Dear Friends and Benefactors, 12/18/19
“CHRISTMAS: THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, ACCORDING TO THE FLESH. In the year, from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created Heaven and Earth, five thousand, one hundred and ninety-nine; from the flood, two thousand, nine hundred and fifty-seven; from the birth of Abraham, two thousand and fifteen; from Moses and the coming of the Israelites out of Egypt, one thousand, five hundred and ten; from the anointing of King David, one thousand and thirty-two; in the sixty-fifth week, according to the prophecy of Daniel; in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; in the year seven hundred and fifty-two from the founding of the city of Rome; in the forty-second year of the empire of Octavian Augustus, when the whole earth was at peace, in the sixth age of the world, Jesus Christ, Eternal God, and Son of the Eternal Father, desirous to sanctify the world by His most merciful coming, having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and nine months having elapsed since His Conception, is born in Bethlehem of Juda, having become Man of the Virgin Mary.” (Roman Martyrology)
During the holy season of Advent, as the author of “The Treasures of the Rosary” a century ago explained, the aim of the Church in her sermons and instructions is to prepare us for a worthy celebration of Our Lord’s Nativity. Holy Mother the Church regards this Feast as one of the most joyous in her liturgical calendar. To manifest her gratitude for our Redemption, she decorates her altars with richest ornaments. She clothes her ministers in the garments of joy, and urges them again and again to celebrate the adorable Sacrifice of the Mass in thanksgiving for the coming of our Redeemer. And knowing with Saint James that “Every best gift and every perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of Lights,” (James 1:17), she calls upon her children to raise their hearts to Heaven, and praise and bless our great Creator who, in the words of Our Lord to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” (John 3:16). Hence, the great Apostle of the Gentiles said: “But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His exceeding charity, wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, by Whose grace you are saved.” (Ephesians 2:4). Man, prostrated by sin, involved in the rebellion of our first parents Adam and Eve, was unable to help himself. God pitied our fallen state, and though we were His enemies by our transgression, in His infinite mercy He sent His adorable Son to take upon Himself the punishment of our guilt and become the ransom of our fallen race. And here we guard ourselves from an error of which would have us believe that our heavenly Father, in a manner, forced His Son to undertake the painful work of our Redemption. This is absolutely false. From eternity the adorable Son of God consented to make atonement for man’s transgression. “He was offered,” said the Scripture, “because it was His own will,” (Isaias 53:7) and David, in prophetic vision, thus speaks in the person of Christ: “Sacrifice and oblation Thou didst not desire; but Thou hast pierced ears for me. Burnt-offering and sin-offering Thou didst not require; then said I, Behold I come. In the head of the book it is written of me that I should do Thy will; O my God, I have desired it, and Thy law in the midst of my heart.” (Psalm 39:7-9). And again the prophet said of Him: “He hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way, His going out is from the end of Heaven.” (Psalm 18:6-7).
We would naturally suppose that, on appearing among men, the world’s Redeemer should be surrounded by all the grandeur and wealth and human comforts which His tender condition would require. But such was not the will of His heavenly Father, nor was it the will of Our Lord, Who did not desire to be born in the dwelling of sinners, but chose to be alone with His Immaculate Mother and the chaste Saint Joseph, and to be accompanied by the innocent beasts of the field. Coming to redeem our sinful race, and to enlighten a world “seated in darkness and in the shadow of death,” as Saint John described it, He began His work of reformation by preaching His first sermon from the pulpit of the manger. It was pride and sensuality that caused the fall of our race; and pride and avarice and sensuality were the great evils of His day, as they are also of the days in which we live. Saint Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, gives us a sad picture of the degraded condition to which pagan Rome had brought itself through these three vices. “The Romans,” he said, “when they knew God, they have not glorified Him as God, or given thanks: but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. For professing themselves to be wise they became fools. And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and of creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonour their own bodies among themselves.” (Romans 1:21-24). What was true of pagan Rome was true of other ancient cities of the world; it is true of our cities today – pride, avarice, and sensuality are the ruling gods of our age. It is for this reason Our Lord came in humility, in poverty, and in suffering to condemn the vices that lead most men to their eternal ruin.
Let us now, imitating the shepherds, visit in spirit the stable of Bethlehem and there behold our new-born Saviour in the lowly condition to which His love for us has reduced Him. When Moses came down from the mountain, after conversing forty days and forty nights with God, his face shone with such brilliancy that the people feared to approach and converse with him. He found it necessary to hide his face with a veil. Blessed Lord, Thou hast hidden the glory of Thy divinity under the veil with which Thy Blessed Mother hath clothed Thee, in order that we may approach and gaze upon Thy adorable Face and press Thee to our hearts. We thank Thee, O Lord, for thus humbling Thyself, and coming amongst us, and we beseech Thee to grant that one day we may behold Thy Face in its unveiled glory in Heaven.
Nor should we fail to be mindful of the part that Mary took in the world’s Redemption. Alas, there are those for whom Jesus died who would rob her of her glory, and, as Father Faber said, “would make her as little a Mary as possible.” Thank God, we are not of that number! We recognize thy dignity, sweet Mother – that thou hast been chosen from eternity for the sublime office of Mother of God – that thou didst willingly consent to co-operate in the work of our Redemption. For this we thank thee: for this we praise thee, and call thee blessed among women, and beg of thee to obtain for us that we may never offend thy adorable Son by sin.
As soon as the angels announced to the shepherds the Birth of our Redeemer, they sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.” We shall now consider how the Birth of Our Lord gave glory to His heavenly Father, and, secondly, how it caused peace on earth to men of good will. To understand the condition of the world when our Saviour was born, we must remember that, with the exception of the small land of Judea, the whole world, in the language of the prophet, “sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.” As among pagan Romans, bird, and beast, and creeping thing, were universally worshipped instead of the great Creator: and the demon was everywhere adored by those whom God created after His own image and likeness, and whom His divine Providence mercifully fed, strengthened, and sustained. All this the Son of God knew from eternity: and this He knew as man, from the moment that His Body and Soul were united with the Divinity. And, oh, how the adorable Heart of Our Lord longed to make His Father known and loved by the whole human race! How He desired to promote His honour and glory, and to sacrifice Himself for the establishment of His Father’s reign in the hearts of His children! Saint John tells us in the first chapter of his Gospel that “He was the true light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world.” When but a Boy, we find Him enlightening the doctors in the Temple, since they were the teachers of His people. He tells us that He came not to seek His own glory, but the glory of His Father in Heaven; that He came not to do His own will, but the will of His heavenly Father; that His meat and drink was to do the will of His heavenly Father. And, oh, how earnestly He laboured during His mission-life to make His Father better known and loved, and to have that Father’s will done on earth as it is in Heaven!
The last act of His life on earth was a sublime declaration of the infinite justice and sanctity of His Father. There are those who would blot out hell and try to console themselves in their sinfulness by the thought that God is too good to punish sin eternally. Ah, they would rob Him of His infinite justice – one of His adorable attributes. Nothing more forcefully proclaims the justice of God than the death on Calvary. When we crush out the life of the serpent that would sting us mortally, we proclaim our dominion over it. God’s infinite dominion was proclaimed, and at the same time His justice was satisfied, when life in its grandest type – the life of the God-Man, Jesus Christ – was taken, and His Blood shed, to satisfy for man’s rebellion. And how can the sinner who lives and dies in his sin expect to escape the justice of God, which did not spare His adorable Son, but delivered Him up to the death of Calvary?
There was another way in which the Birth of Our Lord promoted the glory of God in the highest. Christ came to establish a kingdom. When He stood a prisoner before the Roman governor, Pilate asked Him: “Art Thou a king?” Jesus answered: “I am, but My kingdom is not of this world.” He told the Samaritan that His Father was to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, and that His Father desired such worshippers. Yes, Jesus came to establish a kingdom which would last forever, “a city built on a mountain, which all nations might behold, which was to be the pillar and ground of truth, and which would lead all men who would be guided by it into the haven of salvation.” That guide was His divinely established Church, and the same God who placed the sun in the heavens, to illumine all men with the same light, has established that Church to be our infallible guide, and with that Church (not the counterfeit-church of Vatican II) He remains all days, even to the end of the world. Has that Church existed from His day? We answer unhesitatingly: It has and has proved its existence by giving in every age countless multitudes of men and women “who worship Him in spirit and in truth.” In early days, the deserts of the East were peopled with His followers, who fled from the corruption of pagan cities. The many thousands of martyrs who, year and year, in the first ages poured out their blood for love of Jesus Christ and His Church, thus proved themselves His faithful followers. Heroic confessors in every age went forth prepared to suffer any death in order to enlighten barbarous nations and bring them to the Church. Those countries which suffered dire persecutions to maintain His Faith, the armies of our purest and best young men and young women who, year after year, consecrate themselves to labour for Him and for their suffering fellow-members – all give unquestionable proof of their love for their divine Master, and their fidelity to the kingdom He established. And we, who on the Feast of Our Lord’s Nativity, who have come to adore our Infant Saviour, should rejoice and be glad that we are children of the true Faith and citizens of that kingdom established by Christ.
One more thought connected with the Nativity of Our Lord – the angels sang “Peace on earth to men of good will.” The Babe of Bethlehem came to establish peace between His heavenly Father and His rebellious children. That work He accomplished by His death on Calvary, when He satisfied divine justice, led captivity captive, and reconciled Heaven with sinful man. Still more, He taught the world the Gospel of truth – to love one another, to pardon our enemies, to do good to those who do evil to us, to regard all men as our brethren, the children of our heavenly Father. And, what is of infinite benefit to poor, sin-burdened souls, He established the tribunal of peace and reconciliation through the confessional. Here to this tribunal may come the poor prodigal who has long strayed away from the peace and happiness of his Father’s house. Here the outcast and the fallen, whom the world despises, may come, with Magdalen, and be comforted by words of peace and reconciliation, hearing, like her, the consoling whisper, “Go in peace, thy sins are forgiven thee.” To this tribunal may also come the doubting, the fearing, the despairing, who too are comforted, enlightened and cheered on in the narrow path that leads to life. O Blessed Lamb of God, O Child of Bethlehem, what treasures Thou hast brought to our sinful race, what joy, peace and happiness Thou hast given to our troubled souls! May it be ours, O Blessed Master, nobly to walk in Thy footsteps, to be loyal to Thee at all times during our brief span of life here, and to be at length permitted, with Thy saints and angels, to behold Thy Face and praise and bless Thee for a happy eternity!
AVE MARIA !
Father Joseph Poisson
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