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 By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

 

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory,
the glory as it were of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

 

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Thus does Saint John's Gospel (1:14) announce the ineffably grand moment when the Son of God "dwelt among us" in order to manifest His glory.

Yet, how discreet, how humble, how hidden was this first step taken by the King of the universe along His path of suffering, struggle, and triumph!

Let us meditate on the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ with the Gospel of Saint Luke (2:1-7).

And it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria.

And all went to be enrolled, everyone into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child.

And it came to pass that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Let us picture a poor wedded couple, dressed with simplicity and bound for Bethlehem, crossing the arid countryside of the Holy Land, aridity alleviated only by a few streams and olive groves. Mary travels seated on a young donkey, while Joseph proceeds on foot, pondering the words of the angel who revealed to him the miraculous character of his virgin spouse's pregnancy.

As they reach Bethlehem, the winter night falls. But no one receives them, "because there was no room for them in the inn."

Is it for them that there is no room, since they have no prestige? Prestige commonly comes, especially in decadent times, from money and concessions to the vices of the times and the spirit of the "world" (this spirit being understood in the sense the Gospels give it). But this holy couple is poor and gifted with a highly religious spirit -- virtues the "worldly" find particularly detestable.

Nevertheless, Saint Joseph and Our Lady descend from the highest lineage of Bethlehem of Judea. Saint Joseph is a prince of the House of David, and Our Lady likewise descends from the kings of Judea.

However, so decadent are the Chosen People that in their eyes Saint Joseph is nothing but a poor carpenter, while Our Lady, his relatively well-off cousin, has chosen to share his poverty.

 

What are they doing in Bethlehem?

They are obeying the decree of the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, who, certainly for vanity's sake, had ordered a census to ascertain how many were subject to his power.

The Prince of the House of David, in travelling to the city of his birth, manifests the glory of the foreign emperor. Saint Joseph is conquered, Caesar Augustus is the conqueror. And Bethlehem fails to recognize her illustrious children.

"He came unto his own, and his own received him not" (John 1:11). Mary and Joseph, bearing the very Son of God, are rejected by their own people and are thus obliged to seek shelter in a cave inhabited by animals. So it is in the intimacy and isolation of that dwelling place for beasts that history's most important event up till that time unfolds: the Word of God, made flesh in the most pure womb of Mary, comes into the world.

 

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Thus does one understand the kind of joy proper to the Nativity: great solitude and deprivation, but at the same time great elevation. For over such misery descended riches without name, riches unlike any others on the face of the earth: the Child-God, wrapped in swathes of cloth and lying in a manger where animals feed.

None save that couple witness or know how to appreciate this scene of indescribable grandeur.

The highest glory is there present in a tender child who, crying, hungry, and cold, extends his little arms towards his mother, requesting a little milk or cloths for a covering. And Our Lady knows that it is the Creator who opens his arms unto her! The Sovereign of the universe cries, beseeching a bit of milk and warm clothing!

We can imagine the contrast between the supernatural ambience and the poverty of the grotto. There the Child Jesus is adored by all the angels in a magnificent choir, the celestial court celebrating the greatest feast up to then.

Angels and Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, with extraordinary brilliance, give glory to God through the Nativity.

That glory permeates the grotto discreetly, for it is necessary that those outside not take note, that only souls of faith perceive it, and only in intimacy.

There, reclining, praying, is Our Lady, the most perfect soul in all the history of mankind, save only the divine Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Our Lady alone is worth more than all the souls before her, during her time, and thereafter; more than all who existed, exist, and will exist until the end of the world. She alone is worth more than all the angels.

A short distance away, praying to the Child-God and to Our Lady, is the humble cabinetmaker, the deposed prince, obscured by history and by the misfortunes that befell his ancestors. That man received an honor proper to no one else: He was chosen to be the spouse of the mother of the Word Incarnate, the adoptive father of the very Son of God!

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This takes place at midnight, when little moved in the ancient world. We can imagine the silence, the abandonment. The inhabitants of the nearby city of Bethlehem comfortably rest in their beds. Outside, even the livestock sleep, while the Divine Infant is born. Everything is empty and alone; darkness reigns. Only within that grotto does a small light flicker. Only that couple is there, they and the Child Jesus, the King of ages, the God-Man Himself.

This divine event takes place before few. The greatest of honors is born and resides entirely in a frail infant. The most important historical event up to that time comes to pass in secret, in such a way that the sole witnesses to that august scene desire to meditate, to remain silent, with more appetite to feel the Nativity within themselves than to proclaim it in a loud and clear voice. It is the affectionate reverence of those who know not how to render gratitude for the extraordinary honor of touching, in such an intimate way, so high a mystery, coupled with pity and compassion for a God who consented to make Himself so small. How to express respect so great that it approaches fear, and tenderness so profound that it seems almost to liquefy the soul? Lofty veneration, then, lofty adoration, and lofty tenderness.

This also seems to explain the nocturnal aspect of the Nativity. We cannot conceive of it taking place save at night, for darkness is necessary for radiating so discreet a light. Therein we find the joy characteristic of Christmas, which hesitates to expand itself for fear of losing its delicacy and intimacy.

 

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Thus does one understand why such Christmas carols as "Stille Nacht" are customarily sung in a low voice, almost as if to oneself. They are sung as if not to awaken the Child Jesus.

This is one aspect of the genius of "Stille Nacht," composed by a simple German schoolmaster in the last century, yet now the preeminent Christmas carol of all ages.

Hearing it, we have the impression that the choir is in a corner of the cave of Bethlehem. The choir sings with such emotion, for it almost cannot help it, yet in a very low voice, so as not to disturb the Divine Infant, nor the ineffable and almost internal song with which Our Lady is lulling her Son.

In this way one understands the thousand delicacies that sound in "Silent Night," and the tenderness of the Nativity. It is a song expressive of a kind of compassion for Him who is being celebrated: How little this infinite God; how infinite this little God!

Centuries of Christian civilization were necessary that the most celebrated of Christmas songs might blossom like a flower in the Catholic Church.

 


Taken from Crusade Magazine, Nov-Dec 1996

 

 

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DAILY QUOTE for November 18, 2019

Better a few staunch and sincere Catholics, than many compli...

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November 18

 

Better a few staunch and sincere Catholics,
than many compliant with the enemies of the Church
and conformed to the foes of our Faith.

St. Peter Canisius


DEFEND Our Lady's HONOR !

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

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St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

Born on August 29, 1769 in the French city of Grenoble, Rose Philippine was baptized in the Church of St. Louis. She was educated at the Convent of the Visitation of Ste. Marie d'en Haut and, against her father’s wishes, became a novice there when she was eighteen years old. However, the French Revolution caused much disruption for the nuns, and when the Sisters of the Visitation were expelled from their convents, Rose returned home.

She cared for the sick and the poor, helped fugitive priests, visited prisons, and taught children. Some time after the Revolution ended, she unsuccessfully tried to reestablish the Visitation community, and ultimately gave the convent to St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and joined the Order. When the Bishop of New Orleans, William Du Bourg, requested nuns for his thriving diocese in Louisiana, Rose and four other nuns made the trip to America in 1818.

Rose and the nuns were sent to Missouri, pioneers of the New World. There, as well in neighboring states, they established multiple schools, built a convent, an orphanage, a mission school for Indian girls, a boarding academy and a novitiate for her Order. However, the strenuous and difficult regime of work for her apostolate took its toll on her body. She died in St. Charles, Missouri in 1852 after spending more than 30 years as a pioneer in the evangelization of the New World. She was canonized in 1988. Rose was truly devoted to God, and prayed in her every spare moment. Because of this, the Indians began to call her “Quah-kah-ka-num-ad,” or "Woman-Who-Prays-Always."

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WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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