature is Opposed-to a Life and Death, so-Full-of Sufferings and Shame. But, Divinely-speaking, since His Will was entirely Subordinate-to the Will-of His Father, He 'Conquered', and 'Accepted' everything; and Jesus 'Began', from that Moment, i.e. 'Conception', to Suffer all the Anguish and Sorrows that He would have to-Suffer, during All the Years of His Life.
Thus did our Redeemer 'Act', from the very First (1st) Moment-of His Entrance-into the World. But how have we 'Conducted' ourselves toward Jesus, since we Began-as Adults, to Know-by the Light-of-Faith, the Sacred Mysteries-of Redemption? What 'Thoughts', what 'Designs', what 'Goods', have we Loved? Pleasures, Amusements, Vengeance, Sensuality; these are the 'Goods' that have 'Captured' the Affections-of our Hearts. But, if we have Faith, we must at-Last, 'Change' our Life, and our Affections. Let us Love a God, Who has Suffered so-much for us. Let us 'Recall' the Sufferings which the Heart-of Jesus Endured-for us, even from His Infancy, for then we shall not be-able-to Love anything else, but that Heart which has Loved us, so-much.
Saint Paul 'Writes' that the Grace of God has 'Appeared', Offering Salvation to all Men. The Grace, which is said here, to-have 'Appeared', is the Tender Love of Jesus Christ toward-Men, a Love that we have not Merited, which, therefore, is called "Grace". This Love was always the Same-in God, but it was not always 'Apparent'. It was at-First (1st), 'Promised' in many Prophecies, and 'Foreshadowed' in many-Ways. But, at the Birth-of the Redeemer, this Divine Love did 'Appear' and 'Manifest' itself, by the Eternal Word, 'Showing' Himself to Man, as an Infant, Lying-on Straw, Crying, and Shivering with-Cold. In this Way, He 'Began-to-Make' Satisfaction-for the Penalties we Deserved, and so make Known-to us, the Affection which He has for us, by Giving-up His Life for us: "The Way we came to Understand Love, was that He Laid-down His Life, for us" - (1John 3:16).
Thus the Love of our God, 'Appeared'-to all. But why is it, then, that all Men have not Known it, and that even to this Day, so-many are Ignorant-of it? This is the Reason: "The Light came into the World, but Men Loved Darkness, rather than Light" - (John 3:19). They have not Known Him, and they do not Know Him, because they do not 'Wish'-to Know Him, Loving the Darkness-of-Sin, rather than the Light-of-Grace. But let us Try not to-be, One-of these People. If in the Past, we have 'Shut' our Eyes, to the Light, Thinking little-of the Love-of Jesus Christ, let us now Try-to have ever-before our Eyes, the Sufferings and Death of our Redeemer, in-order-to Love Him, Who has Loved us so-much: "As we Await our Blessed Hope, the Appearing-of the Glory-of the Great God, and of our Savior Christ Jesus". We may then 'Justly Expect' that Paradise, which Jesus Christ has Acquired-for us, by His Blood.
At His First (1st) Coming, Jesus 'Appeared'-as an Infant, Poor and Humble, and 'Showed' Himself on-Earth, Born-in a Stable, Covered-with Miserable Rags, and Lying-on Straw. But, at His Second (2nd) Coming He will Appear-on a Throne-of-Majesty: "As the Son of Man coming on the Clouds of Heaven, with Power and Great Glory" - (Matthew 24:30). Blessed then, will they be who have Loved Him, and Unhappy, those who have not Loved Him.
The Jews 'Celebrated' a Day, they called "Dies Ignis", the "Day of Fire" with which Nehemiah 'Consumed' the Sacrifice, upon his Return-with his Countrymen, from the Captivity-of-Babylon. In the same-Way, Christmas can be called the Day of Fire, on which a God, Came-as a little Child, to 'Light' the Fire-of-Love in the Hearts-of Men. "I have come to Light a Fire, on the Earth" - (Luke 12:49). So 'Spoke' Jesus Christ, and so it was. Before the 'Coming'-of the Messiah, who Loved God, upon Earth? He was Hardly Known in Judea, a Corner-of the World, and even there, how very-Few Loved Him, when He Came. As for the Rest-of the World, some 'Worshiped' the Sun; some, Animals; and others, Stones. But, after the 'Coming'-of Jesus Christ, the Name-of God became Known everywhere, and was Loved by-Many.
It is a Custom-with many Christians, to Anticipate the Arrival-of Christmas, a considerable Time Beforehand, by Setting-up in their Homes, a Crib to-Represent the Birth-of Jesus Christ; but there are Few, who Think-of Preparing their Hearts, so that the Infant Jesus may be Born-in them, and there find Rest. Among these Few, We would like-to-be Numbered, that We too may be made Worthy-to Burn-with that Flame, which gives Contentment-on Earth, and Bliss-in Heaven. Let us now consider how the Eternal Word had no-other Purpose, in-becoming Man, than to 'Inflame' us with His Divine Love. Let us ask Light, of-Jesus Christ, and of-His Holy Mother.
The Martyrdom of Saint Stephen -
Saint Stephen, the First of Many Christian Martyrs, Prepares-to Receive the Crown-of-Glory
and the Palm-of-Salvation, from Jesus Christ and His Father.
Anyone who Loves, has no-other Purpose-in Loving, but to be Loved in-Return. Saint Bernard remarks that God, having so Dearly Loved us, Seeks nothing-else from us, but our Love. Therefore, He goes-on with this Admonition-to each one of us: "He has made known His Love, so that He may Experience yours". You have seen the Love which God has Borne you, in-becoming Man, in- Suffering and Dying for you. How Long shall it be, before God knows by-Experience, and by-Deeds, the Love you Bear Him? Every Man, at the Sight-of a God Clothed-in Flesh, 'Choosing' to-Lead a Life-of such Hardship, and to-Suffer such a Death, Ought to be Enkindled-with Love toward a God, so-Loving. "Oh, that You would Rend the Heavens and Come-down, with the Mountains Quaking-before You, as when Fire makes the Water Boil!" - (Isaiah 64:1-2). Oh, that You, my God, would 'Leave' the Heavens, the Prophet Cried-out before the Arrival-of the Divine Word on Earth, and 'Descend' here, to become-Man, among us! You would Enkindle such a Furnace, in the Human Heart that even the most-Frozen Souls, must-Catch the Flame-of Your Blessed Love. And, in fact, after the Incarnation-of the Son-of-God, how Brilliantly has the Fire-of Divine Love, Shone-to many Loving Souls! It may even be said that God was more-Loved in One (1) Century, after the 'Coming'-of Jesus Christ, than in the entire Forty (40) Preceding Centuries. How many Men and Women have left Wealth and Honors to seek the Desert or the Cloister that there, in Poverty and Obscure Seclusion, they might 'Give' themselves up, to the Love-of their Savior! How many Martyrs have Jubilantly 'Given' themselves to-Torments and to- Death! How many Young Virgins, have Refused the Hands-of the Great Ones, of this World, in-order-to Go and Die for Jesus Christ, and so Repay, in some-Measure, the Affection-of a God Who became Man, and Died-for Love-of them! Saint Augustine says that God, in-order-to 'Captivate' the Love-of Men, has 'Cast' Darts-of Love into their Hearts: "God Knows how to take Aim-at Love; He Draws the Arrow, that He may make a Lover". What are these Arrows? They are all the Creatures that we see around us; for God has Created them All for Man, so that Man might Love Him. Augustine also says, "Heaven and Earth and All Things, tell me to Love You". It seemed to the Saint, that the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, the Mountains, the Plains, the Seas, and the Rivers, 'Spoke'-to him and said: Augustine, Love God, because God has Created us for you, so that you might Love Him. Saint Teresa said that all the Fair Things which we See the Lakes, the Rivers, the Flowers, the Fruits, the Birds all Upbraid us with our Ingratitude to God, for all are Tokens-of the Love, God 'Bears' us.
Saint-Peter-Chrysologus says that our Redeemer took Many and Various Forms, to Attract the Love-of Man. God, Who is 'Unchangeable', Appeared-as a Child in a Stable, as a Boy in a Workshop, as a Criminal on a Scaffold, and now, as Bread upon the Altar. In these varying Guises, Jesus 'Chose'-to Exhibit Himself to us; but whatever Character He 'Assumed', it was always the Character-of a Lover. Tell me, my Lord, is there anything else left for You to-Devise, in-order-to make Yourself Loved? "Make known His Deeds", cried our Isaiah (12:5). Go, Redeemed Souls, said the Prophet, Go and Publish everywhere, the Loving Devices-of this Loving God. For after 'Lavishing' so-many of His Gifts upon them, He was Pleased-to 'Bestow' Himself, and to 'Bestow' Himself in so many ways.
"If you Desire a Cure for your Wound", says Saint Ambrose, "He is a Physician". If you are Sick and want to be Healed, look-at Jesus, Who Heals you by His Blood. "If you are Parched with Fever, He is a Fountain". If the Impure Flame of Worldly Affections Troubles you, He is a Fountain to-Refresh you with His Consolation. "If you Fear Death, He is Life; if you Long-for Heaven, He is the Way; in short, if you do not Wish to Die, He is the Life; if you Wish Heaven, He is the Way".
If we do not have the Strength to-Desire and Seek-for Sufferings, let us at least try-to Accept-with Patience, those Crosses which God Sends us, for our Good. "Where there is Patience, there is God", says Tertullian. Where is God? Give me a Soul that Suffers-with Resignation; there is God: "The Lord is Close to the Brokenhearted" - (Psalm 34:18). The Lord takes Delight-in being near those who are Afflicted. But, what Kind-of Afflicted People? It must be those who Suffer in Peace and are Resigned-to the Divine Will. To such as these God gives True Peace which consists, as Saint Leo says, in Uniting our Will, to the Will-of-God. Saint Bonaventure tells us, that the Divine Will is like Honey, which makes even Bitter Things, Sweet and Pleasant. For he who Obtains all he Wishes, has Nothing left, to Desire: "Blessed is he who has Everything he Desires", says Saint Augustine. Therefore, he who Wills Nothing, but-what God Wills, is always Happy, for as Everything 'Happens'-by the Will-of-God,, the Soul has always that, which it Wills.
Our Greatest Fault, is that we Wish-to Serve God in 'Our' Way, not in 'His' Way ─ According-to 'Our'
Will, not According-to 'His' Will. When He Wishes us to be Sick, we Wish to be Well; when He Desires us to-Serve Him by Sufferings, we Desire-to
Serve Him by-Works; when He Wishes us to-Exercise Charity, we Wish-to Exercise Humility; when He Seeks from us Resignation, we Wish-for Devotion,
a Spirit-of-Prayer or some other Virtue. And this is not because the Things we Desire may be more-Pleasing to Him, but because they are more-to
our Taste. This is certainly the Greatest Obstacle we can Raise-to our own Perfection, for it is beyond-Doubt that if we were to Wish to be
Saints, According-to our own Will, we shall never be so at all. To be Truly a Saint, it is Necessary to be One (1), According-to the
Saint Francis de Sales
And when God Sends us Crosses, let us not only be Resigned, but let us also Thank Him, since it is a Sign that He means-to Pardon our Sins, and Save us from Hell. He who has Offended God, must be Punished; and, therefore, we ought Always-to Beg-of Him to Chastise us in this World, and not in the Next. That Sinner is to be Pitied, who does not Receive his Chastisement in this Life. When God does not Punish a Sinner in this Life, it is a Sign that He Waits-to Punish him in Eternity (∞), where the Punishment will have no-End (∞).