December 25: The goodness and usefulness of Christ’s birth
(a meditation of saint Thomas Aquinas)
« The goodness and kindness of God, our Saviour, appeared. » (Titus 3, 4.)
It must be remembered that Christ showed to us His goodness in communicating His Divinity, but He showed His mercy in assuming our nature. Hence, Saint Bernard says, « The power of God appeared in the creation of things, his wisdom, in the government of things, but His goodness especially appeared in his assumption of our nature. » For God revealed a wonderful sign of his goodness when He willed to add the name of God to humanity, for « Not from works of justice which we did, but by His mercy are we saved. » Did He not show forth His mercy, when He received and took upon Himself our misery ? What was so full of holiness as the Word of God, which was made flesh for us and dwelt amongst us ? Hence, the Church sings, « Oh ! Christ, the Redeemer of all, the Only God of the Father. » And Isaias (63, 16) says, « Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer, from everlasting is Thy Name. »
Moreover, concerning the blessings and usefulness of our Saviour’s birth, Isaias (11, 6) says, « A child is born to us, » that is for our benefit and welfare. ln truth, there are four great blessings Which have come down to us from the birth of Christ, which we may consider from the four special virtues which children possess ; namely, purity, humility, lovableness and pleasingness. These are found in the Christ Child in a most excellent manner.
First, we find in Him the greatest purity because He is the brightness of eternal Light, and the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty, and the image of His goodness. (Wis. 6, 26.) Moreover, He demonstrated His purity in being conceived and born without sin. Hence, Alcuin observes that, « The Maker of aIl men, in order that He might become Man for the sake of men, had to select such a mother for Himself, and He knew that it was becoming that she should be Immaculate and most pleasing to God. Therefore, He willed that she should be a Virgin Immaculate, and from the Immaculate was born the Immaculate Child, Who will purge the sins of all mankind. »
Secondly, in this Child, we find the greatest humility, for « He, God, emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave. » (Phil. 2, 7.) He showed this humility, as saint Bernard says, in being born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling c1othes, and laid in a manger.
Thirdly, we find in the Christ Child the highest kind of lovableness. He was the most beautiful of the sons of men and the delight of the Angels. The union of His Divinity with the humanity caused this lovableness in a certain manner. Hence, Bernard said, « Behold the Man, the Maker of Man, filled with every manner of sweetness. »
Fourthly, we find in the Christ Child the greatest pleasingness for, « He is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of evil. » (Joel 2, 13.) Wherefore, saint Bernard says, « Christ is a Child and is easily pleased. Who does not know that a child easily gives ? Behold if Christ were not great and kind to us, we could never be reconciled to Him in the least thing ; but the least thing, l say, done for Him is pleasing to Him. » And just as the kindness of God appeared as something beyond aIl hope and expectation, so we can, if we repent, hope for a similar manifestation of God’s mercy at the judgment.
(The Kindness of Christ.)
(Saint Thomas Aquinas Meditations for every day, translated and illustrated by Fr E. C. McEniry O.P., Columbus [Ohio], Long’s College Book Company, 1951)