The CAPG's Blog
In His Circumcision Jesus Christ Exhibits three testimonies of His Priesthood
*' That the Child should be circumcised. "St. Luke it 21.
I. As a Master Of Truth.
II. As the Expiator of our Sins.
III. As the Sanctifier of Souls.
1. Jesus Christ was born, and appeared in the world, as He said of Himself, to "give testimony to the truth" (St. John xviii. 37); and in causing Himself to be circumcised, He began to give this testimony in the clearest manner, by manifesting Himself as the Supreme Truth. He showed that He had true human flesh, in order to confound the heretics of future ages, particularly the Manichean, who attributed to Him a spectral body; the Apollinarians, who imagined His Body to be con-substantial with His Divinity; and the Valentinians, who believed it to be a body brought down from heaven. Moreover, it certified Him to be a true son of Abraham, who received the precept of circumcision as a sign of his faith in the future Messiah. Thus, as St. Thomas says, did He confirm the promises made to the Holy Fathers. Finally He declared another most important truth, to wit, that we must observe the law, for this is the one way of salvation; therefore, as Venerable Bede observes, He would be circumcised precisely on the eighth day, as the law prescribed. In this manner did it become our High Priest to appear as a Master of truth, and it becomes us, His Ministers, to be likewise masters of truth. For this end He has given us in our ordination the Paraclete, who is "the Spirit of Truth," and who " teaches all truth" (St. John xvi. 13). Let us then guard against lying, for lies in a priest's mouth would be shameful. How well did the Apostle fulfill his ministry, from whose lips issued the words: "I say the truth, I lie not" (1 Tim. ii. 7). Moreover, let us teach the truth to the faithful, for it will deliver them from all evil: "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (St. John viii. 32). Let us endeavor to make them walk in the way of truth, that is, in the way of justice, for with St. John, we can "have no greater grace than this," to hear that our " children walk in truth" (3 St. John v. 4), and so shall we and they behold and enjoy the Eternal Truth in Heaven.
2. Jesus Christ was to save His people by the remission of their sins: "For He shall save His people from their sins" (St. Matt. i. 21); but there could never have been such remission without shedding of blood: "without shedding of blood there is no remission" (Heb. ix. 22). Therefore in His Circumcision Jesus Christ shed His first blood, which was as it were the prelude and earnest of the rest, which was shed even to the last drop in His Passion. A holy writer calls it "the Prelude of His future Passion and Death," and St. Bernard says He showed therein His great haste to take our sorrows; He showed Himself ready to shed His Blood for us. This first blood-shedding was exceedingly painful, humiliating, and grievous to Him. It was exceedingly painful, because, unlike other children, He had the full use of reason, and He did not distract Himself from feeling the pain, but, on the contrary, engrossed Himself with it, in order to suffer all its bitterness. Moreover, as St . Thomas says, His Body, being the perfect work of the Holy Ghost, was especially sensitive and delicate. Then, again, it was exceedingly humiliating because, as St. Thomas again says, circumcision was the remedy for original sin, and therefore it was a mark of shame, indicating the appearance of sinful flesh in the Holy of Holies. Finally, it was most grievous to Him, because it bound Him to the observance of the whole Law of Moses, which was a heavy yoke: "I testify again to every man circumcising himself, that he is a debtor to do the whole law" (Gal. v. 3). He observed this Law exactly, and bore its yoke even to His Last Supper, in order to relieve His followers from it: "made under the law, that He might redeem them who were under the law" (Gal. iv. 5). Thus has He taught His Ministers to shrink from no sufferings, humiliations, or burdens whatsoever when the welfare, of the Church is in question. Many, on this account, have offered themselves to God as victims for the people, and "in the time of wrath have made themselves means of reconciliation" (Eccles. xliv. 17). They have been severe to themselves, but to their people full of that charity which is "patient, is kind," which "beareth all things . . . endureth all things" (1 Cor. xiii. 4, 7). Are we ^like these? Do we desire to imitate Jesus Christ? Let us love the little Child of Bethlehem circumcised for us, and so shall we feel ourselves moved to imitate Him.
3. The Holy Child was circumcised in order to operate in us a spiritual circumcision; that is, as St . Thomas says, He took upon Himself the figure in order to accomplish the reality in us. Further, Origen observes, that Christ being our Head, even as we died in His Death, and rose again in His Resurrection, so were we spiritually circumcised when the flesh of our Head was circumcised. Therefore the Apostle tells us: "In Him you are circumcised, with circumcision not made with hand in despoiling of the body of the flesh," but, by the mystery of the Circumcision operating spiritually in you, "in the Circumcision of Christ" (Col. ii. 11). A sign in the flesh was given to the Jews, who were a carnal people, but they often remained " uncircumcised in heart and ears" (Acts vii. 51). Christians, on the contrary, ought to experience a circumcision in the heart, in the putting off of the old generation, of the old man and his deeds, that is to say, of all that belongs to our sinful origin; and in this putting off, as St. Thomas says, sanctity consists. Let us then meditate how Jesus Christ by that painful wound, by the Blood which He then shed, wrought the salvation of souls. Let us carefully examine our hearts that we may see whether they are circumcised, or whether passions are still alive in them impelling us to evil. Let us remember that the priests of Christ are the ministers of spiritual circumcision, as the priests of the line of Aaron were the ministers of carnal circumcision. Christ was circumcised by one of them, or by some Levite in the stable. Let us therefore endeavor to minister it to others, not only by word but by example, and let us pray to our Divine Lord, that, by the virtue of this His Most Precious Blood He would despoil us of the desires of the flesh, and make us live according to the Spirit.
"Turn away my reproach which I have apprehended, for Thy judgments are delightful."—Ps. cxviii. 39.
"Thou hast redeemed us to God in Thy Blood."—Apoc. v. 9.
Source: Meditations for the use of the clergy, for every day in the year ..., Volume 1 By Angelo Agostino Scotti (abp. of Thessalonica.)
Decorum in Church
When you enter the church, go to your place as quietly as possible. Some people make a great deal of noise in getting in their seats. This is calculated to disturb the congregation, and is exceedingly unbecoming. The church is the temple of the living God, not merely because it is dedicated to his service, but because he dwells therein. The very walls of is are sanctified. It is at all times holy, and is therefore always to be entered with the respect due to the house of God. "The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him."
Do not walk up the aisles with an air of pride, such as the people of the world may put on in a ballroom. You may be regarded by the world as rich, intelligent, and accomplished; in the church, you are a poor, blind, and sinful being, and should come in all humility to implore the grace and mercy of God.
It is still more necessary to observe these rules, if you enter the church after Mass has commenced. If you happen to enter during the elevation or communion, kneel by the door, and remain there during the more solemn parts of the Mass; you can afterward retire quietly to your place.
You should assist with attention at the holy Sacrifice. When you are not reading your prayer-book, keep your eyes fixed on the altar on which that adorable Sacrifice is offered, and never gaze around in the church.
Do not leave the church until the priest is retiring from the altar to the sacristy. Those who are the last to come to it, and the first to rush out of the church, seldom derive any benefit from Mass, and often do not hear it properly. The practice of all pious Catholics is, to spend some time after Mass in thanksgiving.
Do not remain standing before the church, as if you had no other object in coming than to see and be seen. If you have time before Mass, say the Rosary, or the Stations of the Cross; employ the time in spiritual reading, or in adoring Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Remember what those who have gone before you in the faith endured that they might be present at the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and reflect with what attention and piety they must have assisted at it. During the early persecutions, no churches could be built. The divine mysteries could not be celebrated anywhere in public. The faithful were compelled to go into subterranean vaults, called catacombs, where Mass was offered on the tombs of martyrs. The candles we burn on our altars remind us of those days, and of the brightness of faith that made them days, not of mourning, but of joy.
To assist properly at Mass is one of the most important acts of Christian life; and hence the Church declares it to be mortal sin to neglect to hear Mass on Sundays or Holydays.
A Sign of Contradiction - A token of Victory
— Luke ii, 33, 34.
Some people tell us that truth prevails only when it succumbs. Nothing in the world encounters so much opposition as truth. Falsehood is more to the world's taste, and meets therefore with less antagonism, whilst it more readily finds admirers and adherents ; but truth has always aroused hostility, and no one ever aroused such bitter enmity as did He who is Truth itself — our Lord Jesus Christ. In today's gospel we have a true account of the antagonism that He was to encounter.
There is in my possession a very beautiful picture, copied from a work of one of the greatest modern painters. It represents our Saviour surrounded by women, and His holy Mother kneeling at the foot of her Son's Cross. From His sacred Body a ray of light falls upon her face, revealing her expression of profound love and sorrow. She was His Mother, and therefore loved Him more in tensely than any other human being could do ; and for this very season she also suffered more intensely, and was indeed the Mater dolorosa. Grief pierced her heart like a sword when Christ hung dying in token of the violent hostility provoked against Him, who was the Truth. Well might aged Simeon have called Him "a sign that shall be contradicted !"
Have those who contradicted Him secured a final triumph ? The Jews crucified Him, but have they retained the victory? Are they not scattered over the whole world as an unhappy nation, that can call no country its own? Have the pagans gained the day, who shared in the most horrible crime ever committed, the murder of the Son of God? No, we all know that paganism did not conquer.
It arrayed all its forces against our Lord and His few followers, and against the gospel which it treated with scorn and contempt; but ever since that time paganism has been decaying, and it is destined to vanish altogether before the victorious advance of Christianity.
It is true that Christ is still a sign which is contradicted, even among Christian nations, and in the world there are many who profess to be Christians whilst they actually deny God and Christ. The wicked prosper, but it benefits them little that their blossom appears good if their fruit is evil, for the latter is far more important than the former. If agnosticism and the denial of Christianity are ultimately to triumph, their fruit must be good, and their opposition to Christ must have power to render men happy in life and in death — otherwise it would not really prevail. At the same
time, and for the same reason, it must be able to make men better ; but can anyone honestly and conscientiously assert that agnosticism makes its adherents better men and women than Christians are?
No! Of course I do not mean to say that every agnostic is a wicked or vicious person; he may not only have a good side, but possess great qualities, and be a most respectable member of society. We are not called upon to judge individuals, for that is not our affair but God's, who alone can penetrate the heart and read the inner thoughts and intentions of man. The question with which we are concerned is : "Can agnosticism make men better ? Are agnostics as a rule better than other people?" Certainly agnosticism as such is incapable of rendering us better. There are several kinds of agnostics, but we may say of them all that they either deny the existence of God, or say that, if there is a God, He cannot be in communication with us, nor speak with us, nor give us any definite commandments and precepts. Most agnostics hold that they are bound to lead moral lives, but must impose upon themselves the commandments of morality, since no Divine authority capable of imposing them can be proved to exist. Therefore, in their opinion, we have in ourselves all moral authority, and there is no absolute supreme Judge, to whom we shall have to give an account; every one is responsible only to his own conscience. Hence many modern agnostics deny all responsibility for evil, and regard it as a disease which we cannot avoid. Can such a doctrine have any moral weight? Is it likely to make men better? It denies the existence of our supreme Lawgiver and Judge, and destroys all sense of responsibility either to God or to ourselves. We need not hesitate to say that agnosticism can never improve us.
But, we may be told that the experience of life sometimes proves men to have become better in consequence of adopting agnosticism. We are not concerned with individuals, but may ask in general terms: Are Christians inferior to the crowds who never enter a church, and who devote Sunday either to work or to worldly amusements? They live for earthly riches, earthly joys and earthly honors; they fancy that they can think, speak and act as they will, without Incurring any responsibility to almighty God, and without any prospect of a judgment to decide their lot in the future life.
We need not condemn individuals, but every Christian is aware that, in order to be truly good, a man must know that there is a God, to whom he must one day give account for his actions, and who will eventually be his Judge.
If agnosticism, the denial of Christianity, is to prevail in the end, it must have power to make men happy, happier than they were when they believed in Christ. Is this possible? If happiness consisted in money, honors, luxury, art and science, we might be told that agnosticism could rival Christianity in teaching men how to acquire it. But all these things are powerless to give happiness unless
they are accompanied by peace of heart. What does it profit a man to possess the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul? True happiness consists in peace of heart, and agnosticism cannot give us this in life, still less in death. It cannot enable us to face death with the peaceful anticipation and joyful hope displayed by the two aged people in today's gospel. No peace is possible for
one who does not know where to find forgiveness for his sins. Here we have the great defect of agnosticism; it points out no way of peace, because it recognizes no way to forgiveness ; it knows nothing of the Saviour of sinners or of the God of mercy.
How, then, can contradiction and opposition triumph over Jesus Christ if it cannot make us better, nor give us real happiness in life and in death? It's victory is purely imaginary, or rather it is the outcome of a great and fatal falsehood.
II. The token of victory. — "Thou hast triumphed, O Galilean!" These are said to have been the last words uttered by Julian the Apostate, after the failure of his attempt to revive paganism. They express the involuntary testimony borne by the ancient world to the fact that the sign of contradiction has become the token of victory even in this world.
In proof of this assertion we may refer to the triumph of the Cross in every age; first under the Roman Empire, when, in spite of furious persecutions, the Church arose victorious after apparent defeat. We may refer to the benefits that have invariably followed the preaching of the gospel; Christianity delivered slaves from bondage, and women from their position of inferiority; it dispelled the darkness of sin and ignorance, and spread abroad light, civilization and knowledge. It inspired artists to produce their finest works ; it gave freedom to the human intellect, and afforded a solid moral foundation for legislation and civil order. In fact, it would be true to say that all that is good, strong, and noble in our present civilized existence, is due to the spirit of Christianity. This is weighty evidence in support of our assertion that the sign of contradiction has become the token of victory. Yet let me rather refer to something quite different, viz., to the two aged persons of whom we read in today's gospel. How good they were ! Simeon was just and God-fearing, whilst Anna served God day and night. They were good because they were so pious, and therefore they were happy. Anna "confessed to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel" — no doubt she spoke out of the fullness of her heart, and was very happy. And Simeon said: "My eyes have seen Thy salvation." Hence he enjoyed happiness during his earthly life, and spoke of his approaching death in terms very unlike those used by worldlings : "Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word In peace." The prospect of death was to him a source of happiness. But why were they so glad? Because they believed in Him for whom they had longed as the Redemption and glory of Israel — though the world would speak against Him.
Surely this is evidence enough to prove that the sign of contradiction became the token of victory; for Simeon and Anna represent a vast host of men, women and children who have triumphed through their faith in Jesus Christ, overcoming sin, death and Satan. Their faith has made them good and happy in this life, and has enabled them to depart hence in peace. Therefore cease to contradict your Saviour, and have faith in Him, if you would be happy in life and in death.
The Memory of these martyrs teaches us that persecutions suffered by the priesthood are precious
"Then Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the Wise Men, was exceeding angry, and sending, killed all the men children,"
I. When They Are Raised Against The Innocent.
II. When They Proceed From Hatred To Christ.
III. When They Are Borne In Defense Of Christ.
1. Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the Wise Men. The Magi might appear culpable in the eyes of Herod for not having made known to him the abode of the Child, as he had enjoined them; but these children neither had committed, nor could have committed, any fault whatever; so that St. Augustine puts these words in the mouths of the mothers :. "If it is a crime it is mine; if it is not, deliver us."
Herod therefore was unjustly enraged against them. In like manner, when persecutors have no just ground of complaint against Priests; when they are "innocent and upright" (Ps. xxiv. 21); when their imprudence has not excited persecution (for it often happens that " the tongue of the fool is his ruin," Eccl. v. 15), let them not grieve; the wrong rests with their enemies. Let them, on the contrary, rest in tranquillity of conscience, and say with the Apostle: "I rejoice in my sufferings " (Col. i. 24); let them remember that they have a share in the eighth Beatitude: "Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" (St. Matt. v. 10). St. Chrysostom, commenting on this passage, observes that our Savior does not name the persons who persecute, but only the motive for persecution, "for justice' sake;" whether you are persecuted by idolaters, or by heretics, or by Christians whom you have perhaps corrected for their faults, if it is for justice' sake, your advantage is the same. Therefore consider not who persecutes you, but why you are persecuted. Let Priests remember that they are the ministers of Him Who said, "They have hated Me without cause " (St . John xv. 25) ; that many of their predecessors have sung with the Prophet, "Princes have persecuted Me with out cause" (Ps. cxviii. 161); and that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. iii. 12). Priests are more exposed to such persecution than other men, because they are "set up a wall for the House of Israel" (Ezekiel xiii. 5), which the enemies of the City assail. By Thy help, O my God, make me "a wall of iron" (Ezekiel iv. 3).
2. He was exceeding angry. The wrath and hatred of Herod were not, says St. Leo, directed against the children for their own sake, but for the sake of the Messiah, whom he sought to destroy in the cradle; and therefore they died martyrs, and are venerated as such by Holy Church. For which reason, observes St . Augustine, no honor shown them by the tyrant could have profited them so greatly as did his hatred. In like manner Priests are often objects of the hatred of unbelievers, because these men hate Christ and His Gospel, His Church and His Heavenly Father. He forewarned His Priests of this when He ordained them, saying, your enemies "have hated both Me and My Father" (St. John xv. 24); and remember that "if the world hate you, know you that it hath hated Me before you" (ib. 18); and it hates you precisely "because . . I have chosen you out of the world" (ib. 19); and as this hatred was the cause " that they have persecuted Me," so will it be the cause that " they will also persecute you" (ib. 20). Therefore let us arm ourselves with these forewarning, let us fear the love of the world more than its hatred, and let us not flatter ourselves that the world can love the members whilst it hates the Head. As St. Augustine says, we ought, for the love of Christ, to endure the hatred of the world along with our Head. Let us pray to God to give us patience and courage under the persecutions to which He shall see fit to subject us, and may all Priests who in any part of the world are now suffering the persecutions of the wicked, by His grace triumph over them; and we and they shall owe our eternal blessedness to those very persecutions.
3. Killed all the men children. The Innocents, by their death, saved the life of the Divine Child, for the tyrant, believing Him to be included in the general massacre, no longer sought Him. Moreover they proclaimed the name of the new-born King, "not by speaking, but by dying;" for, as St. Leo says, this atrocious act caused His birth to be made known even in the Capital of the World, where a foundation was thus laid for the promulgation of the Gospel. Priests are in like manner often persecuted for defending Christ; and here let us recollect that he who defends the truth, defends Christ, for He said: "I am . . . the Truth" (St. John xiv. 6). He who defends Wisdom, Justice, or .any other Virtue, defends Christ, for He is Wisdom itself, Justice itself, Virtue itself. "He is made unto us of God, wisdom, and justice " (1 Cor. i. 30); "Christ the power of God" (1 Cor. i. 24); "He who defends the Church defends Christ, for He is the Head of the Church" (Eph. v. 23). Blessed, then, are we if in such a cause we suffer calumny, sarcasm, oppression, or even death. St. Ambrose tells us that there is nothing we should fear so much, that nothing is so dangerous before God, and contemptible before men, as silence when it is our duty to denounce sin.
"In God I have put my trust, I will not fear what flesh can do against me." —Ps. lv. II.
"Thou deliverest them that wait for Thee, O Lord, and savest them out of the hands of the nations."—Eccles. li. 12.
O Love of the Sacred Heart
I rise from dreams of time
And an angel guides my feet
To the Sacred Altar-throne,
Where Jesus' Heart doth beat.
The lone lamp softly burns,
And a wondrous silence reigns,
Only with a low still voice
The Holy One complains:
"Long! long, I've waited here,
And though thou heed'st not Me,
The Heart of God's own Son,
Beats ever on for thee."
In the womb of Mary meek,
In the cradle, on the tree,
Heart of pure undying love,
It lived, loved, bled for me.
Ever pleading, day and night,
Thou canst not from us part;
O veiled and wondrous Son
O love of the Sacred Heart.
How Bright will be the Splendor of the Indelible Character of Order in Holy Priests
- Because this is the only dignity which will remain in that Day.
- Because it will shine, not only in the soul, but also in the body
- Because it will then be given in recompense for the endurance of past reproaches.
When these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand."—St. Luke xxi. 28.
1. Look up. Behold, O Priests, in the last great day, the extinction of all dignities. Now, the great ones of this world die, but greatness dies not; sovereigns die, but sovereignty lives on, for, as one prince dies, another succeeds him; hence the wise man beheld the great of the earth hunted and trodden down by those who came after them: "I saw all men living, that walk under the sun, with the second young man who shall rise up in his place" (Eccles. iv. 15). Then greatness itself, sovereignty itself, shall vanish, and Jesus Christ shall appear, in His full power, the only Great One, the only and sovereign Lord. "Great is our Lord, and great is His power" (Ps. cxlvi. 5). Magistrates, princes, emperors, will sleep the sleep of death, and in the resurrection no remains of authority will be found in their hands: "They have slept their sleep, and all the men of riches have found nothing in their hands " (Ps. lxxv. 6). They were great as long as the scene of their life was on this world's stage; but, as St. Paul says to the Corinthians (i vii. 31)," The fashion of this world passeth away." But it is not so with Priests: their character is indelible; their dignity alone will remain to all eternity, and be resplendent in the face of the universe. If it remain indelible for the punishment of the reprobate, it will equally remain indelible for the recompense of the elect, as says St. Augustine. And, as he says again, when Jesus Christ our Lord comes to judgment, He will not efface His own character in His ministers.
2. And lift up your heads. Then holy Priests will lift up their sacred heads—those heads which had received the imposition of hands—they will raise them out of the dust of the tomb, in which their natural body was sown, "to be raised a spiritual body," as says St. Paul (i Cor. xv.); that is, they will be endowed with the gifts meet for a spiritual body. They themselves will see, and the world will see, their dignity. The sacerdotal character will be resplendent even in their bodies; for, as St. Thomas teaches, the glory of the body will be caused by the glory of the soul, and this glory will be spiritual in the soul, and corporeal in the body; and the greater the glory of the soul, the greater will be the glory of the body. Those members will be more especially resplendent which were employed in the functions of the ministry, which nourished men daily with the Flesh of Jesus Christ, and which preserved holy chastity in the midst of temptation. Hence it was that the first Priests of the New Testament groaned within themselves, "waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of their bodies" (Rom. viii. 23). Then shall their voices be raised to praise God, those voices which glorified Him during their mortal life; and with their bodily eyes shall they see the glory of their divine Head. For as Isaias says (lii. 8), "the voice of thy watchmen: they have lifted up their voice, they shall praise together: for they shall see eye to eye." May these considerations aid us to keep our bodies in sanctity and honor; let us not abandon them to corruption and concupiscence: "in sanctification and honor, not in the passion of lust" (1 Thess.lv. 4, 5)
3. Because your redemption is at hand. Then, O Priests, shall you be freed from the calumnies of the world, and your prayer, "Redeem me from the calumnies of men" (Ps. cxviii. 134), will be fully answered. The world knew not Christ; it despised Him and calumniated Him: neither does the world recognize the dignity of His Priests; it despises them and calumniates them:"We are without honor . . . even unto this hour" (1 Cor. iv.10, n). But then the scene will change, and the world will see, as says St . Prosper, that Priests were the ornament of the Church; that, as St . Augustine says, they were angelical men; that, as St . Clement says, they were, after God, terrestrial gods. St. Cyril remarks that God ordered Moses to number the people in order to show that He kept His elect numbered in the book of life; but He ordered the Levites to be numbered apart, in order to show that Priests are written down in other books. So does this holy father explain the prophecy of Daniel, "The judgment sat and the books were opened " (Dan. vii. 10). Then shall worldly men behold with the dark envious eyes of Aman how the King of kings causes His Mordechais to be honored: "thus shall he be honored whom the king hath a mind to honor" (Esther vi. 9). Let us then bear injuries with meekness, let us bear labors with patience, and all the trials to which it is the will of our King to expose us, with the certain hope of future happiness. The day will come when God will recompense us for all we have suffered. Let us not lose our confidence in God, which will have a great reward; rather let us revive it during this holy season of Advent, which brings to our remembrance the mercies of our Savior.
"Judge my judgment and redeem me: quicken Thou me for Thy word's sake."—Ps. cxviii. 154.
"O Lord, have mercy on us; for we have waited for Thee."—Is. xxxiii. 2.
The Shepherds, in receiving the Angel’s tidings, were a figure of watchful priests
I. They Were The First To Be Called.
II. They Were The First To Be Enlightened.
III. They Were The First To Be Comforted.
"And there were in the same country, shepherds watching, and keeping the night-watches over their flock. And behold an Angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them, and they feared with a great fear: and the Angel said to them: Fear not."—St. Luke ii. 8, 9, 10.
1. And behold an Angel of the Lord stood by them. The shepherds who kept watch over their flocks by night, were a figure of Priests, who, as St. Ambrose says, in the night time of this present life sleep not, but watch in order to guard the souls committed to their care from the assaults of their spiritual enemies; and it was fitting, as St. Ambrose says further, "that shepherds should be found watching, and that they should be the first to receive the Heavenly Tidings, that He, the Good Shepherd, the Pattern of Shepherds, was born." Therefore all Priests who teach or direct souls, should remember that they especially are called upon to adore the new-born Child. Venerable Bede says, "Mystically speaking, they signify the pastors of the flock, teachers also, and rulers of faithful souls." Let us then be the first at the manger; let us contemplate this great mystery; let us be the first to attract the glance of the Divine Child, and let us melt into tears of tenderness, love, and compunction. He says to us: Come, make haste, and buy of Me without price, at the expense of only asking, the wine of strength, and the milk of consolation: "Come, make haste, buy wine and milk . . . without any price" (Isa. lv. 1). "Come, eat My Flesh, and drink My Blood; this is your food, this is your drink, and therefore am I born in Bethlehem," that is, in " the House of Bread." "Come eat My bread, and drink the wine which I have mingled for you" (Prov. ix. 5). Come, you who are afflicted with misery, oppressed by the weight of your ministry. "Come to me all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you" (St. Matt. xi. 28). Let us go, then; "let us go over to Bethlehem," let us imitate the shepherds, who came with haste, and let us be the first to offer tribute to the new-born Monarch; for the princes of the people ought to go before the people in their acts of homage.
2. And the brightness of God shone round about them. The light which shone round about the shepherds is an image of the divine light with which worthy ministers of God are invested; and, as St. Gregory says, the greater their vigilance for the salvation of souls, the greater will be the light of grace which enlightens them; and the more solicitous they are for the welfare of their flocks, so much the more will they merit to understand divine truths better than others. God, who predestined us to the priesthood, Who enlightened us with His heavenly light from our earliest years, and gave us a clearer knowledge of His Son than He gave to the rest of the Faithful: "He hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus" (2 Cor. iv. 6). When we studied Dogmatic Theology, we learned the treatise, De Incarnatione, in order that the sublime teaching of this great mystery might be impressed on our minds; we have often instructed the ignorant in it, we have confuted unbelievers, we have defended its truth. One step more remains for us to take, and it is this; to nourish our minds and hearts with the Faith and sound doctrine, by imploring the descent of the divine light into our souls, and so shall we be "good ministers of Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. iv. 6). Therefore let us hasten to adore the Divine Child; let us study Him, the pattern of humility, patience, and every virtue; let us say to Him, with St. Bernard: "The meaner Thou makest Thyself for me, the dearer Thou art to me." Let Thy grace be made manifest in us, bestow on us abundance of light, for Thou hast "destroyed death, and brought to light life and incorruption by the gospel" (2 Tim. i. 10).
3. Fear not. The Angel took away all fear from the hearts of the shepherds; much more will Jesus Christ take away all fear from the hearts of His Priests. He says to them now from the manger, by His infant cries, what, on another occasion, He said in words: "It is I, fear ye not" (St. Matt. xiv. 27). I am Who am, and you are My ministers; whom should you fear? I am come, not to give you the spirit of fear, which was in the Old Law, but the spirit "of power, and of love, and of sobriety" (2 Tim. i. 7). Preach My Gospel without shame, without weariness, without diffidence: "be not ashamed of the testimony of Our Lord . . . but labor with the gospel according to the power of God" (2 Tim. i. 8). Three times to-day you will offer the mighty Sacrifice which is the source of all strength, which, as Holy Church declares, was the support of the martyrs amidst their torments; three times to-day you will eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, so that in the strength of that food you may walk, even to "the Mount of God" (3 Kings xix. 8). And we will answer Him: Jesus, be Thou my strength: come to me, come to my soul, live in me; or, with St. Ambrose, we may say, For otherwise what would Thy coming into the world profit me 1
"Say to my soul, I am thy Salvation."—Ps. xxxiv. 3. "The Lord is my strength, and my praise, and He is become my salvation." —ha. xii. 2.