Thursday in the Fourth week of Advent
Wisdom, Chapter 12, Verse 9-11
9 Not that you were without power to have the wicked vanquished in battle by the righteous, or wiped out at once by terrible beasts or by one decisive word; 10 But condemning them by degrees, you gave them space for repentance. You were not unaware that their origins were wicked and their malice ingrained, and that their dispositions would never change; 11 for they were a people accursed from the beginning. Neither out of FEAR for anyone did you grant release from their sins.
The combination of divine mercy and power is an unusual paradox, the main emphasis is on creating in man a life that is motivated by love; the divine “imperishable spirit” the breath of life in everything. God’s mercy desires the conversion of all hearts. God gives space for repentance and opportunity for sinners to make reparation for a multitude of evils.
deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Every Christmas although the same in many ways is always new for each Christmas expresses a hope learned from a lifetime of praising God. For every Christmas if we open our eyes to truth we will see the handiwork of God; the rock of our salvation. Perhaps in these final days of anticipation it would do us well to reflect on the virtues of Mary Christ’s very own mother and in these final days in some way reflect them in our own lives.
Temperance the power of the soul
The virtue of temperance is necessary to the Christian who would live according to the law of God. When this virtue is wanting, the spirit becomes the slave of the flesh. It can no longer relish things divine; for, says St. Paul, "the sensual man perceiveth not the things that are of the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. ii, 14.) In fact, gluttony and gross living naturally tend to the obscuring of the intellect and to the quenching of spiritual light. It is vain, therefore, to look for wisdom among those that live in luxury and abundance: "Wisdom is not found in the land of them that live in delight." (Job, xxviii, 18.) Moreover intemperance, by exciting a wild gaiety, often provokes bickering’s and dissensions, and it is a known fact that gluttony takes a greater toll of human lives than does disease. But what is still worse, intemperance excites in man all kinds of impure thoughts, which find vent in words, gestures and actions contrary to holy modesty; it hardens the heart and prepares the way to eternal perdition.
THE Church teaches us that the Christian must all submit in expiation of our sins. Our divine Redeemer Himself impressed upon us this great truth when He said: "Unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish." (Luke xiii. 3.)
The object of penance is, in the first place, to lead us to refrain ourselves, in so far as reason and faith demand, from the inordinate desire of sensual pleasure, to which our fallen nature is inclined. So strong is this inclination, that we are ever in danger of falling into the slough of vice. How many Christians, alas, by following their unbridled imagination, lose both soul and body together!
Wherefore, Holy Church imposes upon us the obligation of fasting, putting us in mind of the advantages which accrue from this salutary penance to which we practice. Fasting, in effect, "represses vices, raises our thoughts heavenward, makes easy the practice of virtue, and is a constant source of merit." (Preface for Lent.)
As Mary was not tainted with original sin, she did not experience in herself this disorderly proneness to the pleasures of sense, the baneful consequence of the sin of our first parents. Being full of grace, she maintained always the just balance of the powers of her soul. She performed all her actions with ease and delight, not having to use violence with herself, in order to preserve that even poise of the faculties, which reason arid the law of God demand. Nevertheless, Mary subjected herself willingly to the law of penance and mortification, denying herself those. Her life was one long series of privations and self-denials. Her fasting and abstinence was continual. She only allowed herself what was necessary to maintain life. She mortified all her senses, so that it was hard to say in what particular kind of mortification she excelled, in modesty of the eyes, in lowliness of demeanor, in the sparingness of her words or in the dignity of her gestures. It was natural, then, that her Heavenly Bridegroom should find in her all His delight. And as the fruit of this temperance, Mary acquired an extraordinary facility in conversing familiarly with her Well-Beloved, a heavenly joy which was depicted on her countenance, a virginal beauty which radiated from her whole presence, a something so indescribably sweet and majestic, that it gave to her an aspect rather divine than human: "How beautiful art thou my love, how beautiful art thou! Thine eyes are as doves' eyes, besides what is hid within!" (Cant. iv, 1.)
Read: Have you blessed your Christmas tree yet? Prepare to do so before Advent is over.
Reflect: "To be fully a disciple of Jesus means not only accepting and believing his message, but also taking up and participating in the mission of encountering and inviting others to join our pilgrim journey to his heavenly kingdom."
Pray: Add this "O Antiphon" to your daily or meal-time prayer today: "O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!" (Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, Revised Edition, 77)
Act: Pope Francis said of evangelization: "It is not the mission of only a few, but it is mine, yours and our mission." Carry the lessons learned about evangelization into the Christmas season and beyond.
· Decide which Mass you will attend tomorrow.
The Three Feasts of the Nativity
When we celebrate Christmas, we are commemorating the three nativities of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the reason for the three Masses celebrated. The first is the eternal begetting of God the Son from all eternity within the mystery of the Blessed Trinity by the Father, “You are My Son. Today I have begotten You.”
· This FIRST NATIVITY was before the seven days of Creation, when everything was darkness. This is why the first Mass is at midnight to recall the darkness that prevailed during that first eternal birth of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
o The first nativity reminds us of the Spirit of poverty, the Spirit that tells us that all the things God created is His, to be used for His glory and not for man’s enjoyment. Even man was to use himself for the glory of God. This represents the six days of creation. If Adam, being the head of creation, had observed the spirit of poverty and used all of creation for the glory of God, then he would have entered into the Sabbath, God’s rest… i.e. eternal happiness. But Adam messed up everything. And the consequence: the whole of mankind could not enter God’s rest.
· The SECOND NATIVITY, or birth, of the Second Person of the Trinity is commemorated on Christmas day when He became man, born of the Virgin Mary, in Bethlehem. For the world, the darkness was beginning to be dispelled. This is why the second Mass is celebrated at dawn when the dawn is beginning to dispel the darkness.
o The second nativity reminds us of the Spirit of chastity. That Spirit reminds us to give up all physical comforts, pleasure and conveniences. And Christ in the manger is a clear example of this. It is a continuous reminder that true happiness can only be found in God and that we are on earth to seek God. All the rest will come with that find. True rest can only be found in God.
· The THIRD NATIVITY of Christ is when He is born in our souls, through His in-dwelling, when man, through grace, becomes enlightened. Thus, the third Mass is celebrated during the day when the sun is bright. For man is truly enlightened when he has Christ in his soul.
o The third nativity reminds us of the Spirit of obedience. It is only when we can say, “Not my will but Your will be done,” can Christ be born in our souls. The apostolic commission at the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel reiterates this, reminding us of the role of the Church and the men of the Church: “… teach all My commands and how to observe them.”
Christmas reminds us of one lesson. Christ was born to die. For us the message is clear. We are born to die to oneself. And to die to oneself means reaching a point in our lives when we no longer do our own will but the will of the Father in heaven. This is to lose one’s life in order to find it. If we have learned the lessons of the first nativity, if we have learned the lesson of the second nativity, our reward is the third nativity, when Christ is born in our souls…. indeed, our eternal Christmas. This is truly a Merry Christmas.
— Excerpted from Fr. Odon de Castro, Bo. San Isidro, Magalang, Pampanga, Philippines