At that time, the shepherds said to one another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass…(Lk. 2)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
My very dear sons,

In order really to “see this Word” with the shepherds and to understand Christmas, we have to go way back, beyond the present age of the world, before any material universe known to modern science, even outside the frontiers of time itself. It all began with a great notion that God conceived of, His own concept or Word, the child of His thought, the Second Person of the Trinity. This Divine Word of God within Himself was so good that from it—and from the Father—a Divine Love proceeded. That love is the Holy Spirit or the “Holy Ghost,” as we say in the older English expression.

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, being Divine, are perfectly happy: nothing could add to or subtract from the fullness of their bliss. Also, being entirely Divine and perfect, God could only be One, even in three Persons. Never could there be another God, a second God in the true sense of the word. Still the Divine goodness had so much happiness that it “overflowed,” so to speak, into the creation of the world we live in, making something less than divine, but magnificently beautiful and good. “And God saw that it was good.”

Among the creatures of this beautiful world, were the special ones God formed, His spiritual creatures, Angels and men. These were able to understand the universe they were part of and to adore the God that created them. But at same time, they were endowed with a free will, that is to say that they could freely choose between many possibilities—they could choose between what is right and what is wrong, between good and evil. Tragically, our first parents, following the inspiration of one of the Angels who himself had fallen into evil, fell too into the choice of darkness over light. They sinned against God.

However, God in His infinite Wisdom and Goodness, had well realized that in creating Angels and Man something could go wrong. From all eternity the Father had seen it all and provided a solution, a most wonderful solution to the problem of sin that would not only right the wrong that had been done, but endow the universe and its history with an incomparable new perfection. After countless ages of waiting and hoping, at long last the one to whom the prophets had pointed as to a King that would be a new David, and a Savior of the People, had arrived.

From the womb before the day star I begot thee. (Psalm 109:3)
He, as a bridegroom coming out of the bride chamber, hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way: His going out is from the end of heaven, and his circuit even to the end thereof…(Ps. 18:6-7)

Saint Augustine comments on these verses from the Psalms just quoted:

In the sun hath He set His tabernacle. That He might war against the powers of temporal error, the Lord, being about to send not peace but a sword on earth, set up, so to speak, His military dwelling [His tent or tabernacle], that is to say [He provided] the dispensation of His incarnation. As a bridegroom coming forth out of His wedding chamber, coming forth out of the Virgin’s womb, where God was united to man’s nature as a bridegroom to a bride, He rejoiced as a giant to run His way. He rejoiced as One exceeding strong, and surpassing all other men in power incomparable, not to remain immobile, but to run His way. For, He stood not in the way of sinners (Psalm 1:1).

His going forth is from the highest heaven. From the Father is His going forth, not in time, but from eternity, whereby He was born of the Father. And His meeting is even to the height of heaven. In the fullness of the Godhead He meets even to an equality with the Father. And there is none that may hide himself from His heat. Whereas, the Word was made flesh, and dwelt in us, assuming our mortality, He permitted no man to excuse himself… for the heat of the Word penetrated even there.

Are we then to believe that this gurgling new-born in the makeshift cradle of the stable of Bethlehem is also that giant running His way through the heavens as described in Psalm 18? Is He that was just delivered into the world by the Blessed Virgin already the Bridegroom? This is, indeed, a most unusual baby!

The world needed just such an infant. In the face of the idolatry, the sacrilege, the impiety, the sin of all kind that reigned sovereign across the Roman Empire at the time, only a child who was God Himself could have provided salvation.

In our own time the situation is no better—it is probably far worse. Where is the politician—even the best—who is going effectively to save us from the extreme moral decadence that characterizes society in our day? Where will we find hope for our current dilemma?

In his Christmas address to the Roman Curia some years ago, speaking of certain scandals that had badly shaken the Church in various parts of the world, Pope Benedict XVI, now Emeritus, quoted a vision of Saint Hildegard of Bingen. This may offer a clue to our problem:

In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 1170, said the Saint, I had been lying on my sickbed for a long time when, fully conscious in body and in mind, I had a vision of a woman of such beauty that the human mind is unable to comprehend. She stretched in height from earth to heaven. Her face shone with exceeding brightness and her gaze was fixed on heaven. She was dressed in a dazzling robe of white silk and draped in a cloak, adorned with stones of great price. On her feet she wore shoes of onyx. But her face was stained with dust, her robe was ripped down the right side, her cloak had lost its sheen of beauty and her shoes had been blackened. And she herself, in a voice loud with sorrow, was calling to the heights of heaven, saying, ‘Hear, heaven, how my face is sullied; mourn, earth, that my robe is torn; tremble, abyss, because my shoes are blackened!’

And she continued: ‘I lay hidden in the heart of the Father until the Son of Man, who was conceived and born in virginity, poured out his blood. With that same blood as his dowry, he made me his betrothed.

For my Bridegroom’s wounds remain fresh and open as long as the wounds of men’s sins continue to gape. And Christ’s wounds remain open because of the sins of priests. They tear my robe, since they are violators of the Law, the Gospel and their own priesthood; they darken my cloak by neglecting, in every way, the precepts which they are meant to uphold; my shoes too are blackened, since priests do not keep to the straight paths of justice, which are hard and rugged, or set good examples to those beneath them. Nevertheless, in some of them I find the splendor of truth.’ And I heard a voice from heaven which said: ‘This image represents the Church.’ (Letter to Werner von Kirchheim and his Priestly Community: PL 197, 269ff.).

In this vision of Saint Hildegard, concluded the Holy Father, the face of the Church is stained with dust, and this is how we have seen it. Her garment is torn – by the sins of priests. … We must accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. Only the truth saves. (Address to the Curia, December 20, 2010)

Perhaps so many woes that sadden us in the world would largely be ended if only the Catholic clergy as a whole were to find once again its zeal for holiness. We all know fine priests, some of whom have been falsely accused or unjustly “cancelled,” as the expression goes, in recent times. Let us pray to the Child, who is the High Priest according to the Order of Melchizedech, that He powerfully renew the Catholic clergy across the face of the earth. And let our prayers pass by the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady, which is the created treasure-house of God’s grace and blessings for the Church and the world. “But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.” Amen. Alleluia.

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