“Today is born of a Virgin
He who holds the whole creation
in His Hand.
He whose essence none can touch
is bound in swaddling clothes
as a Child.
God, who in the beginning
established the heavens
lies in a manger.
He who rained manna on His people
is fed on milk from His Mother's breast.
The Bridegroom of the Church summons the wisemen.
The Son of the Virgin accepts their gifts.” - The Christmas Troparion, by Romanos the Melodist
Merry Christmas everyone! I really need to have a decent journal update, seeing as the last one was all the way back in May, but life has been very busy and I just haven’t had the time I’d like to have to write up journal entries. Not that I don’t have material (trust me, I just went through an entire semester of modern and contemporary art history. I have plenty
of rant material), I just don’t have time. I thought, however, that I would do an update for Christmas, so I’m recycling one of my old journal entries (from 2010! I can’t believe it’s been that long!) as a Christmas meditation. God bless you all! Enjoy the rest of the Christmas season too, don’t forget, it doesn’t end until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (January 10th for the U.S. dioceses). Merry Christmas! Thoughts on the Nativity of Our Lord
A Meditation on Christmas"His the doom, our's the mirth
When he came down to earth.
Flower of Jesse's tree
Born on earth to save us."~ "Cantus" by Connie Dover
On this day we rejoice and make merry: we celebrate with family and friends, brothers and sisters, we have large dinners and play music and we decorate our houses with festive lights and colors. On this day, the whole world rejoices.
Christmas is not about family.
Christmas is not about friends.
It is not about celebrating with loved ones, or taking a well needed holiday from the work-load of careers and classes. Christmas isn't about refreshing oneself in the glimmer and glory of the season, or bathing in the nostalgia of previous, happy years with warm fuzzy feelings by a glowing fire.
We rejoice at the birth of a doomed Child—a Child who has entered into our cold, lonesome, and miserably weary world. This Child is doomed from birth. Even from his first moments in the wretched manger that serves as his first cradle he is marked out for destruction. We rejoice at the birth of a Child who's only destiny is to die the most miserable of deaths as an ignoble criminal—rejected by His own people, and put to death by the ruling foreign power that His followers had thought He had come to destroy. "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him" (John 1:11).
He came into the world as a failure, destined for failure. Everything about Him proclaims His failure and His weakness. He is born in a stable, into abject poverty, to impoverished parents, born from a despairing, conquered people, born during the darkest, coldest time of the year. His only companions at His birth were barn animals and wretched shepherds.
Who is this mysterious Child? Who is this Infant who does not shun poverty and misery? Who is this One whom angels and shepherds alike adore? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him….The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:1-14). "You have come down from the stars, O King of heaven…"
(St. Alphonsus Liguori)
Dark and light. Death and life. There are two forces interplaying here. One is the absence of the other. The degree of evil is to what extent it is absent of good. Dark is the absence of light. But how helpless we are against the darkness. We need that "light which enlightens every man" to guide our path. This light which is the light of men also reveals himself to be the Way, the Truth, and the Light. But we have strayed far, so far, for "this is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil"
(John 3:19) and because of this we could not approach the Adorable Godhead. For this, our merciful Lord came down to save His beloved man. To save us He became man, that we might become like God. He robed himself with human vesture that "he might be weak enough to suffer woe"
(John Donne). He bound Himself with chains so that He might break ours'. Our doomed God has come to break the fetters that bind us to our sins, He has come to free us from the slavish captivity of our selfishness; He has come to die that we might live.
By His failure He has purchased for us the only victory we needed. God's failure is humanity's victory. His doom is the only cause for our rejoicing. His doom is our pardon, His destruction is our hope, His death is our life. He is our promised ransom.
Mankind rejoices at the birth of this Doomed Child. He has come to confront the powers of darkness, He has stepped into the midst of evil, He does not shy away from it. He comes to us. He comes to us in the midst of our trials, our despair, He comes in the midst of winter when all our hope is dried up. He comes to save us. He is no stranger to the evils of our world. His infant life is endangered from the moment his star arose in the sky. Herod wants Him dead. The slaughter of the infant children in Bethlehem is only testament to the cruelty and depravity of our fallen world.
Who has never felt overwhelmed by the evil in our world? Like a dark tidal wave, or like an oppressive black thundering cloud it blots out the light from our lives. We are easily overwhelmed by it. In it we glimpse that shred of the eternal despair of loveless self-damnation. It is confoundingly terrible. One only needs to read the newspaper or glance at an internet newsfeed nowadays to acquaint oneself with the horrors of wars, of widespread death, destruction and famine. Evil is insurmountable; it entangles and traps us. We are thrown into confusion and despair because of it. Because on our own power, we are utterly powerless against it. We cannot overcome the evil in the world. We are weak. Utterly, helplessly weak. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
What could be strong enough to surmount all of the evils of our world? What could conquer our sins? What could destroy our selfishness, our pride, our lusts, our hate, our despair, our fears, and all our pain and weaknesses? What could banish that last enemy of ours, the ancient Death? What does God send us to rescue us from the darkness?
He sends us a Child. A Child who had dwelt forever as Eternal God with the Father and the Spirit beyond all realms of time and space, beyond the void and the short-grasping thoughts of man. The Word whom the universe could not contain became Man in the womb of a humble, simple, pure and holy Virgin. The humble Lamb would defeat Evil dragon through its helplessness. Weakness could overcome evil. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
This Baby has conquered death and sin. This Baby is the world's remedy. He is helpless, small, and weak. And He confounds the terrible pride of the reprobate spirits with His humility. What a weak and cowardly thing evil is! It is defeated by the shedding of the blood of the God-man. "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength"
The Feast of the Incarnation—this day, the Nativity of Our Lord—is only of any importance because of His Passion and Resurrection. Without the Cross and the Stone, the Star of Bethlehem is meaningless. And yet, we shy away from the Cross. The manger, though poor and humble, at least we can accept. There Christ is small and helpless. There, He makes no demands on our comfort. He is one of us. Do we cry out with the angels at Christmas, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will" and then cry out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord"? Do we greet Him with smiles and shouts of joy at the manger and then abandon Him at the cross? Do we cry "Hosanna!" at Christmas and then reject Him with the faithless crowds at the Passover? Are we Christians when it is safe and convenient for us and then run tail when any courage is needed on our part? Are we only followers of Christ when He follows our
There is a certain irony in the bad thief's words, "If you are the Son of God, then save yourself, and us."
This strikes at the very heart of the Incarnation. The very name of Jesus, which is "Yeshua," means "God saves." The horrendous irony of these words is that they are true, so very true! And yet, the mission of Christ "is to do the will of him who sent me"
(John 4:34). But what the thief, and what many of us do not understand, is that our God does not save us within our nice little packaged, pre-conceived notions of salvation. He saves us in the way we actually need saving. We need saving from ourselves. Emmanuel is "God-with-us." And to rescue us from death, He had to plumb the dregs of our despair and anguish so that no one can say, "God does not understand. He has not suffered like I have." What is God's answer to our cries for salvation? He comes. He comes to be with us. God-with-us is just that. He shares our joys and our sorrows. He suffers with us in our misery, and He comforts us in our afflictions.
We needed the death of God to give man life. We killed God. We murdered our Emmanuel. And our Deicide—the most terrible sin, the most outrageous, inconceivable blasphemy—was our redemption. God was born into our world to die at our hands. He came to us, yielding himself to us as a helpless infant. This Child you see here, lying in this cold manger of soaked and sodden hay—Here! Look upon his small and tender hands! Soon they shall be pierced with ruthless iron nails. See this soft, milk-white skin? Soon it shall be bruised and broken and bloody and torn. These tiny feet of His', which curl up against the cold, soon they shall be curled against the wounding wood, the rending nails. His gentle breathing shall turn into the rasping death rattle as He cries out His last breath. His little beating heart shall be shriven through with a lance, His blood-outpouring, dried up body shall be shriveled like myrrh, being completely consumed by the ardor of His Divine Love. Here He is! Pale, sleeping, lying in a manger! Here is a fitting pyre where He shall make His home! He has come to set the world aflame; He shall consume Himself with His Passion. He is ready for the sacrifice like a lamb, He has made His bed of spices and myrrh where He shall be immolated. The Holocaustal offering of this Innocent Phoenix shall enflame the whole world, and the fragrant incense of its burning shall dispel the darkness of our sins.
And while we despise Him, and mock Him, or while we ignore Him and shuffle away indifferent and cold, this King of Martyrs shall open wide His arms for our salvation. While we heap upon Him the brunt of our rage and despair, while we rail and cry out for justice, God's silence shall answer us."He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished"
(Isaiah 53:7-8)Et Homo factus est.
And he became man.
Only the greatest evil could become our greatest hope. Our greatest crime became our greatest salvation. Only by putting to death our Only Hope could we finally be freed of our eternal despair. Evil has recoiled in on itself. The Christian paradox is that our greatest joy comes from the greatest sorrow. Life has triumphed where before there was only hopelessness. "He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
- St. John Chrysostom"When you see this, your hearts will rejoice"
The joy of Christmas is not the warm, comfortable pleasant joy of the home, of being surrounded by loved ones, or basking in the gentle glow of lasting friendships. No.
The joy of Christmas is a profound and deep rejoicing. It is not the joy of a comfortable home. It is the relief of a world at war. It is the joy of the beaten, despairing soldier in the trench who has set his eyes glumly in the mud—fastened to the despair of his own doom—who has nonetheless continued to fight on. It is a joy that is the most unexpected wonder of wonders; as startling a message as it first was to the shepherds in the fields. For when the battle that was surely lost begins to turn, when the war that had ended in terrible rout and ruin is suddenly won, when the enemy who had rejoiced in their vicious victory over mankind is suddenly put to shameful flight—this is the joy of Christmas. For the coming of Christ is like that of the reinforcements that had been hinted at and dreamed of in faint wisps of hope, and had finally, finally come; come victorious from beyond darkest doubt and shadowy ruin. For our ancient foe, that spirit like a prowling lion who had formerly been invincible is routed and annihilated. The Christmas joy is the joy of a soldier's hope. The reinforcements have come. We do not fight this battle alone. Emmanuel, God-is-with-us has finally come and he has not delayed. The battle belongs to the Lord and we emerge victorious. If God is with us then who can stand against us?! Christmas is the sounding of the angel's trumpet: the brazen fan-fare of triumph has been taken up, and the blare of that music fills the world. As St. John Chrysostom says: "…For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels."
We have seen the glimmer of His banners; we have heard the pounding of His steps. We have heard the thunder of His hosts; we have seen the flashing blaze of His glorious dawn. Christmas is the whisper of hope; it is the hint of Easter. It is the dawn of the Resurrection that foreshadows the Eternal Day. Christ has been born to us as the Morning Star; soon He will break forth from the Tomb as the Sun of Righteousness. Christ has been born for us in the bleak night of the Winter Solstice; His birth heralds the Day of that Eternal Spring when the world will break out in joy at He Who Is the Conqueror of Death. So fight on Poor Knights of Christ! Fight on! The Battle has been won! We must claim our victory!
All Glory, laud and honor, to you O Redeemer King, to whom the lips of children make sweet hosannas ring! O God, all glory be to you!
Emmanuel has come! He has not delayed! O come! O come let us adore him!Then pealed the bells more loud and deep.
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The wrong shall fail,
The right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men!" Pax Vobiscum! Valete! ~Omnes ad Iesum per Mariam~ Your Sister in Christ, * ~ Theophilia ~ * My art e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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