Friday, December 28, 2012

The Birth of Christ - Praying with Benedict XVI and St. Josemaria Escriva

 Praying with the Pope

 Mary wrapped the child in swaddling cloths. Without yielding to sentimentality, we may imagine with what great love Mary approached her hour and prepared for the birth of her child. Iconographic tradition has theologically interpreted the manger and the swaddling cloths in terms of the theology of the Fathers. The child stiffly wrapped in bandages is seen as prefiguring the hour of his death: from the outset, he is the sacrificial victim (…). The manger, then, was seen as a kind of altar.
 (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, p. 68).

 Today, anyone wishing to enter the Church of Jesus’ Nativity in Bethlehem will find that the doorway five and a half meters high, through which emperors and caliphs used to enter the building, is now largely walled up. Only a low opening of one and a half meters has remained. The intention was probably to provide the church with better protection from attack, but above all to prevent people from entering God’s house on horseback. Anyone wishing to enter the place of Jesus’ birth has to bend down. 

 God makes himself a defenseless Child to overcome pride, violence and the human desire to possess
 It seems to me that a deeper truth is revealed here, which should touch our hearts on this holy night: if we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our “enlightened” reason. We must set aside our false certainties, our intellectual pride, which prevents us from recognizing God’s closeness. We must follow the interior path of Saint Francis – the path leading to that ultimate outward and inward simplicity which enables the heart to see. We must bend down, spiritually we must as it were go on foot, in order to pass through the portal of faith and encounter the God who is so different from our prejudices and opinions – the God who conceals himself in the humility of a newborn baby.

(Benedict XVI, homily at Midnight Mass, 24 December 2011)

 In that Child, in fact, God-Love is manifest: God comes without weapons, without force, because he does not want to conquer, so to speak, from the outside, but rather wants to be freely received by the human being. God makes himself a defenseless Child to overcome pride, violence and the human desire to possess. In Jesus God took on this poor, disarming condition to win us with love and lead us to our true identity. 
(Benedict XVI, general audience, 23 December 2009)

 Praying with St Josemaria

 A decree of Caesar Augustus has been proclaimed, ordering the whole world to be enrolled. For this purpose, every person must go to the city of his ancestors. Since Joseph is of the house and family of David, he goes with the Virgin Mary from Nazareth to the city called Bethlehem, in Judea (Lk 2:1-5).
 God has called us clearly and unmistakably. Like the Magi we have discovered a star: a light and a guide in the sky of our soul
 And in Bethlehem is born our God: Jesus Christ! There is no room at the inn: He is born in a stable. And His Mother wraps Him in swaddling clothes and lays Him in a manger.
 Cold. Poverty... I am Joseph’s little servant. How good Joseph is! He treats me like a father. He even forgives me if I take the Child in my arms and spend hour after hour saying sweet and loving things to Him!...
 And I kiss Him – you kiss Him too! – and I rock Him in my arms, and I sing to Him, and I call Him King, Love, my God, my Only-one, my All!... How beautiful is the Child – and how short the decade!
 (Escriva’s “Holy Rosary,” third joyful mystery)

 God has called us clearly and unmistakably. Like the Magi we have discovered a star: a light and a guide in the sky of our soul.
 “We have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him.” We have had the same experience. We too noticed a new light shining in our soul and growing increasingly brighter.
 (Christ is Passing By, no. 32)

 Whenever I preach beside the crib, I try to see Christ our Lord as a child wrapped in swaddling clothes lying on straw in a manger. Even though he is only a child, unable to speak, I see him as a master and a teacher. I need to look at him in this way, because I must learn from him.
 (Christ is Passing By, no. 14)

 Adoration of the Magi. Roman 4th-century sarcophagus, in the cemetery of St Agnes, Rome.
    There is a great simplicity also about his birth. Our Lord comes without any fanfare. No one knows about him. On earth only Mary and Joseph share in the divine adventure. And then the shepherds who received the message from the angels. And later on, the wise men from the East. They were the only witnesses of this transcendental event which unites heaven and earth, God and man.
 (Christ is Passing By, no. 18)

 Make your way to Bethlehem, go up to the Child, take him in your arms and dance him, say warm and tender things to him, press him close to your heart...
 (The Forge, no. 345)

 Moved by this question, I too now contemplate Jesus “lying in a manger,” in a place fit only for animals. Lord, where is your kingship, your crown, your sword, your scepter? They are his by right, but he does not want them. He reigns wrapped in swaddling clothes. Our king is unadorned. He comes to us as a defenseless little child. Can we help but recall the words of the Apostle: “He emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave”?
 (Christ is Passing By, no. 31

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