Monday, December 24, 2007

Tomorrow you shall witness HIS glory

My dearest blog readers, I wish you all - a Blessed Christmas! :)

Alone with God
Fr. J. Heyrmann S.J.

Vigil of Christmas
“Tomorrow you shall witness His glory”

1. By this time, the sense of expectation has risen to the highest point. During the first two Advent weeks the liturgy had invited us to “Come ye and adore the King that is coming”; from the third Sunday onwards that became “The Lord is nigh: Come and adore Him”; on December 21 the Laud’s antiphon promised us, “Fear not: four days more and the Lord shall be with you”; now, on the eve of Christmas the Introit of the Mass gives us the assurance, “This day ye shall know that the Lord will come, and in the morning ye shall see His glory.”

2. Petition: That in the company of Joseph and Mary we may spend this day in holy recollection, ardently longing for the Saviour, and adoring Him.

I. Glad Expectation

In most towns of the world the eve of Christmas is a day of bustling preparations; but alas! For so many Christ has been taken out of Christmas, which has become a profane festivity. At best there clingeth to it an atmosphere of homeliness and intimacy, which may remind men of the great events it commemorates.

We ourselves are likely to be busily engaged in material preparations for the external celebrations in the church or the community; but let us endeavour to keep our inner thoughts centered upon the great happenings we want to relive tomorrow.

When Moses had led the Jews out of Egypt, they had to cross the desert; there they walked in fear lest they should perish of hunger and thirst. Then one day Moses said to them, “In the evening you shall know that the Lord hath brought you forth our of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord” (Ex. 16:6); and the next morning “a dew lay around about the camp”: God had rained down manna from heaven. This is the event recalled in today’s Introit, which the liturgy applies to the birth of the Saviour.

We too are awaiting salvation: tomorrow will appear the true Saviour, the true Manna from Heaven.

II. In Glory and in Poverty

There is a perplexing contrast between the manifestation of the Saviour as described by the prophets, and the reality of His appearance among us. In Isaias, e.g., we read about the Child: “The government is upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace” (9:6). Similarly the Psalmist (see the Offertory of today), “Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates; and the King of Glory shall enter in” (Ps. 23:7). = which evokes before our imagination some colossal portals of an Assyrian palace, a triumphal reception. And then we witness the reality: Joseph and Mary tread their way into Bethlehem at the close of day, they seek shelter and there is no room for them in the inn; at last they find a dark stable by the roadside and there they put up as best they can.

What a contemptible sight for human eyes! One needs the eyes of faith to discover, beneath the squalor the invisible glorious splendour. Behold! Far more magnificent than the most monumental gates of an imperial palace, the “blessed gate of Heaven” from which the King of Heaven and earth will step forth. The dark and wretched stable of Bethlehem is in spiritual reality the “Palace of Peace of the Nations”, wherein has just been drawn up the Charter of true Peace – not a scrap of parchment, but the tiny Body of the Child in whom “dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead”, and whose Blood will one day seal the Treaty of Peace between heaven and earth.

We hasten to welcome Mary:

The Great King’s Gate art thou, and bright
Abode of everlasting Light.
Ye ransomed nations, hail to heaven
Our Life Spring through a Virgin given.

To God the Father, God the Son
Of Mary born, be homage done;
The like to God the Spirit be:
Eternal Godhead, One in Three.

III. The Other Advent

As in the beginning of Advent, so on the eve of Christmas the Church’s liturgy recalls the second coming of Christ too, and duly connects the coming of the Redeemer with the coming of the Judge: “Tomorrow shall the iniquity of the earth be blotted out: and the Saviour of the world shall reign over us” (Gradual of today). And in the hymn of Lauds:

Great Judge of all, in that Last Day
When friends shall fail and foes combine,
Be present then with us, we pray,
To guard us with Thine arm divine.

This shows how concerned Mother Church is that, even when we rejoice at the birth of “the Child that is given to us”, we should blend together and foster both a childlike love and a childlike fear.

Prayer: “O God, who gladdenest us with the yearly expectation of our salvation, grant that we, who now joyfully welcome Thine only-begotten Son as our Redeemer, may also without fear see Him coming as our Judge, Jesus Christ our Lord Thy Son, who with Thee liveth” (Collect of the Mass of today).

Deus propitius esto mihi peccatori

Jesus, Mary, I love Thee; Save Souls!

Jesu mitis et humilis corde, Fac cor nostrum secundum Cor tuum. (ter)

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