For Christmas Eve: St. Bernard on preparing for the Nativity
From Faith and Life, here again is a quote from St. Bernard on preparing our hearts for Christmas:
I do not think it out of place to prepare your hearts to-day for the great solemnity of the morrow; especially considering that the depth of the mystery before us is most profound and immeasureable, and, like the fountain of life, the more we draw from it, the more we find it exuberant and inexhaustible. Further, I know how “your tribulation aboundeth for Christ’s sake;” and O that “your consolation also may abound through Him!” As for worldly consolation, I have not the means,—and, if I had, I have not the heart,—to bestow it on you. Wretched and worthless is all such consolation; and—which is a still more painful thought— it is even a hindrance to true and saving comfort. Therefore it was that He, who is the delight and glory of angels, Himself became the salvation and comfort of the miserable; He who, on His majestic throne in His heavenly city, fills His citizens with exceeding bliss, is He who, as a lowly Infant in His exile, fills the exiles with exceeding joy. He, who “in the highest” is “the glory of the Father,” became ” on earth peace to men of good will.”
A voice of gladness resounds in our land, a “voice of joy and health in the dwellings” of sinners. We have heard a good word, a word of comfort, a speech full of joyousness, worthy of all acceptation. “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Judaea.” Who is there with such a heart of stone, that his soul does not melt at this word? What sweeter announcement could have been made? What more delightful declaration? Was ever such a word heard? Did the world ever receive the like ?” Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Judaea.” O what a birth of spotless holiness!—a glory to the world,—which men must needs love for the vastness of the blessing which it brings them, yet which angels cannot fathom for the depth of its sacred mystery!You who are in the dust, arouse yourselves, and sing praise: “Behold, the Lord will come with salvation.” He comes with salvation, He comes with unguents, He comes with glory; for never doth Jesus come without salvation, nor Christ without unction, nor the Son of God without glory. O happy is that soul, which is drawn by the taste of the fruit of salvation, and “runs after the odour of the unguents,” that it may “see His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father.” Breathe freely, ye lost ones; Jesus comes to seek and save that which was lost. Ye that are sickly, recover; Christ comes, who heals the broken in heart with the unction of His mercy. Exult, all ye that crave for great things; the Son of God is come down to you, to make you fellow-heirs of His Kingdom. Therefore do I pray, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; glorify me, and I shall be glorious.” So shall my soul, indeed, “bless the Lord, and all that is within me bless His holy Name, when Thou shalt have forgiven all mine iniquities, healed all mine infirmities, satisfied my desire with good things.” It is of these three things, dearly beloved, that the word savours which I hear: that “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born.” It is Jesus who justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ who healeth; who is he that woundeth? It is the Son of God who exalteth; who is he that layeth low? Jesus, then, is born; let him rejoice, whosoever he be, whom consciousness of sins heretofore adjudged to everlasting condemnation. For the kindness of Jesus exceeds all the amount and multitude of our offences.
–St. Bernard, Sermons on Vigil of the Nativity.
Let us prepare our hearts for Christmas, for “He, who ‘in the highest’ is ‘the glory of the Father,’ became ‘on earth peace to men of good will.’”