Friday, September 05, 2003

For Friday
" Well, my brethren, your God has taken on Him your nature, and now prepare yourself to see in human flesh that glory and that beauty on which the Angels gaze. Since you are to see Emmanuel, since 'the brilliancy of the Eternal Light and the unspotted mirror of God's majesty, and the Image of His goodness,' is to walk the earth, since the Son of the Highest is to be born of woman, since the manifold attributes of the Infinite are to be poured out before your eyes through material channels and the operations of a human soul, since He, whose contemplation did but trouble you in Nature, is coming to take you captive by a manifestation, which is both intelligible to you and a pledge that He loves you one by one, raise high your expectations, for surely they cannot suffer disappointment. Doubtless, you will say, He will take a form such as 'eye hath not seen, nor ear heard of ' before. It will be a body framed in the heavens, and only committed to the custody of Mary; a form of light and glory, worthy of Him, who is "blessed for evermore," and comes to bless us with His presence. Pomp and pride of men He may indeed despise; we do not look for Him in kings' courts, or in the array of war, or in the philosophic school; but doubtless He will choose some calm and holy spot, and men will go out thither and find their Incarnate God. He will be tenant of some paradise, like Adam or Elias, or He will dwell in the mystic garden of the Canticles, where nature ministers its best and purest to its Creator. 'The fig-tree will put forth her green figs, the vines in flower yield their sweet smell;' 'spikenard and saffron'will be there; 'the sweet cane and cinnamon, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief perfumes;' 'the glory of Libanus, the beauty of Carmel,' before 'the glory of the Lord and the beauty of our God'. There will He show Himself at stated times, with Angels for His choristers and saints for His doorkeepers, to the poor and needy, to the humble and devout, to those who have kept their innocence undefiled, or have purged their sins away by long penance and masterful contrition.

Such would be the conjecture of man, at fault when he speculated on the height of God, and now again at fault when he tries to sound the depth. He thinks that a royal glory is the note of His presence upon earth; lift up your eyes, my brethren, and answer whether he has guessed aright. Oh, incomprehensible in eternity and in time! solitary in heaven, and solitary upon earth! 'Who is this, that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozra? Why is Thy apparel red, and Thy garments like theirs that tread in the wine press?' It is because the Maker of man, the Wisdom of God, has come, not in strength, but in weakness. He has come, not to assert a claim, but to pay a debt. Instead of wealth, He has come poor; instead of honour, He has come in ignominy; instead of blessedness, He has come to suffer. He has been delivered over from His birth to pain and contempt; His delicate frame is worn down by cold and heat, by hunger and sleeplessness; His hands are rough and bruised with a mechanic's toil; His eyes are dimmed with weeping; His Name is cast out as evil. He is flung amid the throng of men; He wanders from place to place; He is the companion of sinners. He is followed by a mixed multitude, who care more for meat and drink than for His teaching, or by a city's populace which deserts Him in the day of trial. And at length 'the Brightness of God's Glory and the Image of His Substance' is fettered, haled to and fro, buffeted, spit upon, mocked, cursed, scourged, and tortured. 'He hath no beauty nor comeliness; He is despised and the most abject of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity;' nay, He is a 'leper, and smitten of God, and afflicted'. And so His clothes are torn off, and He is lifted up upon the bitter Cross, and there He hangs, a spectacle for profane, impure, and savage eyes, and a mockery for the evil spirit whom He had cast down into hell.

Oh, wayward man! discontented first that thy God is far from thee, discontented again when He has drawn near,—complaining first that He is high, complaining next that He is low!—unhumbled being, when wilt thou cease to make thyself thine own centre, and learn that God is infinite in all He does, infinite when He reigns in heaven, infinite when He serves on earth, exacting our homage in the midst of His Angels, and winning homage from us in the midst of sinners? Adorable He is in His eternal rest, adorable in the glory of His court, adorable in the beauty of His works, most adorable of all, most royal, most persuasive in His deformity. Think you not, my brethren, that to Mary, when she held Him in her maternal arms, when she gazed on the pale countenance and the dislocated limbs of her God, when she traced the wandering lines of blood, when she counted the weals, the bruises, and the wounds, which dishonoured that virginal flesh, think you not that to her eyes it was more beautiful than when she first worshipped it, pure, radiant, and fragrant, on the night of His nativity? " -
Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O. , Discourses to Mixed Congregations


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