Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The 12th Day of Christmas

Let us mark the end of Christmastide with these wise words of St. Maximus the Confessor [obit. 662], wherein he reminds us of the infinite tenderness of God in coming to be with us and the essential ingredient of faith to receive that mystery.

That Incarnation at Bethlehem is one birth; another is a spiritual birth in us. But note: St. Maximus reminds us that the degree of that “incarnation” in our life is related not only to our capacity, but our will. And this, in turn, is deeply connected to our desire for God and our willingness to love and be loved.

Now it is time to put away the decorations of this holy season (one of my favorite being the "Christmas Pyramid" from Germany), but it is always time to contemplate the mystery of the Word made flesh.

            The Word of God, born once in the flesh (such is his kindness and his goodness), is always willing to be born spiritually in those who desire him. In them he is born as an infant, as he fashions himself in them by means of their virtues. He reveals himself to the extent that he knows someone is capable of receiving him. He diminishes the revelation of his glory not out of selfishness but because he recognizes the capacity and resources of those who desire to see him. Yet, in the transcendence of mystery, he always remains invisible to all.
            Christ is God, for he has given all things their being out of nothing. Yet he is born as one of us by taking to himself our nature, flesh endowed with intelligent spirit. A star glitters by day in the East and leads the wise men to the place where the incarnate Word lies, to show that the Word, contained in the Law and the Prophets, surpasses in a mystical way the knowledge derived from the senses, and to lead the Gentiles to the full light of knowledge.
            The great mystery of the divine incarnation remains a mystery forever. How can the Word made flesh be essentially the same person that is wholly with the Father? How can he who is by nature God become by nature entirely human without lacking either nature, neither the divine nature by which he is God nor the human by which be became one of us?
            Faith alone grasps these mysteries. Faith alone is truly the substance and foundation of all that exceeds knowledge and understanding. 
from the Five Hundred Chapters, Chapter 1

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