The great mystery is accomplished: on Christmas Eve
By Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene | 20 December 2023
O Incarnate Word, my Saviour, teach me the lessons of wisdom contained in the mystery of Your Incarnation.
Of all the works done by God in time and outside of Himself, the redemptive Incarnation of the Word is the greatest. It is the greatest because it has for end not a mere creature, however sublime, but God Himself, the eternal Word who, in time, assumed a human nature. It is the merciful love of God, and the work which above all others glorifies Him; and it glorifies Him precisely in reference to charity which is His very essence. It is also the greatest of His works because of the immense good it brings to mankind. The salvation, sanctification, and eternal happiness of the whole human race depend wholly upon the Incarnation of the Word, upon Jesus, the Incarnate Word.
“[God the Father] chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted… Who hath predestined us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto Himself… In whom we have redemption … the remission of sins according to the riches of His grace… God hath quickened us together in Christ…and hath raised us up together, and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places, through Christ Jesus.”Eph 1:4–7; 2:5–6
Jesus, the Incarnate Word, is the one source of our salvation and our sanctification. Without Him, man would not be able to call God by the sweet name of Father; he could not love Him as a son loves his father, nor could he hope to be admitted to His intimacy: there would be no grace, no Beatific Vision. Without Jesus, man would be imprisoned within the limits of a purely human life, deprived of every supernatural horizon, in time and in eternity.
God’s greatest work, the Incarnation of the Word, destined to enlighten and save the whole world, takes place in obscurity and silence, and under the most humble and most human conditions. Caesar’s edict obliges Mary and Joseph to leave their little home in Nazareth and undertake a journey. They travel on foot like the poor, in spite of the discomfort of Mary’s condition. They do not think of objecting to the trip; they make no complaint, but obey with promptness and simplicity. He who commands is a man, but their profound spirit of faith discovers God’s will in the command of the pagan emperor. And they go, trusting in God’s Providence; God knows, God will provide: “To them that love God, all things work together unto good” (Rom 8:28). In Bethlehem there is no room for them; they are obliged to take shelter in a hillside cave. The poverty of this refuge for animals does not dismay or scandalise them. They know that the Child who is about to be born is the Son of God; but they also know that God’s works are entirely different from man’s! And if God wishes His greatest work to be accomplished here, in this wretched stable, in utter poverty, Mary and Joseph embrace His will! The least bit of human reasoning would be enough to confuse and disturb them, and arouse doubts. Mary and Joseph are extremely humble; hence, they are docile and filled with faith in God. And God, as is His custom, made use of what is humble and despicable in the eyes of the world to accomplish the greatest of His works: the Incarnation of the Word.
O my God, what a luminous, sublime contrast! O eternal Word, Incarnate Word, source of life, salvation, grace and sanctity! O Redemption and Light of all mankind! You are about to show Yourself to the world! All creation should exult, all nature should tremble with joy, all men should run to You, their God, their King and Saviour! Instead, You choose to be born in secret, solitude, and silence, and all is pre-arranged to this end.
“While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, thy almighty Word leapt down from heaven, from thy royal throne… into the midst of the land…”Wis 18:14–15
O my God, You came down from heaven to save the world, and the world which is Yours, the work of Your hands, has not even a lodging to offer You! Who is this Child who has no house, however poor and wretched, to be born in? There was the humble little house at Nazareth ready to welcome You; Mary had prepared it with much love, but You did not want even that, and You dispose everything in such a way that You have not even a place to lay Your Head. Bethlehem is crowded with visitors; there is a little corner for everyone except You, the royal Guest, the Creator, the King of the universe. For You, there is no place. You come to us like a poor pilgrim, walking the streets, not knowing where to spend the night. No one notices You, no one is aware of Your imminent appearance, no one could suppose that this humble woman from Nazareth is about to give the world its Saviour, its King and its God. Only Mary and Joseph know and adore in silence. Nothing disturbs them; their hearts are firm in faith, anchored in perfect confidence; they are sure of You and of Your promises.
O Incarnate Word, impress this lesson deeply in my heart and help me to understand the mysterious ways of Your love. You are coming to save and sanctify me, but You want to accomplish Your work in me by means of the most humble, ordinary, and insignificant circumstances. Give me the humility, faith, and blind trust of Mary and Joseph, that I may know how to recognise and adore Your work, adhere to it with docility and love, and know that You love to surround Your works with humility, silence and secrecy.