Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent / Vigil of Christmas
Zechariah, the Father of John the Baptizer, proclaimed in song these and other marvelous things about God’s steadfast faithfulness to His promises:
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
The radical, life-altering in-breaking of God Enfleshed into the mix and mystery of human history has arrived; the advent of the burning Babe of Bethlehem has come. God-with-us, Emmanuel, the infant Jesus is to be born of Mary.
In his Spiritual Exercises penned and published in the mid-16th century, Saint Ignatius writes of the moment of Christ’s Incarnation, about nine months before the Lord’s birth, asking the one making the retreat to place herself or himself in this “scene,” with a kind of God’s-eye-view:
I will see the various persons, some here, some there. First, those on the face of the earth, so diverse in dress and behavior: some white and others black, some in peace and others at war, some weeping and others laughing, some healthy and others sick, some being born and others dying, and so forth.
Second, I will see and consider the three Divine Persons, seated, so to speak, on the royal canopied throne of Their Divine Majesty. They are gazing on the whole face and circuit of the earth; and they see all the peoples, …saying, “Let us work the redemption of the human race.”
I will consider what the people on the face of the earth are doing: How they wound, kill, go to hell, and so on. Similarly, what the Divine Persons are doing, that is, bringing about the most holy Incarnation, and other such activities. Likewise, what the angel and Our Lady are doing, with the angel carrying out his office of ambassador and Our Lady humbling herself and giving thanks to the Divine Majesty.
The language used by Ignatius, while perhaps a bit dated, is still relevant today. In the divine plan of God’s self-revealing Love, God looks upon the whole face of the earth, outside of the bounds of time, and sees the “big picture,” so to speak, the God’s-eye-view. In giving us the freedom to choose to praise, revere, and serve God or to praise, revere, and serve ourselves, God sends us Himself in the fragile little infant Jewish boy born amidst the animals, with Mary and Joseph keeping him warm.
In the quiet of this December 24th morning, before all the activity that this afternoon and tomorrow might see, let us take a moment to give thanks for the great gift of God’s presence among us. Let us be mindful of the vastness of the God-human love story and how we are playing our part as the baptized, the ones upon whom the Spirit of God has come down and is remaining.
Come, Lord Jesus!