VI. - DIVINE PREPARATIONS.
(Time of Advent)
SUMMARY.-Why God willed to prolong the preparation for the
Incarnation during so many centuries. - I. How Divine Wisdom, in
recalling and specifying, by the voice of the prophets, the first
promise of a Redeemer, prepared the souls of the just of the Old
Covenant for the coming of the God-Man on earth.-II. St. John
Baptist, the Forerunner of the Incarnate Word, sums up and
surpasses all the prophets. -III. Although we live in " the
fulness of time, "the Church, under the guidance of the Holy
Spirit, each year recalls the memory of these divine preparations.
Threefold reason for this supernatural economy. - IV. Dispositions
that we ought to have in order that Christ's coming may produce
within our souls the plenitude of its fruits: purity of heart,
humility, confidence and holy desires. To unite our aspirations to
those of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus.
ALL God's blessings that come down upon us have their source in
the election that He made of our souls, throughout eternity, to
make them "holy and unspotted in His sight" (Eph 1:4). In this
divine decree so full of love is contained our adoptive
predestination as children of God and all the favours thereto
St. Paul says that it was through the grace of Jesus Christ, sent
by God in the fulness of time, that this adoption was granted to
us: "At ubi venit plenitudo temporis, misit Deus Filium suum
factum ex muliere... ut adoptionem filiorum reciperemus" (Gal 4:4-
God's eternal design of sending His own Son into the world to
redeem the human race, broken and bruised by sin, and of restoring
to it the children's inheritance and heavenly beatitude, this is
the masterpiece of His wisdom and love.
The views of God are not our views; all His thoughts are higher
than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth; but it is
especially in the work of the Incarnation and Redemption that the
sublimity and greatness of the Divine ways shine forth. This work
is so high, so closely united to the very life of the Most Holy
Trinity, that it remained throughout long ages hidden in the
depths of the divine secrets: "Sacramentum absconditum a saeculis
in Deo" (Eph 3:9).
As you know, God willed to prepare the human race for the
revelation of this mystery during some thousands of years. Why did
God chose to delay the coming of His Son amongst us for so many
centuries? Why such a long period? We cannot, mere creatures as we
are, fathom the depths of the reasons why God accomplishes His
works under such or such conditions. He is the Infinitely
Sovereign Being Who has no need of a counsellor (Cf. Rom 11:34).
But as He is likewise Wisdom itself that reacheth "from end to end
mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly" (Sir 8:1). Cf. Great
antiphon O Sapientia, 17th Dec.) we may yet humbly seek to learn
something of the appropriateness of the conditions of His
It was fitting that men, having sinned by pride, "Eritis sicut
dii" (Gen 3:5) should be obliged, by the prolonged experience of
their weakness and the extent of their misery, to confess the
absolute need they had of a Redeemer and to aspire after His
coming with all the fibres of their nature (Cf. S. Thom. III, q.I,
The idea of this future Redeemer fills all the Ancient Law; all
the symbols, all the rites and sacrifices prefigure Him: "Haec
omnia in figura contigebant illis" (1 Cor 10:2); all desires
converge towards Him. According to the beautiful expression of an
author of the first centuries, the Old Testament bore Christ in
its loins: "Lex Christo gravida erat" (Appendix to the works of S.
Augustine, Sermon 196). The religion of Israel was the expectation
of the Messias.
Moreover, the greatness of the mystery of the Incarnation and the
majesty of the Redeemer demanded that the revelation of Him to the
human race should only be made by degrees. Man, on the morrow of
his fall, was neither worthy of receiving nor capable of welcoming
the full manifestation of the God-Man. It was by a dispensation at
once full of wisdom and mercy, that God disclosed this ineffable
mystery only little by little, by the mouth of the prophets; when
the human race should be sufficiently prepared, the Word, so many
times announced, so often promised, would Himself appear here
below to instruct us: "Multifariam multisque modis olim loquens
patribus in prophetis... novissime locutus est nobis in Filio"
I will therefore point out some traits of these divine
preparations for the Incarnation. We shall herein see with what
wisdom God disposed the human race to receive salvation; it will
be for us an occasion of returning fervent thanksgiving to "the
Father of mercies" (2 Cor 1:3) for having caused us to live in
"the fulness of time" which still endures and wherein He grants to
men the inestimable gift of His Son.
You know that it was just after the sin of our first parents in
the very cradle of the already rebellious human race that God
began to reveal the mystery of the Incarnation. Adam and Eve,
prostrate before the Creator, in the shame and despair of their
fall, dare not raise their eyes to heaven. And behold, even before
pronouncing the sentence of their banishment from the terrestrial
paradise, God speaks to them the first words of forgiveness and
Instead of being cursed and driven out for ever from the presence
of their God, as were the rebel angels, they were to have a
Redeemer; He it was Who should break the power won over them by
the devil. And as their fall began by the prevarication of the
woman, it was to be by the son of a woman that this redemption
should be wrought: "Inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem, et
semen tuum et semen illius: ipsa conteret caput tuum" (Gen 3:15).
This is what is called the "Protogospel," the first word of
salvation. It is the first promise of redemption, the dawn of
divine mercy to the sinful earth, the first ray of that light
which was one day to vivify the world, the first manifestation of
the mystery hidden in God from all eternity.
After this promise, all the religion of the human race, and,
later, all the religion of the chosen people is concentrated
around this "seed of the woman," this "semen mulieris" which is to
Throughout the years as they pass by, and as the centuries
advance, God makes His promise more precise; He repeats it with
more solemnity. He assures the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob that it is from their race that the blessed seed shall come
forth: "Et benedicentur in semine tuo omnes gentes terrae" (Gen
22:18; cf. Gal 3:16); to the dying Jacob, He shows that it is in
the tribe of Juda that shall arise the One Who is to come, the
desire of all peoples: "Donec veniat qui nittendus est, et ipse
erit exspectatio gentium" (Ibid. 49:10).
And now behold how the nations, forgetful of the primeval
revelations, sink insensibly into error. God then chooses for
Himself a people that shall be the guardian of His promises. To
this people, throughout the centuries, God will recall His
promises, renew them, render them clearer and more abundant: this
will be the era of the prophets.
If you listen to the sacred oracles of the prophets of Israel, you
will remark that the traits whereby God depicts the Person of the
future Messias and specifies the character of His mission, are at
times so opposed that it seems as if they could not be encountered
in the same person. Sometimes the prophets attribute to the
Redeemer prerogatives such as could only befit a God, sometimes,
they predict for this Messias a sum of humiliations,
contradictions, infirmities and sufferings with which the last of
men could scarcely deserve to be overwhelmed.
You will constantly be coming across this striking contrast.
For example, there is David, the king dear to God's Hears; the
Lord swore to confirm his race for ever: the Messias was to be of
the royal family of David. God reveals Him to David as "his son
and his Lord" (Ps 59:1; cf. Mt 22:41-45): his son by reason of the
humanity that He was one day to take from a Virgin of his family,
his Lord, by reason of His divinity. David contemplates Him "in
the brightness of the saints," begotten eternally before the
rising of the day star; a supreme High Priest "according to the
order of Melchisedech" (Ps 59:3-4), anointed to reign over us
because of His " truth and meekness and justice" (Ps. 44:5); in a
word, the Son of God Himself to Whom all nations are to be given
as an inheritance: "Dominus dixit ad me: Filius meus es tu, ego
hodie genui te: postula a me et dabo tibi gentes haereditatem
tuam" (Ps. 2:7-8). St. Paul says to the Hebrews that these are
prerogatives wherein a God alone can glory (Heb 1:13).
But David contemplates too the pierced Hands and Feet, the
garments divided among the soldiers who cast lots upon His coat
(Ps 22:17-19); He beholds Him given gall and vinegar to drink (Ps
68:22). Then again see the Divine attributes: He will not be
touched by the corruption of the tomb, but, victorious over death,
He will sit down at the right hand of God (Ps 15:10).
This contrast is not less striking in Isaias, the great Seer; so
precise and full of detail is he that he might be called the fifth
Evangelist. One would say that he was relating accomplished facts
rather than foretelling future events.
The prophet, transported up to heaven, says of the Messias: "Who
shall declare His generation": "Generationem ejus quis enarrabit"
(Is 53:8)? He gives Him names such as no man has ever borne: "His
name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the mighty, the
Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace" (Is 9:6). Born
of a Virgin, "His name shall be called Emmanuel" (7:14), God with
us. Isaias describes Him "come forth as brightness," and "lighted
as a lamp" (62:1); he sees Him opening the eyes of the blind and
unstopping the ears of the deaf, loosing the tongue of the dumb
and making the lame to walk (35:5-6); he shows Him as "a Leader
and a Master to the Gentiles" (55:4); he sees the idols utterly
destroyed before Him (2:14-18); and he hears God promise by oath
that before this Saviour "every knee shall be bowed" and every
tongue shall confess His power (Is 45:23).
And yet this Redeemer, Whose glory the prophet thus exalts, is to
be overwhelmed with such sufferings, and such humiliations are to
crush Him that He will be looked upon as "the most abject of
men... as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and
afflicted;... led as a sheep to the slaughter... reputed with the
wicked... because the Lord was pleased to bruise Him in infinity"
(Is 53, 3 seq.).
In most of the prophets you can see this opposition of traits with
which they describe the greatness and the abasements, the power
and the weakness, the sufferings and the glory of the Messias. You
will see with what condescending wisdom God prepared the minds of
His people to receive the revelation of the ineffable mystery of a
God-Man, at once the supreme Lord Whom all nations adore, and the
Victim for the sins of the world.
The economy of the Divine mercy is, as you know, wholly based upon
faith; faith is the foundation and the root of all justification.
Without this faith, even the bodily presence of Christ Jesus would
be unable to produce the fulness of its effect in souls.
Now faith is communicated to us by the Holy Spirit's inward action
which accompanies the statement of the divine truths made by
prophets and preachers: Fides ex auditu (Rom 10:7).
In so often recalling the ancient promises, in revealing, little
by little through the mouths of the prophets, the traits of the
Redeemer Who was to come, God willed to produce in the hearts of
the just of the Old Covenant the requisite conditions whereby the
coming of the Messias should be salutary for them. Besides the
more the just of the Old Covenant were filled with faith and
confidence in the promises announced by their prophets, the more
they would burn with the desire to see them realized, and the more
they would be ready to receive the abundance of graces that the
Saviour was to bring to the world. It was thus that the Virgin
Mary, Zachary and Elisabeth, Simeon, Anna, and the other faithful
souls who lived at the time of Christ's coming, at once recognised
Him and were inundated with His favours.
You see how God was pleased to prepare mankind for the coming of
His Son upon earth. St. Peter could truly say to the Jews that
they were "the children of the prophets" (Acts 3:25). St. Paul
could write to the Hebrews that before God spoke to them in
person, He "at sundry times, and in divers manners, spoke in times
past to the fathers by the prophets": "Multifariam multisque
modis" (Heb 1:1).
The faithful Jews were, moreover, constantly in expectation of the
Messias. Their faith discerned in the person of this Redeemer one
sent by God, a King, a God Who was to put an end to their
miseries, and deliver them from the burden of their sins. They
have but one longing: "Send, O Lord, Him Who is to come." They
have but one desire: to behold with their eyes the countenance of
the Saviour of Israel. The promised Messias was the object towards
which converged all the hopes, all the worship, all the religion
of the Old Covenant. All the Old Testament is a prolonged Advent
the prayers of which are summed up in this prayer of Isaias:
"Emitte Agnum, Domine, Dominatorem terrae" (Is 16:1). "Send forth,
O Lord, the Lamb, the Ruler of the earth." "Drop down dew, ye
heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just": "Rorate
caeli desuper, et nubes pluant justum"; "Let the earth be opened,
and bud forth a Saviour": "A periatur terra et germinet
Salvatorem" (Is 45:8).
We have marvelled at the profound ways of Divine Wisdom in the
preparations for the mystery of the coming of the God-Man. And yet
this is not all.
While by a succession of marvels, Eternal Wisdom keeps intact,
among the chosen people, the ancient promises, unceasingly
confirmed and developed by prophecy, while even the successive
captivities of the Jewish people, who at times became unfaithful,
are made to serve to spread abroad the knowledge of these promises
even among the nations of the Gentiles, Wisdom likewise directs
the destinies of these nations.
You know how, during this long period of several centuries God,
Who holds the hearts of kings in His hand (Cf. Prov 21:2), and
Whose power equals His wisdom, establishes and destroys the most
vast empires one after the other. To the empire of Ninive,
reaching as far as Egypt, follows that of Babylon; then, as Isaias
had foretold, God "calls His servant Cyrus" (Isa 45:1), king of
the Persians, and places the sceptre of Nabuchodonosor within his
hands; after Cyrus, He makes Alexander the master of the nations,
until He gives the world's empire to Rome, an empire of which the
unity and peace will serve the mysterious designs of the spread of
Now the "fulness of time" (Gal 4:4) has come: the world is flooded
with sin and error; man at length realizes the weakness in which
pride kept him; all peoples stretch out their arms towards this
Liberator so often promised, so long awaited: "Et veniet
desideratus cunctis gentibus" (Hag 2:8).
When this fulness of time comes, God crowns all his preparations
by the sending of St. John the Baptist, the last of the prophets,
one whom He will render greater than Abraham, greater than Moses,
greater than all, as He Himself declares: "Non surrexit inter
natos mulierum major Joanne Baptista" (Mt 11:2; cf. Lk 7:28). It
is Jesus Christ Who says this. Why is it?
Because God wills to make St. John the Baptist His herald above
all others, the very Precursor of His beloved Son: "Propheta
altissimi vocaberis" (Lk 1:76).. so as to enhance still further
the glory of this Son Whom He is about to introduce into the
world, after having so many times promised Him, God is pleased to
reveal the dignity of the Precursor who is to bear witness that
the Light and the Truth have at length appeared upon earth: "Ut
testimonium perhiberet de lumine" (Jn 1:8).
God wills him to be great because his mission is great, because he
has been chosen to precede so closely the One Who is to come. In
God's sight, the greatness of the saints is measured according to
their nearness to His Son Jesus.
See how He exalts the Precursor in order to show yet once more, by
the excellence of this last Prophet, what is the dignity of His
Word. He chooses him from an especially saintly race; an angel
announces his birth, gives the name that he is to bear and
indicates the extent and greatness of his mission. God sanctifies
him in his mother's womb; He works such miracles around his cradle
that the fortunate witnesses of these marvels wonderingly ask each
other: "What an one, think ye, shall this child be?" (Lk 1:66)
Later on, John's holiness appears so great that the Jews come to
ask him if he is the looked-for Christ. But he, forestalled as he
is with divine favours, protests that he is but " the voice of one
crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord" (Jn
The other prophets only saw the Messias afar off; he points Him
out in person and in terms so clear that all sincere hearts
understand them: " Behold the Lamb of God " behold the One Who is
the object of all the desires of the human race, because He
"taketh away the sins of the world": "Ecce Agnus Dei" (Jn 1:29).
You do not yet know Him, although He is in the midst of you:
"Medius vestrum stetit quem vos nescitis"; He is greater than I,
for He was before me; He is so great that I am not even worthy to
loose the latchet of His shoe; so great, that "I saw the Spirit
coming down, as a dove from heaven, and He remained upon Him...
and I saw, and I gave testimony that this is the Son of God" (Jn
1:26-27, 3-34). What more has he yet to say? "He that cometh from
above, is above all. And what He hath seen and heard, that He
testifieth ;... He Whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God;
for God cloth not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loveth
the Son; and He hath given all things into His hand. He that
believed in the Son, hath life everlasting; but He that believeth
not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on
Him" (Jn 3:31f.).
These are the last words of the Precursor. By them he achieves his
work of preparing souls to receive the Messias. Indeed, when the
Incarnate Word, Who alone can speak the words from on high because
He is ever in sinu Patris (Jn 1:18), begins His public mission as
the Saviour, John will disappear; he will no longer bear testimony
to the Truth save with the shedding of his blood.
The Christ, Whom he announced, has come at last; He is that Light
unto which John bore testimony, and all those who believe in that
Light have life everlasting. It is to Him alone to Whom it must be
said: "Lord, to Whom shall we go ? Thou hast the words of eternal
Life " (Jn 6:69).
We ourselves have the happiness of believing in this Light "which
enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world" (Jn 1:9). We
live, moreover, in the blessed "fulness of time"; we are not
deprived, like the Patriarchs, of seeing the reign of the Messias.
If we are not of those who looked upon Christ in person and heard
His words, those who beheld Him going about doing good everywhere,
we have the signal happiness of belonging to those nations of
which David sang that they should be Christ's inheritance.
And yet the Holy Spirit, Who governs the Church and is the first
author of our sanctification, wills that each year the Church
should consecrate four weeks in recalling to memory the long
duration of the divine preparations, and that she should strive to
place our souls in the interior dispositions in which the faithful
Jews lived whilst awaiting the coming of the Messias.
You will perhaps immediately say: This preparation for Christ's
coming, these longings, these expectations, all that was excellent
for those living under the Old Covenant; but now that Christ has
come, why this attitude which does not seem to be in accordance
with the truth?
The reason for it is manifold.
To begin with, God wills to be praised and blessed in all His
All, indeed, are marked with His infinite wisdom: "Omnia in
sapientia fecisti" (Ps 53:24); all are admirable both in their
preparation and their realisation. This is above all true of those
which have the glory of His Son for their direct end, for it is
the will of the Father that this Son should be for ever exalted
(Cf. Jn 12:25). God wills that we should admire His works, that we
should return thanks to Him for having thus prepared, with so much
wisdom and power, the kingdom of His Son amongst us: we enter into
the divine thoughts when we recollect the prophecies and promises
of the Old Covenant.
God wills also that in these preparations we should find
confirmation of our faith.
If God gave so many different and precise signs, such numerous and
clear prophecies, it was in order that we might recognise as His
Son the One Who has fulfilled them in His person.
See how in the Gospel Our Lord Himself invited His disciples to
this contemplation. "Scrutamini Scripturas", "Search the
Scriptures" (Jn 5:39), He said to them--"the Scriptures," which
then consisted of the books of the Old Testament:--search them,
you will find them full of My name; for "all things must need be
fulfilled which are written... in the prophets, and in the psalms,
concerning Me": "Necesse est impleri omnia quae scripta sunt in
prophetic et psalmis de me" (Lk 24:44). Again we hear Him on the
day after His Resurrection explaining to the disciples of Emmaus,
so as to strengthen their faith, and dissipate their sadness, all
that concerned Him throughout the Scriptures, "beginning at Moses
and all the prophets": "Et incipiens a Moyse et omnibus prophetic,
interpretabatur illis in omnibus scripturis quae de ipso erant"
When, therefore, we read the prophecies that the Church proposes
to us during Advent, let us in the fulness of our faith, say like
the first disciples of Jesus: "We have found Him of Whom... the
prophets did write" (Jn 1:45). Let us repeat to Christ Jesus
Himself: Thou art truly the One Who is to come; we believe it, and
we adore Thee Who to save the world didst deign to become
incarnate and to be born of a Virgin: "Tu ad liberandum
suscepturus hominem non horruisti virginis uterum" (Hymn Te Deum).
This profession of faith is extremely pleasing to God. Never let
us weary of reiterating it. Our Lord will be able to say to us as
to His Apostles: "The Father Himself loveth you, because you...
have believed that I came forth from God" (Jn 16:28).
Finally, there is a third reason, one deeper and more intimate.
Christ did not come only for the inhabitants of Judea, His
contemporaries, but for us all, for all men of every nation and
century. Do we not sing in the Credo: "Propter NOS et propter
NOSTRAM salutem descendit de caelis?" The "fulness of time" is not
yet ended; it will endure as long as there shall be souls to save.
But it is to the Church that Christ, since His Ascension, has left
the mission of bringing Him forth in souls. "My little children,"
said St. Paul, the Apostle of Christ Jesus among nations," of whom
I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you" (Gal 4:19).
The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of Jesus,
labours at this work by making us contemplate every year the
mystery of her Divine Bridegroom. For, as I said at the beginning
of these conferences, all Christ's mysteries are living mysteries;
they are not merely historical realities of which we recall the
remembrance, but the celebration of each mystery brings a proper
grace, a special virtue intended to make us share in the life and
states of Christ Whose members we are.
Now, at Christmas, the Church celebrates the Birthday of her
Divine Bridegroom: "tamquam sponsus procedens de thalamo suo" (Ps
18:6); and she wills to prepare us, by the weeks of Advent, for
the grace of the coming of Christ within us. It is an altogether
inward, mysterious advent which is wrought in faith, but brings
forth much fruit.
Christ is already within us by the sanctifying grace which makes
us children of God. That is true, but the Church wills that this
grace should be renewed, that we should live a new life more
exempt from sin and imperfection, more free from all attachment to
ourselves and creatures: "Ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem
nativitas liberet quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus" tenet
(Collect for the Feast of Christmas.) She wills above all to make
us understand that Christ, in exchange for the humanity which He
takes from us, will make us partakers of His Divinity, and will
take a more complete, more entire, more perfect possession of us.
This will be like the grace of a new divine birth in us: "Ut tua
gratia largiente, per haec sacrosancta commercia, in illius
inveniamur forma, in quo tecum est nostra substantia" (Secret for
the Midnight Mass).
It is this grace of a new birth that the Incarnate Word merited
for us by His Birth at Bethlehem.
However, we should remember that if Christ was born, and lived and
died for us all: Pro omnibus mortuus est Christus (2 Cor 5:15),
the application of His merits and the distribution of His graces
are made according to the measure of the dispositions of each
Consequently we shall only share in the abundant graces that
Christ's Nativity should bring to us in proportion to our
dispositions. The Church knows this perfectly, and therefore she
neglects nothing that can produce in our souls that inward
attitude required by the coming of Christ within us. Not only does
the Church say by the mouth of the Precursor: "Prepare ye the way
of the Lord," for "He is near," "prope est Dominus" (Invitatory of
Matins for the 3rd Sunday in Advent); but she herself, like a
Bride attentive to the wishes of her Bridegroom, like a mother
careful for her children's good, suggests to us and gives us the
means of making this necessary preparation. She carries us back as
it were under the Old Covenant so that we may appropriate to
ourselves, although in an altogether supernatural sense, the
thoughts and feelings of the faithful who longed for the coming of
If we allow ourselves to be guided by her, our dispositions will
be perfect, and the solemnity of the Birth of Jesus will produce
within us all its fruits of grace, of light and life.
What are these dispositions? They can be summed up in four.
Purity of heart. Who was the best disposed for the coming of the
Word to earth? Without any doubt, it was the Blessed Virgin Mary.
At the moment when the Word came into this world, He found Mary's
heart perfectly prepared, and capable of receiving the Divine
riches which He willed to heap upon her. What were the
dispositions of her soul?
Assuredly she possessed all the most perfect dispositions; but
there is one which shines with particular brilliancy: that is her
virginal purity. Mary is a virgin. Her virginity is so precious to
her that it is her first thought when the angel proposes to her
the mystery of the divine maternity.
Not only is she a virgin, but her soul is stainless. The liturgy
reveals to us that God's special design in granting to Mary the
unique privilege of the Immaculate Conception was to prepare for
His Word a dwelling place worthy of Him: "Deus qui per
immvaculatam Virginis conceptionem dignum Filio tuo HABITACULUM
PRAEPARASTI" (Collect for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception).
Mary was to be the Mother of God; and this eminent dignity
required not only that she should be a virgin, but that her purity
should surpass that of the angels and be a reflection of the holy
splendour wherein the Father begets His Son: "In splendoribus
sanctorum" (Ps 59:3). God is holy, thrice holy; the angels, the
archangels, the seraphim hymn His infinite purity: "Sanctus,
Sanctus, Sanctus" (Is 6:3). The bosom of God, of an infinite
purity, is the dwelling-place of the Only-begotten Son of God. The
Word is ever in "sinu Patris"; but, in becoming Incarnate, He also
willed, in ineffable condescension, to be in "sinu Virginis
Matris". It was necessary that the tabernacle that Our Lady
offered Him should recall, by its incomparable purity, the
indefectible brightness of the light eternal where as God He ever
dwells: "Christi sinus erat in Deo Patre divinitas, in Maria Matre
virginitas" (Sermo, XII, in Append. Operum S. Ambrosii).
Thus the first disposition that attracts Christ is a great purity.
But as for ourselves, we are sinners. We cannot offer to the Word,
to Christ Jesus, that immaculate purity which He so much loves.
What is there that will take the place of it in us ? It is
God possesses in His bosom the Son of His delight, but upon this
bosom He also presses another son,-the prodigal son. Our Lord
Himself tells us so. When, after having fallen so low, the
prodigal returns to his father, he humbles himself to the dust, he
confesses himself to be miserable and unworthy; and, at once,
without a word or reproach, the father receives him into the bosom
of his compassion: Misericordia motus (Lk 15:20).
Do not let us forget that the Word, the Son, only wills what His
Father wills. If He becomes Incarnate and appears upon earth, it
is in order to seek sinners and bring them back to His Father:
"Non vend vocare justos sed peccatores "(Mt 9:13), This is so true
that later Our Lord will often be found, to the great scandal of
the Pharisees, in the company of sinners; He will allow Magdalen
to kiss His Feet and bathe them with her tears.
We have not the Virgin Mary's purity, but let us at least ask for
the humility of Magdalen, a contrite and penitent love. O Christ
Jesus, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come to me; my heart
will not be for Thee a dwelling-place of purity, misery dwells
there. But I acknowledge, I avow this misery; come and relieve me
of it. O Thou Who art mercy itself; come and deliver me, O Thou
Who art almighty: Veni ad liberandum nos, Domine Deus virtutum!
A like prayer, joined to the spirit of penance, draws Christ to us
because the humility that abases itself in its nothingness thereby
renders homage to the goodness and power of Jesus: Et eum, qui
venit ad me, non eficiam foras (Jn 6:37).
The sight of our infirmity ought not, however, to discourage us;
far from that. The more we feel our weakness, so much the more
ought we to open our soul to confidence, because salvation comes
only from Christ.
Pusillanimes, confortamini et nolite timere, ecce Deus noster
veniet et salvabit nos (Communion for the 3rd Sunday of Advent,
cf. Is 35:4). "Ye faint-hearted, take courage and fear not: behold
God, our God, will come and will save us." See what confidence the
Jews had in the Messias. For them, the Messias was everything; in
Him were summed up all the aspirations of Israel, all the wishes
of the people, all the hopes of the race; to contemplate Him was
all their ambition; to see His reign established would have
fulfilled all their desires. And how confident and impatient the
desires of the Jews became: "Come, O Lord and do not delay"
(Alleluia for the 4th Sunday of Advent) "Shew us Thy face, and we
shall be saved" (Ps 79:4).
Oh, if we who possess Christ Jesus, true God as well as true Man,
really understood what the Sacred Humanity of Jesus is, we should
have an unshaken confidence in it; for in His Humanity are all the
treasures of knowledge and of wisdom; in it the Divinity itself
dwells. This God-Man, Who comes to us is the Emmanuel, He is "God
with us," He is our Elder Brother. The Word has espoused our
nature, He has taken upon Himself our infirmities so as to know by
experience what suffering is. He comes to us to make us partakers
of His divine life; all the graces for which we can hope He
possesses in their fulness in order to grant them to us.
The promises that, by the voice of the prophets, God made to His
people so as to arouse in them the desire of the Messias, are
magnificent. But many of the Jews understood these promises in the
material and gross sense of a temporal and political kingdom. The
good things promised to the just who awaited the Saviour were but
the figure of the supernatural riches which we find in Christ; we
have the divine reality, that is to say the grace of Jesus. The
liturgy for Advent constantly speaks to us of mercy, redemption,
salvation, deliverance, light, abundance, joy, peace. "Behold the
Saviour cometh; on the day of His Birth, the world shall be
flooded with light" (Antiphon for Lauds of the 1st Sunday in
Advent; "exult then with joy, O Jerusalem, for the Saviour shall
appear" (Antiphon for Lauds for the 3rd Sunday in Advent); "peace
shall fill our earth when He shews Himself" (Response for Matins
for the 3rd Sunday in Advent). Christ brings with Him all the
blessings that can be lavished upon a soul: "Cum illo omnia nobis
donavit" (Rom 8:32).
Let then our hearts yield themselves up to an absolute confidence
in Him Who is to come. It is to render ourselves very pleasing to
the Father to believe that His Son Jesus can do everything for the
sanctification of our souls. Thereby we declare that Jesus is
equal to Him, and that the Father "hath given all things into His
hand" (Jn 3:35). Such confidence cannot be mistaken. In the Mass
for the first Sunday in Advent, the Church thrice gives us the
firm assurance of this. "None of them that wait on Thee shall be
confounded": "Qui te exspectant non confundentur."
This confidence will above all be expressed in the ardent desire
to see Christ come to reign more fully within us. "Adveniat regnum
tuum!" The liturgy gives us the formula of these desires. At the
same time that she places the prophecies, especially those of
Isaias, under our eyes, and causes us to read them again, the
Church puts upon our lips the aspirations and the longings of the
just men of old time. She wills to see us prepared for Christ's
coming within our souls in the same way as God willed that the
Jews should be disposed to receive His Son. "Come, O Lord, They
mercy, and grant us Thy people" (Alleluia for the 4th Sunday of
Advent). "Shew us, O Lord, Thy mercy, and grant us Thy salvation"
(Offertory for the 2d Sunday of Advent). "Come and deliver us,
Lord, God Almighty! Raise up Thy power, and come" (Collect for the
4th Sunday of Advent).
The Church makes us constantly repeat these aspirations. Let us
make them our own, let us appropriate them to ourselves with
faith, and Christ Jesus will enrich us with His graces.
Doubtless, as you know, God is master of His gifts; He is
sovereignly free, and none may hold Him to account for His
preferences. But, in the ordinary ways of His Providence, He hears
the supplications of the humble who bring their needs before Him:
"Desiderium pauperum exaudivit Dominus" (Ps 9:17). Christ gives
Himself to us according to the measure of the desire that we have
to receive Him, and the capacity of the soul is increased by the
desires that it expresses: "Dilata os tuum, et implebo illud" (Ps
If then we want the celebration of Christ's Nativity to procure
great glory for the Holy Trinity, and to be a consolation for the
Heart of the Incarnate Word, a source of abundant graces for the
Church and for ourselves, let us strive to purify our hearts, let
us preserve a humility full of confidence, and above all let us
enlarge our souls by the breath and vehemence of our desires.
Let us ask our Lady to make us share in the holy aspirations that
animated her during those blessed days that preceded the Birth of
The Church has willed--and what is more just?--that the liturgy of
Advent should be full of the thought of the Blessed Virgin; she
continually makes us sing the divine fruitfulness of a Virgin, a
wonderful fruitfulness that throws nature into astonishment: "Tu
quae genuisti, natura mirante, tuum sanctum genitorem, virgo pries
ac posterius" (Antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater).
Mary's virginal bosom was an immaculate sanctuary whence arose the
most pure incense of her adoration and homage.
There is something veritably ineffable about the inward life of
the Virgin during these days. She lived in an intimate union with
the Infant-God Whom she bore in her bosom. The soul of Jesus was,
by the Beatific Vision, plunged in the Divine light; this light
radiated upon His Mother. In the sight of the angels, Mary truly
appeared as "a woman clothed with the sun": "Mulier amicta sole"
(Rev 12:1), all irradiated with heavenly brightness, all shining
with the light of her Son. Her feelings indeed reached the high
level of her faith. She summed up in herself all the aspirations,
all the impulses, all the longings of humanity awaiting the
world's Saviour and God, at the same time going far beyond them
and giving them a value that they had never hitherto attained.
What holy intensity in her desires! What unshaken assurance in
confidence! What fervour in her love!...
This humble Virgin is the Queen of Patriarchs, since she is of
their holy lineage, and since the Child Whom she is about to bring
into the world is the Son Who resumes in His person all the
magnificence of the ancient promises.
She is, too, the Queen of Prophets, since she is to bring forth
the Word by Whom all the prophets spoke, since her Son is to
fulfil all prophecy and announce to all people the good news of
redemption (Lk 4:19).
Let us humbly ask her to make us enter into her dispositions. She
will hear our prayer; we shal1 have the immense joy of seeing
Christ born anew within our hearts by the communication of a more
abundant grace, and we shall be enabled, like the Virgin, although
in a lesser measure, to understand the truth of these words of St.
John: "The Word was God... and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt
among us, and we saw His glory... full of grace and truth... And
of His fulness we have all received, and grace for grace" (Jn
From Christ in His Mysteries, Abbot Marmion, O.S.B.
Copyright (c) 1996 Catholic Information Network (CIN) - October