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SERMON 147: On the Mystery of the Incarnation
Love desires to see God

PL 52, 594-595
Office of Readings, Thursday, Advent 2.





WHEN God saw the world falling to ruin because of fear, he immediately acted to call it back to himself with love. He invited it by his grace, preserved it by his love, and embraced it with compassion. When the earth had become hardened in evil, God sent the flood both to punish and to release it. He called Noah to be the father of a new era, urged him with kind wards, and showed that he trusted him; he gave him fatherly instruction about the present calamity, and through his grace consoled him with hope for the future. 

Videns ergo Deus mundum labefactari timore, continuo agit ut cum amore revocet, invitet [0594D] gratia, charitate teneat, et constringat affectu. Hinc est quod inveteratam malis terram abluit ulciscente diluvio, et Noe novi saeculi vocat parentem, blando sermone compellat, dat familiarem fiduciam, pie de praesentibus instruit, consolatur per gratiam de futuris; 

But God did not merely issue commands; rather with Noah sharing the work, he filled the ark with the future seed of the whole world. The sense of loving fellowship thus engendered removed servile fear, and a mutual love could continue to preserve what shared labor had effected.

et jam non jussis, sed participato labore una in arca claudit totius saeculi partum, ut societatis amor, timorem servitutis auferret, et servaretur amore communi quod fuerat communi labore salvatum (Gen. 7).

God called Abraham out of the heathen world, symbolically lengthened his name, and made him the father of all believers. God walked with him on his journeys, protected him in foreign lands, enriched him with earthly possessions, and honored him with victories. He made a covenant with him, saved him from harm, accepted his hospitality, and astonished him by giving him the offspring he had despaired of.

Hinc est quod Abraham vocat de gentibus, auget nomine, patrem fidei facit, comitatur via, inter exteros servat, ditat rebus, honorat triumphis, promissis [0595A] oppignorat, eripit injuriis, hospitalitate blanditur, mirificat germine desperato; 

 Favored with so many graces and drawn by such great sweetness of divine love, Abraham was to learn to love God rather than fear him, and love rather than fear was to inspire his worship.

ut tot repleius bonis, tanta divinae illectus dulcedine charitatis, Deum diligere disceret, non timere; amando colere, non pavendo (Gen. XII).

God comforted Jacob by a dream during his flight, roused him to combat upon his return, and encircled him with a wrestler’s embrace to teach him not to be afraid of the author of the conflict, but to love him.

Hinc est quod Jacob fugientem solatur in somnis, redeuntem pro certamine provocat, luctatoris constringit amplexu; ut amaret patrem certaminis, non timeret (Gen. 28).

God called Moses as a father would, and with fatherly affection invited him to become the liberator of his people.

Hinc est quod Moysen patria voce vocat, paterna alloquitur charitate, ut sit plebis suae liberator invitat (Exod. 3).

In all the events we have recalled, the flame of divine love enkindled human hearts and its intoxication overflowed into men’s senses. Wounded by love, they longed to look upon God with their bodily eyes. Yet how could our narrow human vision apprehend God, whom the whole world cannot contain?

Sed per haec quae memoravimus, ubi humana corda flamma divinae charitatis accendit, et humanis sensibus amoris Dei tota se fundit ebrietas, saucia mente coeperunt Deum carnalibus velle oculis intueri. Deum quem mundus non capit, angustus quomodo capere poterat humanus aspectus?

But the law of love is not concerned with what will be, what ought to be, what can be. Love does not reflect; it is unreasonable and knows no moderation. Love refuses to be consoled when its goal proves impossible, despises all hindrances to the attainment of its object. Love destroys the lover if he cannot obtain what he loves; love follows its own promptings, and does not think of right and wrong. Love inflames desire which impels it toward things that are forbidden. But why continue?

Quid erit, quid debeat, [0595C] quid possit, non respicit jus amoris. Amor ignorat judicium, ratione caret, modum nescit. Amor non accipit de impossibilitate solatium, non recipit de difficultate remedium. Amor nisi ad desiderata pervaserit, necat amantem; et ideo vadit quo ducitur, non quo debeat. Amor parit desiderium, gliscit ardore, ardor ad inconcessa pertendit. Et quid plura?

It is intolerable for love not to see the object of its longing. That is why whatever reward they merited was nothing to the saints if they could not see the Lord. A love that desires to see God may not have reasonableness on its side, but it is the evidence of filial love. 

Amor quod amat non potest non videre: hinc est quod omnes sancti omnia quae meruerant parva duxerunt, si Dominum non viderent […] Hinc est quod amor qui cupit videre Deum, et si non habet judicium, habet tamen studium pietatis. 

It gave Moses the temerity to say: If I have found favor in your eyes, show me your face. It inspired the psalmist to make the same prayer: Show me your face. Even the pagans made their images for this purpose: they wanted actually to see what they mistakenly revered.

Hinc est quod [0595D] Moyses audet dicere: Si inveni gratiam coram te, ostende mihi faciem tuam (Exod. 33). Hinc est quod alius dicit: Ostende faciem tuam (Psal. 79). Denique et ipsi gentiles ob hoc simulacra finxerunt, ut in ipsis erroribus oculis cernerent quod colebant.

Sermon 160






In choosing to be born for us, God chose to be known by us

PL 52, 620-622
Office of Readings, Monday after Epiphany





IN the mystery of our Lord’s incarnation there were clear indications of his eternal Godhead. Yet the great events we celebrate today disclose and reveal in different ways the fact that God himself took a human body. Mortal man, enshrouded always in darkness, must not be left in ignorance, and so be deprived of what he can understand and retain only by grace.

Quamvis in ipso Dominicae incarnationis sacramento adfuerint clara semper divinitatis insignia, Deum tamen venisse in humanum corpus multis modis aperit et revelat hodierna solemnitas, ne perdat per ignorantiam semper obscuritatibus involuta mortalitas quod tantum tenere meruit et possidere per gratiam.

In choosing to be born for us, God chose to be known by us. He therefore reveals himself in this way, in order that this great sacrament of his love may not be an occasion for us of great misunderstanding. Today the Magi find, crying in a manger, the one they have followed as he shone in the sky. Today the Magi see clearly, in swaddling clothes, the one they have long awaited as he lay hidden among the stars.

Nam qui nobis nasci voluit, a nobis noluit ignorari: et ideo sic aperit, ne magnum pietatis sacramentum magni fieret erroris occasio. Hodie magus quem fulgentem quaerebat in stellis, in cunis reperit vagientem. Hodie magus clarum miratur in pannis, [0620C] quem diu in astris patiebatur obscurum.

Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, man in God, God in man, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body.

Hodie magus quid ubi videat profundo stupore pervolvit: in terra coelum, in coelo terram, in Deo hominem, in homine Deum, et universo saeculo non capacem concludi corpore perpusillo. 

As they look, they believe and do not question, as their symbolic gifts bear witness: incense for God, gold for a king, myrrh for one who is to die. So the Gentiles, who were the last, become the first: the faith of the Magi is the first fruits of the belief of the Gentiles.

[…] Jamque videns credere se, et non discutere, mysticis muneribus confitetur: thure Deum, auro regem, myrrha esse moriturum. […] Hinc est quod gentilis qui erat novissimus, factus est primus: quia tunc ex magorum fide est gentium credulitas dedicata […]

Today Christ enters the Jordan to wash away the sin of the world. John himself testifies that this is why he has come: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Today a servant lays his hand on the Lord, a man lays his hand on God, John lays his hand on Christ, not to forgive but to receive forgiveness.

Hodie Christus Jordanis alveum, mundi peccatum lavaturus intravit: ad hoc [0621B] eum venisse Joannes ipse testatur. Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi (Joan. I). Hodie servus Dominum, homo Deum, Joannes Christum tenet; tenet accepturus veniam, non daturus.

Today, as the psalmist prophesied: The voice of the Lord is heard above the waters. What does the voice say? This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Hodie, sicut ait propheta: Vox Domini super aquas (Psal. XXVIII). Quae vox? Hic est Filius meus dilectus in quo mihi complacui (Matth. III). [...]

Today the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters in the likeness of a dove. A dove announced to Noah that the flood had disappeared from the earth; so now a dove is to reveal that the world’s shipwreck is at an end for ever. The sign is no longer an olive-shoot of the old stock: instead, the Spirit pours out on Christ’s head the full richness of a new anointing by the Father, to fulfill what the psalmist had prophesied: Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

Hodie Spiritus sanctus supernatat [0621C] aquis in specie columbae, ut sicut illa colomba Noe nuntiaverat diluvium discessisse mundi (Gen. VIII), ita ista indice nosceretur perpetuum mundi cessasse naufragium; neque sicut illa veteris olivae surculum portaret, sed totam in caput parentis novi chrismatis pinguedinem fundit, ut impleat illud quod propheta praedixit: Propterea unxit te Deus Deus tuus oleo laetitiae prae consortibus tuis (Psal. XLIV).

Today Christ works the first of his signs from heaven by turning water into wine. But water [mixed with wine] has still to be changed into the sacrament of his blood, so that Christ may offer spiritual drink from the chalice of his body, to fulfill the psalmist’s prophecy: How excellent is my chalice, warming my spirit.

Hodie Christus initium dat signorum coelestium, dum convertit aquas in vinum (Joan. II), […] Sed aqua in sanguinis erat convertenda mysterium, ut mera pocula de vase corporis sui Christus bibentibus propinaret, ut impleret illud prophetae: Et calix tuus inebrians quam praeclarus est (Psal. XXII).


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