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.”
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