The Mystery of Godliness

NativityTonight we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” The Incarnation is the great mystery that reveals God’s wonderful love for mankind.

In this sermon from the Parochial and Plain Sermons Newman draws from texts throughout the Scriptures to describe Jesus the Son of God, foretold in the prophets and revealed in the flesh.

He begins commenting a passage from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Heb. ii. 11.

As He was born, so are we born also; and since He was born, therefore we too are born. As He is the Son of God by nature, so are we sons of God by grace; and it is He who has made us such. This is what the text says; He is the “Sanctifier,” we the “sanctified.” Moreover, He and we, says the text, “are all of one.” God sanctifies the Angels, but there the Creator and the creature are not of one. But the Son of God and we are of one; He has become “the firstborn of every creature;” He has taken our nature, and in and through it He sanctifies us. He is our brother by virtue of His incarnation, and, as the text says, “He is not ashamed to call us brethren;” and, having sanctified our nature in Himself, He communicates it to us.

After the fall of Adam the birth of a Savior was prophesied by the Prophet Isaiah and later in Genesis. And at last it was announced by an angel to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to St. Joseph. To Mary the angel says: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” [Matt. i. 20, 21. Luke i. 28-35.]

Newman comments:

This is the great Mystery which we are now celebrating, of which mercy is the beginning, and sanctity the end: according to the Psalm, “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” He who is all purity came to an impure race to raise them to His purity. He, the brightness of God’s glory, came in a body of flesh, which was pure and holy as Himself, “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish;” and this He did for our sake, “that we might be partakers of His holiness.”

He continues, insisting as at the beginning of the sermon, that through the Incarnation God communicated his divine life to our human nature:

He came in that very nature of Adam, in order to communicate to us that nature as it is in His Person, that “our sinful bodies might be made clean by His Body, and our souls washed through His most precious Blood;” to make us partakers of the Divine nature; to sow the seed of eternal life in our hearts; and to raise us from “the corruption that is in the world through lust,” to that immaculate purity and that fulness of grace which is in Him.

In the rest of the sermon Newman narrates the life and redemptive death of Jesus and invites us to meditate on the mystery with wonder and gratitude:

Let us at this season approach Him with awe and love, in whom resides all perfection, and from whom we are allowed to gain it. Let us come to the Sanctifier to be sanctified. Let us come to Him to learn our duty, and to receive grace to do it. At other seasons of the year we are reminded of watching, toiling, struggling, and suffering; but at this season we are reminded simply of God’s gifts towards us sinners. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” We are reminded that we can do nothing, and that God does everything. This is especially the season of grace. We come to see and to experience God’s mercies.

Pope Francis has just led the Church into the celebration of a Year of Mercy. In the Season of Christmas we will begin to fathom God’s mercy with his children. And in doing so we will grow in desires to imitate the holiness of his Son. In this light Blessed Newman closes his sermon biding us: “May each Christmas, as it comes, find us more and more like Him, who as at this time became a little child for our sake, more simple-minded, more humble, more holy, more affectionate, more resigned, more happy, more full of God.”

 

2 Comment(s)
  • Virginia Haddad Posted December 31, 2015 7:37 am

    Amen, Amen! Thank you, Fr. Juan. The quote from Newman at the end (“…like Him, who as at this time became a little child for our sake, more simple-minded, more humble, more holy, more affectionate..”) reminds me of a poem of another Englishman who for a short while was a contemporary of Newman:

    Little Lamb who made thee
    Dost thou know who made thee
    Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
    By the stream & o’er the mead;
    Gave thee clothing of delight,
    Softest clothing wooly bright;
    Gave thee such a tender voice,
    Making all the vales rejoice!
    Little Lamb who made thee
    Dost thou know who made thee

    Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
    Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!
    He is called by thy name,
    For he calls himself a Lamb:
    He is meek & he is mild,
    He became a little child:
    I a child & thou a lamb,
    We are called by his name.
    Little Lamb God bless thee.
    Little Lamb God bless thee

    (William Blake 1757–1827)

    • Fr. Juan Velez Posted December 31, 2015 2:30 pm

      Thank you for sharing this poem by Blake. How beautiful: “He became a little child:
      I a child & thou a lamb.”

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