The Trinity with Mary and John the Baptist – detail from The Triumph of the Christian Faith fresco by Raphael – Stanzo della segnatura – Vatican
During Christmas season we meditate on the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem – but in fact, according to Cardinal Berulle (1575-1629), Our Lord had three births. In his book, Discourse on the State and Grandeurs of Jesus, he states:
“We find in the book of life three wondrous births of Jesus, who is the life of God and men. They are his birth in the womb of his Father in eternity, his birth in the womb of the Virgin in time, and his birth in the tomb to immortality.”
The words “Today I have begotten you” (Ps 2:7, Heb 1: 5) are associated with each of these births.
1. St. Paul in the first chapter of Hebrews (Heb 1: 5 ) applies these words to the eternal generation of the Son by the Father. Cardinal Berulle goes on to explain: ‘Through a clever use of words, the present is joined to the past, Today I have begotten you. This expresses him who is forever born and is forever being born and whose procession is such that it is without end or beginning.”
“In these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe…For to which of the angels did God ever say: ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you‘ “ (Hebrews 1:2,5)
2. Cardinal Berulle explains that this phrase found in Psalm 2 and Heb 1 is also used by the Church in its ‘office’ for Christmas day. This Christmas 2007, the Heb. 1 passage was the second reading for Christmas Day Mass (see above). Thus the Church applies these words to Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.
3. He then points out that: “Again Saint Paul guided by the same Spirit of God, …in Acts, chapter 13, presents this same text (Today I have begotten you) and applies it to the resurrection of the Son of God, which is a type of birth for Jesus into immortality.”
“We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you.’ ” (Acts: 13:32-33)
Cardinal Berulle concludes:
“…God who is fecund and fertile in his works and in his words, wished that that this same memorable word be applied in the same spirit to these three different meanings, to these three states and mysteries of the eternal Word: to the mystery of his birth from his Father, to the mystery of his birth from his mother, and to the birth from the tomb, from which he is reborn like a phoenix to new life.”
This year the Vatican’s Nativity scene is in a huge house-like structure. Normally, the scene of Jesus’ birth is depicted in a traditional manger setting, but this time it’s a recreation of Joseph’s home in Nazareth. Perhaps by doing this the Holy Father wants to emphasize home and family.
Today, Sunday December 30 is the feast day of the Holy Family
“….I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named….” Ephesians 3:14-15
“If the Son of God had not come into our world we would not understand the Fatherhood of God, and if the Son of God had not been born into a family and lived so many years within His family we would not comprehend the full meaning of family life nor the compelling God‑given mission facing every family.
Adam and Eve, Mary and Joseph, indeed every married couple will together create a family culture, establish and develop its family “name”: identity, unique defining characteristics, emotional and intellectual traits, its own spirituality in relation to the Father in heaven. Discovering and building one’s family identity is a work in progress best attempted with a healthy focus on God, faith and devotion.
The First Christian Parents
Their family “name” or identity is hidden and will have to be discovered by a married couple, just as the unborn child too is hidden, and needs discovery by the parents. For around the child the family grows to become what it was destined to be. In the case of Joseph and Mary, their family was centered around Jesus Whom they learned to discover and love, day by day, even before He was born.
Many diverse consequences come in the wake of the revolutionary Incarnation of God ‑ a revolution of mercy. One of the major benefits was to the family as an institution, which was radically overhauled and strengthened from within, when this Divine Child entered into it. Redemption begins within the hidden recesses of Mary’s womb. Redemption begins in the family.”
From: Unborn Jesus Our Hope
In this painting by William Holman Hunt – The Triumph of the Innocents – The Innocents are seen with the Holy Family, in spirit, during the Family‘s Flight to Egypt. Today, we ask them to be with and pray for the unborn of our day.
Today, December 28th is the feast day of the Holy Innocents. Throughout history the Church has honored these little ones with great reverence. For instance in his Letter to Families, John Paul II quotes a poet from the 2nd century:
“In the liturgy of their Feast, which has its origins in the fifth century, the Church turns to the Holy Innocents, invoking them with the words of the poet Prudentius (c. 105) as ‘the flowers of the martyrs whom, at the very threshold of their lives, the persecutor of Christ cut down as the whirlwind does to roses still in bud’ ”
St. Augustine (354-430) said of these Holy Innocents, that they are the “flowers of the martyrs” – “the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution; they died not only for Christ but in His stead.”(St. Aug., Sermo 10us de sanctis)
The Venerable Bede (673-735) in A Hymn for Martyrs Sweetly Sing (translated by Joan Mason Neale) remembers these little martyrs.
1. A Hymn for Martyrs sweetly sing;
For Innocents your praises bring;
Of whom in tears was earth bereaved,
Whom heaven with songs of joy received…
4. After brief taste of earthly woe
Eternal triumph now they know;
For whom, by cruel torments rent,
A voice from Ramah was there sent.
5. And every tear is wiped away
By your dear Father’s hands for aye:
Death hath no power to hurt you more;
Your own is life’s eternal shore….
The following was taken from the Woman of Faith and Family
The Coventry Carol
This beautiful English lullaby carol originated in the Coventry Corpus Christi Mystery Plays performed in the 15th century. In a play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, the women of Bethlehem sing this song just before Herod’s soldiers come to slaughter their children. It tells the story of the murder of the Holy Innocents, and is sung on December 28, the feast of those tiny martyrs.
Lully, Lullay, thou little tiny child.
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay thou little tiny child
Bye, bye, lully, lullay
O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing
Bye, bye lully, lullay
Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.
Then woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye lully, lullay.
Today many in the pro-life movement invoke these Holy Innocents to help protect the young of our day who are being slaughtered. Here is a quote from A Pro-Life Homily for the Feast of the Holy Innocents on the Priests for Life website.
“Jesus took on our human flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was born for us at Bethlehem and died for us in Jerusalem so that our sins would be forgiven and we might have everlasting life. There is no sin too big that God is unable or unwilling to forgive if we repent and turn back to Him. Ask the Holy Innocents to intercede for us that we may bring about a renewed respect for human life in our society, to build a culture of life, protect the innocents in our day and comfort those who mourn.“
Filed under: Christmas
The plan for the life of Christ on earth, and for our salvation was, as St Paul says, “a plan for the fullness of time” (Eph 1:10). The birth of the Savior manifests this perfectly. But there is also a fullness in Christ Himself, as St John tells us in the prologue to his gospel: “And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace” (Jn 1:16). Surely His pregnant mother, Mary, received “grace upon grace” while carrying Unborn Jesus. And unborn John the Baptist received his full share of (Unborn) Christ’s Grace during Mary’s Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth (Lk 1:41-44).
At His birth Christ offers Himself as a gift to each person, and within this gift of Himself is contained an overflowing gift of Grace for each one of us. Figuratively speaking, we only need to go up to the newborn Christ and ask Him to give us our Christmas present of “grace upon grace”. It is ours to claim if we are Christ’s.
There are a 1,000 ways to understand the fullness of Christ and His gift of Grace for the Christian. In relation to the Church, St Paul refers to “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:23). So in the Grace of Christmas we find a hint of all the graces to follow – if we will follow.
Here is an incomplete summation of that plentitude of graces Christ offers you while He is yet “a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). The following lists are expressions of the Graces God wants to pour into our lives. From Bethlehem Christ pours forth an endless wave of gentleness in the manner of supernatural Grace towards each soul. The following lists are not legalistic counting, rather they point to the “countless” ways God reaches out to us, to bathe us in His embrace of Grace:
7 sacraments of the Church – all of which were instituted by Christ Himself – beginning with Baptism which incorporates us into this beautiful Life of Christ. Also, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony.
7 gifts of the Holy Spirit – Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1-2).
12 fruits of the Holy Spirit – Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Modesty, Self-Control and Chastity (Gal 5:22-23 Vulgate trans.)
3 theological virtues – Faith, Hope and Charity (I Cor 13:13).
4 cardinal virtues – Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance (Wis 8:7 and numerous other scriptural references).
So the newborn Baby in the manger comes to offer us fullness of Life: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
“He was despised and rejected by men…” Isaiah 53:3
Joseph and Mary (and her unborn baby) approach the Inn at Bethlehem. Humanity is given yet another opportunity to shine, to welcome the poor and accept the pregnant woman in need. The door is shut in their faces. Their need goes unmet. Their prospects for this birth are not bright.
Yet overhead there is a star (Mt 2:2). In Heaven’s “off stage” stood “the angel of the Lord” and “a multitude of the heavenly host” (Lk 2:9-14) waiting impatiently, by Heaven’s standards. Humanity had fallen again in reaching out to God. But this time, God the Father would arrange a special reception for His Son. Beasts, angels and humans would be drawn to the manger in Bethlehem.
But for now, Joseph, Mary (and the Unborn Christ Child) are homeless. As Jesus would observe three decades later: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20). Joseph and Mary again exercise faith in Almighty God and trust in His Providential plan for their lives, even as they huddle together, looking this way and that, for some idea of where to go next.
The last day of Mary’s redemptive pregnancy is the first day of the rest of our salvation history. A revelation like no other is about to break upon humanity’s shoreline. A great manifestation is about to unfold on earth’s stage. From the hidden uncharted depths of the womb God will come to visit His people.
But not yet! Mary walks slowly, following Joseph’s lead. The sky is darkening now, but still there is that glimmer of a star on the horizon. At this point we can join our prayers with Mary and Joseph, for this Unborn Baby and all unborn babies.
JUST 1 MORE PRAYING DAYS ‘TIL CHRIST’S BIRTH!
Under the Old Covenant God made His promises to the people of Israel. Then they waited. The prophets gave inspired prophecies. The people of Israel waited. Even in our own lives, we pray and wait for answers to our prayers. Promises, prophecies, prayers all lead us to the Messiah, to the Savior.
The Church’s Liturgical Year is a marvelous cycle of anticipation, celebration and reflection, focused on the life of Christ yet sweeping us along with that Life, through His many experiences. Today we wait for the humble birth of that baby Divine. The world is dedicated to distracting us, the devil is intent on minimalizing Christmas so that we celebrate it with mere token gestures that will hollow and weaken within seconds or minutes of these dutiful acknowledgments.
How should we wait then? Now is the time to intensify our prayer. The 270 days of that hallowed pregnancy have almost run their course. The redemptive pregnancy is about to break into earthly Revelation. In those days, Mary and Joseph were anticipating eagerly and praying with heightened frequency. This is the pattern for the Christian. Advent, like pregnancy, is about waiting on the Lord and praying. If the waiting gets more intense, so too the praying!
Surely we are at that point now. Soon, Joseph and Mary (and the Unborn Child within her) will be turned away from the inn at Bethlehem, experiencing rejection like many unborn children today. Tension is mounting for Unborn Jesus (and unborn children today). Why must human society reject this trinity of strangers in need, sending them off to the house of the beasts; a darkened cave stable?
For our part, we can welcome them into our hearts. Waiting is transformed by praying into welcoming. We know what to do.
JUST 2 MORE PRAYING DAYS ‘TIL CHRIST’S BIRTH!
God has modeled our beginnings on the beginnings of His Son; and the tiny embryo … is infinitely precious in the mind of God, for such was once His Christ in the womb of Mary….
From all eternity the pattern of development of the embryonic Christ had been chosen as the pattern of development for all the sons of men. The Spirit was the architect of the flesh of Christ and is now the architect of the biological building which has its tender foundation on the mother’s placenta….
Over the waters of the amnion hovers the Spirit of God as once He hovered over the waters of the world in the primeval dawn of its creation. The love of God, the Spirit, breathes order … overshadowing with His wings the exquisite geometry of its growth.
Whole regiments of cells are marching at the whispered command of the Spirit; cells which are unconscious of the functions they will enjoy….
So the building progresses; so the windows of the senses are built; so the pattern of the embryonic Christ is followed. For the Spirit is the architect of His own Temple….
The Father creates. The Son is the Model. The Spirit is the Architect.
…. The unborn hands are clasped by the hands of the embryonic Christ.
At term the infant will have eyes like the eyes of the infant Christ, senses like the senses of Christ; ears, nose, the same humanity, the same reflexes.
From Neuroses and Sacraments by Alan Keenan, O.F.M.
Published by Sheed & Ward, 1950
JUST 4 MORE PRAYING DAYS ‘TIL CHRIST’S BIRTH!