15 December 2008

Fatherly Wisdom-Why Christ Came

As we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation and Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, this little bit from Bernard of Clairvaux goes to the heart of the celebration:
"See," says the Prophet, "the name of the Lord coming from afar." Who could doubt it? Something tremendous was needed in the beginning if the majesty of God was to deign to come down from such a distance, for a sojourn so unworthy of it.

There was, indeed, something tremendous about it; great mercy, immense compassion, abundant charity. For what purpose do we believe Christ came? We shall find it without difficulty, since his words and his acts clearly reveal to us the reason for his coming.

It is to search for the hundredth lost sheep that he came down in all haste from the mountains. He came because of us, so that the mercies of the Lord might be revealed with greater clarity, and his wonderful works for humankind. What amazing condescension on the part of God, who searches for us, and what great dignity bestowed on the one thus sought!

If we want to glory in it, we can quite reasonably do so, not because we can be anything in ourselves, but because he who created us has made us of such great worth. Indeed, all the riches and glory of this world, and all that one could wish for in it, is a very small thing and even nothing, in comparison with this glory. "What are we that you make much of us, or pay us any heed?"

But then again, I should like to know why he determined to come among us himself and why it was not, rather, we who went to him. For it is our benefit which is concerned. And, what is more, it is not the custom of the rich to go to the poor, even if it is their intention to do something for them.

It was, therefore, really our responsibility to go to Jesus: but a double obstacle prevented it. For our eyes were blind, and he dwells in inaccessible light. We were lying paralyzed on our pallet, incapable of reaching the greatness of God.

That is why, in his immense goodness, our Savior, the doctor of our souls, came down from his great height and tempered for our sick eyes the dazzling brightness of his glory. He clothed himself, as it were, with a lantern, with that luminous body, I mean, free from every stain, which he put on.

There we see that swift and brilliant cloud on which, the Prophet had foretold, he would ride to come down to Egypt. (Sermon 1 for Advent 7-8; cited from Wright, Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church, p. 18-19)

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