Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Christmas--25 December AD 2013

The Incarnation

“O God, Thou hast created human nature in wondrous dignity, and even more wondrously hast renewed it.  Grant that we may become partakers of His divinity, who humbled Himself to partake of our humanity.”[1]

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    During Advent we learned that God had created Adam and Eve with great gifts, which they lost—due to their inordinate pride—by refusing to obey their Creator.  We learned, too, that God promised to send a Redeemer, to make up for the damage done by this original sin.  To restore, at least, those gifts which man could handle without inflating his pride.  If Advent was a season of promise, then we may think of this season of Christmas as one of fulfillment.

    Actually, to be consistent, we should call to mind that this fulfillment began when the Angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin that she was to become the Mother of God.  Or, perhaps, even more accurately, when she gave her consent: “Fiat mihi, secundum verbum tuum—Be it done to me according to thy word.”  For, especially in this work of salvation, God respects our free will.

    Quite correctly, then, we celebrate the Incarnation on the 25th of March, on the Feast of the Annunciation.  But human nature is what it is—it wants to believe only what it can see and touch.  So we defer our celebration until this day, nine months later, when we commemorate the birth of our Lord—visible for all to see.

    In fact, on Christmas, there are three separate celebrations of the birth of the Son of God; the three different Masses which the Church allows her priests to celebrate on December 25th.

    First of all, at midnight, we celebrate His birth from the perspective of the Angels; the “multitude of the heavenly host,” which sang the very first “Glória in excélsis Deo.”  Remember that this is significant in the understanding of redemption, for before man was tempted and fell; some of our fellow creatures, the angels, suffered a similar fate.  It is conjectured that, in their pride, Lucifer and the other rebellious angels could not accept the idea that they would one day have to worship the Son of God in the form of a lower creature; a mere man.  The good angels would then seem to be joining us in making reparation to God for the sins of their brothers.

    In the Second Mass, at dawn, we celebrate Christ's birth from the perspective of mankind; represented in the Gospel account by the shepherds—normal human beings like ourselves.  The Gospel implies that the shepherds received some sort of revelation, or explanation from God, about the babe whom they saw in the manger.  (Because of their great intellect, the good angels immediately understood what they saw.  But man, his intellect dimmed by sin, often requires the extra help of divine revelation.)  But, with this help, man hears and sees and understands, and then he too can glorify God like the angels.

    The third and last Mass of Christmas day celebrates the Incarnation from the eternal perspective.  We read Saint John’s familiar Gospel which portrays our Lord as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  He is the “Logos,” or “Word,” existing in eternity with God the Father.  And, from His position above and outside of time and space, our Lord enters history; first as its Creator, “by whom all things were made,” and then as its Redeemer, when “He became flesh, and dwelt among us.”  This is one of the things which makes Christianity different from most of the religions of this world; a Faith whose God has actually taken a personal part in its history.

    The three Masses of Christmas, then, treat of the Incarnation; from an angelic perspective, from a human perspective, and, finally, from an eternal perspective.

    It is left for us to examine the significance of this Incarnation.  Why is it so important that we devote these three different Masses to it?  What are we to learn from it?  How will it affect us?

    Obviously, it is important to us in that it cleared the way for the forgiveness of sin; for our redemption, and for our salvation.  Yet, there is another importance which we must attach to the Incarnation.  It goes back to what we said about man needing to see and touch things in order to have regard for them.  In the “Preface” of all the Masses of the Christmas season we hear:

    Because by the mystery of the Word made flesh, the new light of Thy glory has shone upon the eyes of our mind:
That while we acknowledge Him to be God seen by men, we may be drawn to Him by the love of things unseen.

    The Incarnation, then prepares our earthbound and feeble minds to perceive the glories of God in heaven.

    And, finally, the Incarnation affects us in the manner expressed in the words with which I started this instruction; words which occur in every Mass, at the offertory, when the priest mingles very plain and colorless water, symbolizing the nature of man—with rich and intoxicating wine, which symbolizes the grand nature of God.  We pray that by the Incarnation, celebrated this and every Christmas, we will allow our sinful and shallow nature to be swallowed up in God's nature of abundant holiness.

    Our Christmas present from the Lord is three-fold:  First, forgiveness of our sins.  Second, an increase of Faith.  And, finally, a share in God's own divinity.

    No wonder then that Pope St. Leo told us over a thousand years ago that “it would be unlawful to be sad today.”  No one is excluded from sharing in this joy:  “Rejoice if you are a saint: for you are drawing nearer to the palm of victory.  “Rejoice if you are a sinner: for your Savior offers you pardon!  “And, Rejoice if you are a pagan: For God calls you to life.”



[1]   From the making of the chalice at the offertory of the Mass


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