Sunday, December 25, 2016

Nativity of the Lord, Year A

A blessed and holy Christmas to you! The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory (John 1:14). What a gift God has given to our world. This year we would like to share with you this delightful manuscript illumination of the Nativity scene. If you click on the image to see details, you'll notice Jesus patting the head of the ass. There's so much to meditate on in this charming painting: a hole in the roof allows the golden rays of the star to shine through - divine providence in the midst of poverty! - and an industrious angel helps out this tired family by pouring water in the trough - a lowly, thoughtful task!

Just as there is a wealth of images of the Birth of Our Lord, so understandably there is an abundance of writings on the Nativity. Here's a little jewel on the humility of Christ from Theodotus (d. 446), bishop of Ancyra:
Nativity, Book of Hours, ca. 1420 (British Library)
The Lord of all comes as a slave amidst poverty. The huntsman has no wish to startle his prey. Choosing for birthplace an unknown village in a remote province, he is born of a poor maiden and accepts all that poverty implies, for he hopes by stealth to ensnare and save us.
...Suppose he had been the son of an emperor. They would have said: “How useful it is to be powerful!” Imagine him the son of a senator. It would have been: “Look what can be accomplished by legislation!”
But in fact, what did he do? He chose surroundings that were poor and simple, so ordinary as to be almost unnoticed, so that people would know it was the Godhead alone that had changed the world. This was his reason for choosing his mother from among the poor of a very poor country, and for becoming poor himself.
Let the manger teach you how poor the Lord was: he was laid in it because he had no bed to lie on. This lack of the necessaries of life was a most appropriate prophetic foreshadowing. He was laid in a manger to show that he would be the food even of the inarticulate. The Word of God drew to himself both the rich and the poor, both the eloquent and the slow of speech as he lay in the manger in poverty. Do you not see how his lack of worldly goods was a prophecy and how his poverty, accepted for our sake, showed his accessibility to all?
No one was afraid to approach Christ, overawed by his immense wealth; no one was kept from coming to him by the grandeur of his royal estate. No, he who was offering himself for the salvation of the world came as an ordinary worker. The Word of God in a human body was laid in a manger, so that both the eloquent and the slow of speech would have courage to share in the food of salvation.

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