Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas and Imitating Mary in Her Spiritual Maternity

But no member of the human race is excluded from the honour of imitating Mary, though at a humble distance, in this her spiritual Maternity: for, by that real birth which she gave him in Bethlehem, which we are now celebrating, and which initiated the world into the mysteries of God, this ever Blessed Mother of Jesus has shown us how we may bear the resemblance of her own grand prerogative. We ought to have prepared the way of the Lord during the weeks of Advent; and if so, our hearts have conceived him: therefore now our good works must bring him forth, that thus our heavenly Father, seeing not us ourselves, but his own Son Jesus now living within us, may say of each of us, in his mercy, what he heretofore said in very truth of the Incarnate Word: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Let us give ear to the words of the Seraphic St. Bonaventure, who in one of his sermons for Christmas Day thus explains the mystery of the birth of Jesus in the soul of man:

This happy birth happens when the soul, prepared by long thought and reflection, passes at length to action; when the flesh being made subject to the spirit, good works are produced in due time: then do interior peace and joy return to the soul. In this birth there is neither travail nor pain nor fear; everything is admiration and delight and glory. If then, O devout soul, thou art desirous for this birth, imagine thyself to be like Mary! Mary signifies bitterness; bitterly bewail thy sins: it signifies illumatrix; be thou illumined by thy virtues: and lastly, it signifies Mistress; learn how to be mistress and controller of thy evil passions. Then will Christ be born of thee, and oh, with what happiness to thyself! For it is then that the soul tastes and sees how sweet is her Lord Jesus. She experiences this sweetness when, in holy mediation, she nourishes this Divine Infant; when she covers him with her tears; when she clothes him with her holy longings; when she presses him to her heart in the embrace of holy tenderness; when, in a word, she cherishes him in the warmth of her glowing love. O happy Crib of Bethlehem, in thee I find the King of glory! But happier still than thou, the pious soul which holds within itself him whom thou couldst hold but corporally!

Now that we may pass on from this spiritual conception to the birth of our Lord Jesus; in other words, that we may pass from Advent to Christmas, we must unceasingly keep the eyes of our soul on him who wishes to be born within us, and in whom the world is born to a new life. Our study and ambition should be, how best to become like Jesus, by imitating him; for, though the imitation must needs be imperfect, yet we know from the Apostle that our heavenly Father himself gives this as the sign of the elect—that they are made like to the image of his Son.