Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Venerable Bede on the Mystery of Christmas - From the Monastic Breviary

Matins for the fifth day in the Octave of Christmas in the Monastic Breviary has the following lesson, from Saint Bede the Venerable. It is a commentary on the Gospel reading for Christmas itself, which is repeated today. St. Bede reflects on the response of the shepherds to the exhortation of the angel to seek out the newborn Infant Christ. The liturgy for today here reminds us that, by it, we participate in the sacred mystery of Christmas by going, like the shepherds, to seek Christ Himself, to strain for the vision of what we have believed through hearing. The liturgy is a contemplative endeavor; it approaches beatitude itself, through the medium of the mysteries of Christ's humanity. 
With happy joy, indeed, did these shepherds hasten to see that which they had heard, and because they instantly sought the Savior with an ardent and faithful love, they merited to find Him whom they sought. But they also have shown by their words as well as by their deeds with what effort of mind the shepherds of intelligent flocks, yea, all the faithful must seek Christ. "Let us go over to Bethlehem," they say, "and let us see the word that is come to pass." Therefore, dearest brethren, let us also go over in thought to Bethlehem, the city of David, and in love recall to our minds that there the Word was made flesh, and let us celebrate His Incarnation with honors worthy of Him. Having thrown off carnal desires, let us with all the desire of our mind go over to the heavenly Bethlehem, that is, the house of living bread, not made by hands, but eternal in heaven, and in love let us recall that the Word was made flesh. Thither He has ascended in the flesh; there He sits on the right hand of God the Father. Let us follow Him with the whole force of our strength and by careful mortification of heart and body let us merit to see Him reigning on the throne of His Father, Him whom they saw crying in the manger. 
"And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the Infant lying in the manger." The shepherds came in haste and found God born as man, together with the ministers of His nativity. Let us hasten too, my brethren, not with footsteps, but by the advances of good words, to see the same glorified humanity together with the same ministers remunerated with a reward worthy of their services; let us hasten to see Him refulgent with the divine Majesty of His Father and of Himself. Let us hasten, I say, for such happiness is not to be sought with sloth and torpor, but the footsteps of Christ must be eagerly followed. For, offering His hand, He desires to help our course and delights to hear from us: "Draw us, we will run after thee in the odor of thy ointments." Therefore, let us follow swiftly with strides of virtue that we may merit to possess. Let no one be tardy in converting to the Lord; let no one put it off from day to day; let us beseech Him through all things and before all things that He direct our steps according to His word and let not injustice dominate over us.  
"And seeing, they understood the word that had been spoken to them concerning this Child." Let us also, most dearly beloved brethren, hasten in the meantime to perceive by a loving faith and to embrace with complete love those things that are said to us concerning our Savior, true God and Man, so that by this we may be able to comprehend Him perfectly in the future vision of knowledge. For this is the only and the true life of the blessed, not only of men, but even of the angels, to look continually upon the face of their Creator, which was so ardently desired by the Psalmist who said: "My soul hath thirsted after the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?" The Psalmist has shown that the vision of Him alone, and no abundance of the things of earth, could satisfy his desire when he said: "I shall be satisfied when thy glory shall appear." But since neither the idle nor the slothful, but those who perspire in works of virtue, are worthy of divine contemplation, he carefully premised these words: "But as for me, I will appear before thy sight in justice."

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