صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

world. We shall find the Church, also, making continual allusion to it, during this season of Christmas, as she did in that of Advent.

"On this the Day which the Lord hath made," says St. Gregory of Nyssa, "darkness decreases, light in"creases, and Night is driven back again. No, "Brethren, it is not by chance, nor by any created "will, that this natural change begins on the Day, "when He shows Himself in the brightness of his

"

"

coming, which is the spiritual Life of the world. "It is Nature revealing, under this symbol, a secret "to them whose eye is quick enough to see it; to " them, I mean, who are able to appreciate this cir"cumstance of our Saviour's coming. Nature seems "to me to say: Know, O Man! that under the things "which I show thee, there lie Mysteries concealed. Hast thou not seen the Night, that had grown so long, suddenly checked? Learn hence, that the "black night of Sin, which had got to its height by "the accumulation of every guilty device, is this day stopped in its course. Yes, from this day forward, "its duration shall be shortened, until at length there "shall be naught but Light. Look, I pray thee, on "the Sun; and see how his rays are stronger, and his position higher in the heavens: learn from that, "how the other Light, the Light of the Gospel, is now shedding itself over the whole earth.”1

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"Let us, my Brethren, rejoice," cries out St. Augustine: "this Day is sacred, not because of the visible sun, but because of the Birth of Him, who is the "invisible Creator of the sun. * * He chose this Day to be born on, as he chose the Mother he was "to be born from, and he made both the Day and the "Mother. The Day he chose, was that on which the light begins to increase, and it typifies the work of *Christ, who renews our interior man, day by day.

K

2

1 Homily on the Nativity. Sermon on the Nativity of our Lord, iii.

"For the eternal Creator having willed to be born in "time, his Birth Day would necessarily be in harmony " with the rest of his creation."

The same holy Father, in another Sermon for the same Feast, gives us the interpretation of a mysterious expression of St. John Baptist, which admirably confirms the tradition of the Church. The great Precursor said on one occasion, when speaking of Christ: He must increase, but I must decrease.' These prophetic words signify, in their literal sense, that the Baptist's mission was at its close, because Jesus was entering upon his. But, they convey, as St. Augustine assures us, a second meaning: "John came into this world at the season of the year, when the length of the day decreases; Jesus was "born in the season when the length of the day in«< creases. "2 Thus, there is mystery both in the rising of that glorious Star, the Baptist, at the summersolstice; and in the rising of our Divine Sun in the dark season of winter.3

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

There have been men, who dared to scoff at Christianity as a superstition, because they discovered, that the ancient Pagans used to keep a Feast of the sun, on the winter Solstice! In their shallow erudition, they concluded, that a Religion could not be divinely instituted, which had certain rites or customs

[blocks in formation]

It is almost unnecessary to add, that this doctrine of the Holy Fathers, which is embodied in the Christmas Liturgy, is rot in any degree falsified by the fact that there are some parts of God's earth, where Christmas falls in a Season the very opposite of Winter. Our Lord selected, for the place of his Birth, one which made it Winter, when he came upon earth; and by that selection, he stamped the Mystery, taught in the text, on the Season of darkness and cold. Our Brethren in Australia, for example, will have the Mystery without the Winter, when they are keeping Christmas; or, more correctly, their faith and the Holy Liturgy will unite them with us, both in the Winter, and the Mystery, of the great Birth in Bethlehem. [Translator's Note.]

:

originating in an analogy to certain phenomena of this world in other words, these Writers denied what Revelation asserts, namely, that God only created this world for the sake of his Christ and his Church. The very facts, which these enemies of our holy Religion brought forward as objections to the true Faith, are, to us Catholics, additional proof of its being worthy of our most devoted love.

Thus, then, have we explained the fundamental Mystery of these Forty Days of Christmas, by having shown the grand secret hidden in the choice, made by God's eternal decree, that the Twenty-fifth Day of December should be the Birth-day of God upon this earth. Let us, now, respectfully study another mystery:—that which is involved in the place, where this Birth happened.

This place is Bethlehem. Out of Bethlehem, says the Prophet, shall He come forth, that is to be the Ruler in Israel.1 The Jewish Priests are well aware of the prophecy, and, in a few days hence, will tell it to Herod. But, why was this insignificant Town chosen, in preference to every other, to be the Birth-place of Jesus? Be attentive, Christians, to the mystery! The name of this City of David signifies the House of Bread: therefore did He, who is the living Bread come down from heaven,3 choose it for his first visible home. Our Fathers did eat manna in the desert and are dead; but, lo! here is the Saviour of the world, come to give life to his creature Man, by means of his own divine Flesh, which is meat indeed. Up to this time, the Creator and the creature had been separated from each other; henceforth they shall abide together in closest union. The Ark of the Covenant, containing the manna which fed but

1 Mich. v. 2.

St. Matt. ii. 5.
2 St. John. vi. 41.

St. John, vi. 49. • Ibid. 56.

the body, is now replaced by the Ark of a New Covenant, purer and more incorruptible than the other-the incomparable Virgin Mary, who gives us Jesus, the Bread of Angels, the nourishment which will give us a divine transformation; for, this Jesus himself has said: He that eateth my flesh abideth in me, and I in him.1

It is for this divine transformation that the world was in expectation for four thousand years, and for which the Church prepared herself by the four weeks of Advent. It has come at last, and Jesus is about to enter within us, if we will but receive him." He asks to be united to each one of us in particular, just as he is united, by his Incarnation, to the whole human race; and for this end, he wishes to become our Bread, our spiritual nourishment. His coming into the souls of men, at this mystic season, has no other aim than this union. He comes, not to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by hims and that all may have life, and may have it more abundantly. This divine Lover of our souls will not be satisfied, therefore, until he have substituted himself in our place, so that we may live not we ourselves, but He in us; and in order that this mystery may be effected in a sweeter way, it is under the form of an Infant that this Beautiful Fruit of Bethlehem wishes first to enter into us, there to grow, afterwards, in wisdom and age before God and men.5

And when, having thus visited us by his grace and nourished us in his love, he shall have changed us into himself, there shall be accomplished in us a still further mystery. Having become one in spirit and heart with Jesus-the Son of the heavenly

St. John, vi. 57.

• Ibid. i. 12.

3 Ibid. iii. 17.

St. John, x. 10.
St. Luke, ii. 40, 52.

Father-we shall also become Sons of this same God our Father. The Beloved Disciple speaking of this our dignity, cries out: Behold! what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us-that we should be called, and should be the Sons of God !1 We will not now stay to consider this immense happiness of the Christian soul, as we shall have a more fitting occasion, further on, to speak of it, and show by what means it is to be maintained and increased.

There is another subject, too, which we regret being obliged to notice only in a passing way. It is, that, from the Day itself of our Saviour's Birth even to the Day of our Lady's Purification, there is, in the Calendar, an extraordinary richness of Saints' Feasts, doing homage to the master feast of Bethlehem, and clustering, in adoring love, round the Crib of the Infant-God. To say nothing of the four great Stars, which shine so brightly near our Divine Sun, and from whom they borrow all their own grand beauty-St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist, the Holy Innocents, and our own St. Thomas of Canterbury-what other portion of the Liturgical Year is there, that can show, within the same number of days, so brilliant a constellation? The Apostolic College contributes its two grand Luminaries, St. Peter and St. Paul: the first, in his Chair of Rome; the second, in the miracle of his Conversion. The Martyr-host sends us the splendid champions of Christ, Timothy, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Vincent, and Sebastian. The radiant line of Roman Pontiffs lends us four of its glorious links, named, Sylvester, Telesphorus, Hyginus, and Marcellus. The sublime school of Holy Doctors offers us Hilary, John Chrysostom, and Ildephonsus; and in their company stands a fourth Bishop-the amiable Francis

1 I. St. John, iii. 1.

« السابقةمتابعة »