The Saviour has appeared: meditation on the Nativity of Our Lord
By Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen OCD | 21 December 2022
Towards the end of his life, Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen OCD (1893–1953), began to compile and condense his life’s work on the interior life into a book of meditations for every day of the liturgical year. After Fr Gabriel’s death, the Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Monastery of St Joseph in Rome completed the work which would become known under the title “Divine Intimacy”.
Behold, I am at the feet of my Incarnate God, who has become a Child for love of me! I adore, I thank, I love!
God is charity: He has loved us with an everlasting love!
“I think God must have said to Himself: Man does not love Me because he does not see Me; I will show Myself to him and thus make him love Me. God’s love for man was very great, and had been great from all eternity, but this love had not yet become visible… Then, it really appeared; the Son of God let Himself be seen as a tiny Babe in a stable, lying on a little straw.”St Alphonsus
This is the mystery of the Nativity; this is St Paul’s exultant cry:
“The grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men…. The goodness and kindness of God our Saviour appeared.”Tm 2:11–15; 3:4–7
These are the blessed tidings “of great joy” brought by the Angel to the shepherds:
“This day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord!”Lk 2:1–14
The texts in today’s liturgy, following each other in tones of increasing exultation, sing the praises of the sweet Child Jesus, the Word made Man, living and breathing among us:
“Whom have you seen, O shepherds? Speak and tell us who has appeared on earth? We saw the new-born Child and choirs of angels loudly praising the Lord.”
“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth exult in the presence of the Lord! Our God is here in the midst of us, He has become one of us. ‘A Child is born to us, a Son is given to us… His name is Admirable, God, Prince of peace, Father of the world to come! Rejoice, O daughter of Sion, sing, O daughter of Jerusalem… Rejoice, ye inhabitants of the earth! Come, ye nations, adore the Lord! Come! Come, adore, listen, and rejoice!’ Jesus, the Word of the Father, speaks to us a wonderful word: God loves you!”
The three Christmas Masses place before us a majestic picture: the touching description of the birth of Jesus as man alternates with the sublime one of the eternal birth of the Word in the bosom of the Father; and there are also allusions to Christ’s birth in our souls by grace. However, this threefold birth is but one single manifestation of God who is Charity. No one on earth could know God’s love; but the Word, who is in the bosom of the Father, knows it and can reveal it to us. The Word was made flesh and has shown to us the love of God. Through the Word, God’s incomprehensible, invisible charity is made manifest and tangible in the sweet little Babe, who from the manger holds out His arms to us. Today’s preface solemnly declares it:
“O eternal God, because of the mystery of the Word made flesh, the light of Thy glory hath shone anew upon the eyes of our mind: that while we acknowledge Him to be God visible, He may draw us to the love of things invisible.”
Yes, this “Child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger” is our God, who, for us, has made Himself visible: our God, who shows us in the most concrete way His infinite charity. One cannot contemplate little Jesus without being captivated and enraptured by the infinite love which has given Him to us. The Infant Jesus reveals to us God’s love, He manifests it in the clearest, most touching way. St Paul says in the Epistle of the Third Mass:
“God, in these days hath spoken to us by His Son … the brightness of His glory, and the figure of His substance.”Heb 1:1–12
Jesus, the Incarnate Word, in His silence as a helpless Child, speaks to us and reveals to us the substance of God: His charity.
“O all-powerful and eternal Trinity! O sweet, ineffable charity! Who would not be inflamed by such love? What heart could keep itself from being consumed by You?
“O abyss of charity! You have so closely bound Yourself to Your creatures that it seems that You cannot live without them! Nevertheless You are our God! You have no need of us. Our good adds nothing to Your greatness, for You are immutable. Our misfortune cannot harm You, O God, sovereign, eternal Goodness! Then what urges You to such mercy? Love — for You have no obligation toward us and no need of us. Then, O infinite God, who brings You to me, a little creature? No one but Yourself, O Fire of Love! Love alone has always urged You, and love still urges You!
“O sovereign sweetness, You have deigned to unite Yourself to our bitterness; You, brilliance, with our darkness; You, wisdom, with our stupidity; You, life, with death; You, who are infinite, with us who are finite!”St Catherine of Siena
“O sweet Incarnate Word, O most amiable Infant Jesus, behold me at last at Your feet; let me contemplate You; permit me to delight in Your beauty, Your goodness, Your immense charity! In this little Child who smiles, and holds out His baby arms to me, I find Your infinite love, living, breathing — for this Babe is You, O my God! How can I ever thank You for Your exceeding love? How can I ever make You a return of love?
“You, who are so great and rich, have made Yourself little and poor for us! You chose to be born far from home, in a stable, to be wrapped in swaddling clothes, to be nourished at Your Virgin Mother’s breast, to be laid in a manger between an ox and an ass. Today is the dawn of the new redemption, of the old restoration, of eternal happiness; today, the heavens have distilled honey throughout the whole world! Then, O my soul, kiss this divine manger, press your lips to the Infant’s feet and embrace them. Meditate on the shepherds watching their flocks, contemplate the angelic hosts, prepare to join in the heavenly melody, singing with your lips and with your heart: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will!’”St Bonaventure