“Christmas Mass at Dawn: The Infinite God Draws Near to Us in Becoming Man (12/25/2019)
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
What can we really know about God? What are our small, puny minds compared to the vastness of the infinite God? If he spoke, could we even bear the thunder of his voice?
Taking such basic questions to heart, almost like a seeker, can awaken us anew to the wonder of God become man, indeed a little babe, in Jesus Christ. Caught up in this mystery, St. Catherine of Siena marveled, “So that I, then, with my littleness, would be able to see your greatness, you made yourself a little one, wrapping up the greatness of your Godhead in the littleness of our humanity” (Prayer #13).
St. Catherine had a profound appreciation of God’s transcendence, so much so that she considered herself to be a shadow, a mere nothing, in comparison. In the same prayer I just referred to, the phrase “Oh high eternal Trinity! Oh boundless love!” becomes almost a constant refrain as she ponders the God-man. For, it is this same Unbounded Sea of Perfection and Most High God who comes close to us in Jesus, so close in fact that, in Catherine’s words, “nearer than this you could not have come” (Dialogue #153). She prays to God, “You have fallen in love with what you have made! You are pleased and delighted over her, as if you were drunk with desire for her salvation. She runs away from you and you go looking for her. She strays and you draw closer to her: You clothed yourself in our humanity, and nearer than that you could not have come….Finite language cannot express the emotion of the soul who longs for you infinitely” (153).
So in all this we see that what is so beyond us comes to us in Jesus, indeed comes near to us in Jesus. This is the mystery of God, the Son, become man and born of the Virgin Mary. The Son was born of the Father from all eternity, and in his love for us the infinite Son is born of the Virgin. The church fathers would marvel, “He whom the heavens cannot contain was contained in the womb of the Virgin!”
The free “boundless love” of the “high eternal Trinity” caused God to come close in order that we might really know Him and so love Him. The distance of infinity has been bridged that we might enter into a personal relationship with the Most High and discern the thundering voice of the Almighty even in the soft coos of the Divine Infant. The Catechism insists, “Christ’s whole earthly life—His words and deeds, His silences and sufferings, indeed His manner of being and speaking—is Revelation of the Father….Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest God’s love among us” (CCC 516). So even the silence of the Christ Child asleep in the Crib speaks to us. Jesus will have much to say and teach us when He grows older, but even in the manger His message is clear: My little one, I, Boundless Love, want to be near you.
Romanos the Melodist, from the 6th century, sings out: “The Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal / And the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible. / The angels and shepherds praise him / And the magi advance with the star, / For you are born for us, / Little Child, God Eternal!”
This little Child, God Eternal says to us: My little one, I, Boundless Love, want to be near you. God becomes little that he might be near us, that we might approach him with confidence. It’s good to gaze upon the little Baby in the manger. Everyone loves babies. So let us be charmed by this little baby in the Crib. This is what God wants. This is his plan. For in being charmed by this simple little baby, we are being charmed by God himself.
St. Bonaventure, gazing at the manger, says, “O sweet Incarnate Word, O most amiable Infant Jesus, behold me at last at Your feet; let me contemplate You; permit me to delight in Your beauty, Your goodness, Your immense charity! In this little Child who smiles, and holds out His baby arms to me, I find Your infinite love, living, breathing—for this Babe is You, O my God! How can I ever thank You for Your exceeding love? How can I ever make You a return of love…Then, O my soul, kiss this divine manger, press your lips to the Infant’s feet and embrace them.” Embrace God made a little Child (Div. Int., 87).
Sisters, this Christmas morning reminds us of God’s Unbounded Love becoming flesh in Jesus. He whom the heavens cannot contain becomes little for us. Even as he sleeps in the arms of the Virgin Mary, the Divine Infant says to us, My little one, I, Boundless Love, want to be near you.