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"of the Lord! I, too, will proclaim the virtues and "power of this day. He that is without flesh, takes "flesh ; the Word takes a Body; the Unseen is seen; "the intangible may be touched; the Eternal has a "beginning; the Son of God is made the Son of "Man—Jesus Christ, yesterday, and to-day, and the "same for ever.1 Let the Jew take scandal, and the "Greek mock, and the Heretic prate. They will "believe when they shall see him ascending into "heaven; and if not even then, at least when they "shall see him coming down from heaven, and seated "on his judgment-seat."
It is hard to hear such thrilling eloquence as this, and remain cold. But let us now give ear to a Father of the Latin Church—the devout St. Bernard —who, in his Sixth Sermon for Christmas Eve, pours forth his heart's joy in these fervent words:
"We have just heard the saying, which is full of "grace, and worthy of all acceptation: Jesus Christ, "the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda. At "these words, my soul melts with love, yea, and my "spirit, that is within me, burns with impatience to "tell you, as in other years, of this joy, this thril"ling joy. Jesus means Saviour. And, what so "necessary to them that are lost? what so welcome "to them that are in misery? what so precious to "them that are in despair? Besides, what salvation, "what chance of salvation, was there in the law of "sin, in that body of death, in so evil a day, and in "such a place of affliction—had not a new and un"looked-for Salvation been born? Say not, that thou "dost indeed desire salvation, but that, knowing thy "delicacy and the grievousness of thy sickness, thou "fearest lest the cure be violent. No, fear not: this "Jesus is Christ, that is, he is all sweetness; he is "meek and plenteous in mercy; he is anointed with
"the oil of gladness above his fellows, that is, above "them, who though they receive not the fulness, yet "receive of his fulness. Yet, lest thou shouldst think, "that, because this Jesus is the Anointed with sweet"ness, he is therefore weak in power, it is added, he "is the Son of God. * * * Let us, then, be exceeding "glad, as we think over within ourselves, or say to "each other, this sweet sentence: Jesus Christ—the "Son of God—is born in Bethlehem of Jvda!"
Glorious Day, indeed, is this of the Birth of the Saviour! It had been looked forward to by the human race, for four thousand years. The Church had prepared for it by the four weeks of her Advent, a Season which has ever such a charm about it. Nature, too, longs for this Day, on which the Sun begins his yearly victory over the dreary reign of wintry darkness. A Holy Doctor of the Syrian Church, St. Ephrem, has written the most admirable words on the beauty and fruitful virtue of this mysterious Day. Let us borrow some of these from him and say them with his enthusiasm.
"Grant, O Lord! that we may now celebrate this "the Day of thy Birth, which to-day's Solemnity "brings round to us. This Day is like thyself—it is "the friend of mankind. It comes to us in its regu"lar course, visiting us each year. It grows old with "the old; it is young and fresh with little children. "We remember when we were young, how it came and "passed away; and here it is again, faithful as ever "in its welcome visit. It knows that nature could "not do without it; here again like to thee, it comes "in search of our fallen race. The whole earth "thirsts after thy Birth-Day, O Jesus!" It stands, as "it were, between the past and the future, command"ing all ages, as Thou dost. It is one, and yet it "multiplies itself, as Thou dost. And since we be"hold thy past Birth-Day in this present Feast, make "the two resemble each other in this also—that as "thy Birth-Day brought Peace between heaven and "earth, when the infinitely High God descended to "this low earth; so may this solemnity signify and "give us Peace. * * And truly, if every day of "the year be rich in thy gifts, how much more ought "not this to overflow with them?
"The other days of the year borrow their beauty "from this, and the other Feasts owe to this all their "solemnity and loveliness. * * Thy Birth-Day, "0 Jesus! is a treasure, out of which we all get "wherewith to pay our debts. * * Blessed be the "Day which has brought us back the Sun, after we "had been wandering in the dark night; which has "brought us the Divine Sheaf, that enriches us with "plentifulness; which has given us the Vine-Branch, "that is to yield us, in due time, the cup of our salva"tion. * * In the bosom of that Winter, which "robs our trees of their fruit, the virgin Vine has "given forth its divine growth. In the Season of "frost, which strips our plants of their beauty, the "Root of J esse has given us its Bud. It is in De"cember, which hides the seed sown in the earth, "that the Wheat of our salvation appears from the "Virgin's womb, into which he had entered in that "fresh Spring-time, when the lambkins were skipping "in our meadows."1
It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, if this Day, which, we may say, is an important one even to God himself, has been made a privileged one above those of the rest of the year. We have already seen that the old pagan world paid homage to it, and thus, in their own way, were carrying out the design of God. The Holy Doctors, and the Church herself in her Liturgy, allude continually to the material Sun being the symbol of Him, who is called the Sun of Justice. Then, again, there is the venerable tradition, which
1 Third Sermon On our Lord's Nativity.
tells us, that the Incarnation of the Son of God having been accomplished on a Friday, (March 25,) the Birth of Jesus, the Light of the world, must have taken place on the 25th of December, a Sunday. This gives a peculiar sacredness to Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday, as it was on that day of the week that God began the Creation, and said: Let there be Light! and on the same, also, did our Lord rise from the tomb. St. Sophronius of Jerusalem has beautifully treated this mystery in his 1st Homily for Christmas Day.
In order to impress the nations of Europe, that is, of the favoured portion of the Church, with the importance of this ever blessed Day, God, who is the Sovereign Ruler of all things, has willed that on it should happen certain events of intense interest. We will select three of these. To begin with the first in order of time:—it was on a Christmas Day, that was founded the Kingdom of the Franks; for, it was on this glorious Solemnity, that King Clovis was baptised at Rheims by St. Remigius. The haughty Sicambrian, thus admitted into the Fold of Christ, became a meek and humble Christian, and the founder of the first Catholic monarchy, which is now the Kingdom of France.
A century later, that is in the year 596, our own dearest country was converted to the true faith by the labours of St. Augustine, of whom St. Gregory the Great, who sent him, says: "he was a Monk of my Monastery."1 This holy Missionary had baptised King Ethelbert, and travelled through the land, preaching everywhere the name and Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Having reached York, he preached the word of Eternal Life to the people, and when he had ended, they seek baptism from his hands. Christmas Day is fixed upon for the regenera
tion of the Catechumens, and the River which flows through the City, is chosen as the Baptismal Font. Ten thousand men, not counting women and children, go down into this stream, whose waters were to cleanse their souls. The severity of the season is unheeded by these fervent disciples of the Babe of Bethlehem, who, but a few days before, knew not so much as his Name. From the frozen waters, there comes, full of joy and innocence, the long line of Neophytes; and the Birth-Day of Jesus counts, that year, one nation more as belonging to his Kingdom.
Three hundred years after this, God gives us another glorious event in honour of the Birth-Day of his Son. It was on this divine Anniversary, in the year 800, and at Rome, in the Basilica of St. Peter, that was created the Holy Roman Empire, to which God assigned the grand mission of propagating the Kingdom of Christ among the barbarian nations of the North, and of upholding, under the direction of the Sovereign Pontiffs, the confederation and unity of Europe. St. Leo III. crowned Charlemagne Emperor. Here, then, was a new Caesar, a new Augustus, on the earth; not, indeed, a successor of those ancient Lords of Pagan Rome, but one who was invested with the title and power by the Vicar of Him, who is called, in the Sacred Scriptures, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
Thus has God glorified, in the eyes of men, the Divine Babe who is this day born: thus has he prepared, at various times, worthy anniversaries of that Birth which gave glory to God and Peace to men. Time will reveal, in what other ways the Most High still wishes to magnify, upon this Twenty-Fifth of December, Himself and his Christ .
Impressed with the extreme importance of this Feast, and justly looking upon it as the beginning of the Era of the world's regeneration, the Nations of