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“O CHRISTIAN, CONTEMPLATE THE CHILD JESUS IN THE STABLE IN BETHLEHEM”

“Contemplate the child Jesus in the stable in Bethlehem. O, what marvel of love for the entire world and all heaven to see, to witness the infinite God in the form of a humble child, crying, weeping and shivering with cold in a lowly manger! O, how that beautiful child wins the love of men and angels! O, how powerfully He draws all souls towards His love! By virtue of love then, unite your heart to the Heart of the child Jesus, and live with Him always; but how? you ask. By practising beautiful Christian simplicity, for Jesus said, ‘Unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’

BEAUTIFUL CHRISTIAN SIMPLICITY

And so He Himself, O, infinite condescension, became a child, giving us an example of that simplicity that He asks of us, if we are to have paradise. Therefore, O Christian, be simple, become a child together with that heavenly child. May your heart be far from all worldly worries and all desires of the flesh and may you not fall back into them. May your mind be pure in its thoughts, always just and right in its ideas and always holy in its intentions. May you always speak sincerely, never lying or being duplicitous, and with correct Christian prudence, so that your heart may be in your speech and sincerity in your heart.

SEEK ONLY GOD’S WISHES

May you seek to do nothing other than what God wishes, what pleases Him and what gives Him glory. May your behaviour be far from all worldly affection, may it be honest and good. So, in the words of St Paul, you will be a child of God in the midst of a corrupt and depraved generation, and God who loves to be one with simple souls, will enrich you with His light and blessings!”
Prayer: O loving Heart I ask unity with You, that I might live all my life in humility with You.
– Mons. Nicola Tafuri

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“IN THE FIRST CHRISTMAS’S POVERTY, THE GLORY OF HEAVEN IS MADE MANIFEST”

• “In fact it is only in the mystery of the Word Incarnate that light is shed on the mystery of humankind” (Gaudium et Spes 22)

• In the fullness of time God appeared as a Child, a Baby, born of the Virgin. This baby in all its weakness and vulnerability is Mighty God. This Child born in Bethlehem in all his neediness and dependence is the Son of the Eternal Father.

• As St Paul says, “The kindness and love of God our Saviour for humankind has been revealed” (Titus 3:4).

• Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family. Simple shepherd were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty, heaven’s glory is made manifest. The Church never tires of singing the glory of this night (CCC 525).
– From the Resource for the Year of Faith 2012. For more information about Alive Publishing, please visit http://www.alivepublishing.co.uk (external link).

 
 

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MANKIND’S SALVATION HISTORY THROUGH THE HOLY ROSARY: THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES “PRESENTATION” AND “FINDING THE LOST CHILD JESUS IN THE TEMPLE”

THE BOYHOOD OF JESUS CHRIST

“In accordance with Jewish law the Child born of Mary was circumcised on the eighth day after His birth. In this way He became legally a member of the Chosen People of God. Though He was, as the prophet Zacharias says, ‘the angel of the covenant,’ nevertheless He submits to the Law of Moses. By undergoing the rite of circumcision He binds Himself to God and to a communion with the Chosen People of God.

THE PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE

It was also in obedience to the Law of Moses that Mary herself went to the Temple to offer two turtle doves or two young pigeons for her own legal purification. On the same occasion Mary and Joseph consecrated the Boy Jesus to god as the Mosaic Law prescribed.

SIMEON IN THE TEMPLE

As Mary and Joseph entered the Temple precincts with the Child Jesus they were met by an aged man called Simeon. It had been revealed to him that he should not die until he had seen the Christ of the Lord. When he saw the Child Jesus in Mary’s arms he was filled with the Spirit of God and he took the Child into his own arms and said:

THE ‘NUNC DIMITTIS’

‘Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word, in peace; because my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and a glory for thy people Israel’ (Luke 2:29-32).

‘THY SOUL A SWORD SHALL PIERCE’

The aged Simeon is filled with the spirit of prophecy and he sees that the Child will bring God’s blessings not only to the Chosen People of Israel but also to the other nations of the world. But he foresees not only glorious things. He foresees also pain and tragedy. Turning to Mary he says: ‘Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed’ (Luke 2:34-35).

ANNA IN THE TEMPLE

At the same time a holy widow named Anna approached the Child. Moved also by the Spirit of God, she recognised Him as the Saviour of the world. To all who were interested in redemption she cried out that this Child was the long-awaited Deliverer.

MYSTERIOUS

From the very beginning then the Child Jesus appears as a mysterious figure. He will be a glory to His own race, to Israel. He will bring the light of divine truth to the Gentiles. He will bring redemption and deliverance to the world. But He will also be contradicted by many, and so He will cause many to rise in redemption while others, contradicting Him, fall.

THE THREE MAGI

Some time after the dedication in the Temple occurs the incident of the Magi. We do not know for certain who the Magi were. The early Christians believed them to be priests of the Persian religion. Some have thought that they came from Arabia. Others hold that they were kings from the East. It seems probable that they were at least men who were aware of the Messianic expectations of the Jews. They knew that the Jews were expecting the advent of some great king.

KING HEROD BECOMES VERY SUSPICIOS

Having observed in the sky a new star (perhaps a comet), they associated this new star with the coming of the expected king to Israel. Following the star, they arrived in Jerusalem and inquired the whereabouts of the new-born king. The news of their quest reached the ears of Herod the Great. Herod was always suspicious of plots to seize his throne and, no doubt, saw in these inquiries the result of some plot to dethrone him. He sent for the Magi. On learning the nature of their mission he sent for the chief priests and the Scribes and asked them where the expected Messias was to be born.

BETHLEHEM, ROYAL DAVID’S CITY

The priests and the Scribes, who were well versed in the Sacred Books of Israel, remembered the prophecy of Micheas [Micah] and told the king: ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written through the prophet, ‘And thou, Bethlehem, of the land of Juda, art by no means least among the princes of Juda; for from thee shall come forth a leader who shall rule my people Israel” (Matthew 2:5-6, cf. Micah 5:2).

Herod told the Magi where the Child might be found. He also asked them to bring word to him when they had found the Child so that he also might go to worship Him.

WARNINGS

GOLD, FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH

The Magi went to Bethlehem and found the star standing over the place where the Child was. They worshipped the Child, giving Him presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh. While they slept later, they were warned by God not to return to Herod.

THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT

After their departure Joseph was also warned in a dream to take the Child and to flee into Egypt because Herod intended to kill the Child. Heeding the warning, Joseph, Mary and the Child fled into Egypt.

THE HOLY INNOCENTS

Herod, when the Magi did not return, was very angry. He sent his soldiers to Bethlehem with order to kill all male children two years old or younger they might find there. In this way he hoped to destroy any possible threat to his own rule.

THE HOLY FAMILY RETURNS FROM EXILE

After Herod’s death in 4 B.C. an angel told Joseph in a dream that there was no longer any danger to the Child and they might return in safety to their own land. Joseph, thus counselled by the angel, returned with Mary and Jesus to their homeland and to Nazareth. In this way God Himself created a parallel between the history of Jesus the Saviour and the history of the Chosen People. As God had called them out of the land of Egypt, so He also calls His Son out of Egypt. St Matthew noticed this resemblance long ago and wrote that in this way there was ‘fulfilled what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’ ‘ (Matthew 2:15; cf. Hosea 11:1).

THE HIDDEN LIFE

It was at Nazareth that Jesus spent the most of His life. Very few details of the early life of Jesus are known to us. St Luke tells us that at Nazareth the Child grew and became strong. He was full of wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him.

JESUS AGED TWELVE GOES MISSING

It is also St Luke who tells of one significant incident in the early years of Jesus. When Jesus was twelve years of age He went up to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph to celebrate the feast of Passover. When Joseph and Mary were returning to Nazareth they discovered that Jesus was not with the caravan. They went back to Jerusalem to seek Him.

THE FINDING OF THE CHILD JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

On the third day they found Him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers of the Law. As St Luke tells us, Jesus was listening to the doctors of the Law and asking them questions, and in His turn answering the questions put to Him. The bystanders were astounded at His answers.

It is permissible to see here a manifestation of the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus. It is not necessary, and it might even be degrading to Jesus, to imagine that He was deliberately displaying His knowledge to the discomfiture of the learned doctors of the Law gathered in the Temple. It is enough to note that at the age of twelve Jesus appears sufficiently versed in the Law of Moses to speak intelligently and impressively to those who were expert in their interpretation of the Law.

‘MY FATHER’S BUSINESS’

What is more important is the fact that on this occasion Jesus shows that He is aware of the fact that He is to perform a great work for God, His Father. When Mary says to Him, ‘Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold, thy father and I have been seeking thee and sorrowing,’ Jesus answers: ‘How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?’ (Luke 2:48-49).

A PUZZLING ANSWER

This answer must have seemed strange to the rabbis with whom Jesus had been conversing. It was not understood, as St Luke tells us, by Mary and Joseph. If it were only the answer of a very clever boy who enjoyed the experience of conversing on equal terms with the venerated exponents of the Law of Moses, then it would bear an air of unfilial smartness. But St Luke – even Jesus Himself – seems to be saying something more than this. He speaks of the affairs of God as ‘my Father’s business.’ This seems to intimate that Jesus is aware of the fact that He is, in a special way, the Son of God.

HOMELY AND SIMPLE IMAGES

Yet, despite His consciousness of His special relation to God the Father, St Luke tells us that after this incident Jesus returned with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth and was subject to them. At Nazareth Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.

It is proper to suppose that at Nazareth Jesus showed the same interest in learning the Law of Moses as He had shown in the Temple at Jerusalem. Moreover it is most probable that He learned the craft of carpentering, which was the trade followed by Joseph, His foster father. Like the other people of the locality He probably spoke Aramaic, the language of the region, and possibly Greek and Hebrew. Nazareth was situated in a region of farm labourers and vine dressers. Later on we find Him associated with fishermen in Galilee. From all these sources He later drew the homely and simple images which He used with such telling effect in His parables.

Thus, for some thirty years Jesus lived in a small village waiting for the moment appointed by God His Father for the beginning of the work of redemption.”
– Martin J. Healy, 1959

 

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MANKIND’S SALVATION HISTORY THROUGH THE HOLY ROSARY: THE JOYFUL MYSTERY “BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST”

THE RUN-UP TO THE NATIVITY AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE

“After Elizabeth gave birth to her child [John the Baptist] she desired to call him John, but her friends and neighbours objected, saying that he should be called Zachary after his father. Zachary was still unable to speak. The kinsfolk and neighbours made signs to him, asking him what name should be given to the child. On a tablet he wrote that the child should be called John, that is, ‘Jahweh hath shown favour.’ Immediately the gift of speech was restored to him and he spoke, blessing God.

THE BENEDICTUS

While the people assembled there were in wonder at this marvellous happening, Zachary himself, inspired by God, uttered a song destined to become famous forever:

‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people. And hath raised up a horn of salvation to us, in the house of David his servant. As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who are from the beginning. Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us. To perform mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy testament. The oath, which he swore to Abraham our father, that he would grant to us. That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve him without fear: In holiness and justice before him, all our days. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways: To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins. Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us: To enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace’ (Luke 1:68-79).

FULFILMENT OF THE ANCIENT PROPHECIES

In the mind of Zachary, as in the mind of Mary, it seems clear that God is about to bring to pass the promise which He made to Abraham, the promise to bless Abraham and, through him, the nations of the world. In an ecstasy induced by the Holy Spirit he seems to allude to the prophecy of Zacharias [Zechariah]: ‘I will bring my servant the Orient’ (Zacharias 3:8). For he cries out: ‘The Orient from on high hath visited us: to enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace.’

THE ROLE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

Moreover, in the same Spirit of God Zachary realised that his own son John will play a secondary role in the great divine plan. John will be the prophet of the Highest, not the Highest Himself. John will go before the face of the Lord to prepare the people for His coming. Surely the words of Zachary, coming after the words of Elizabeth to Mary, emphasise the significance of the role of Mary’s Son.

AN ASCETIC LIFE OF PREPARATION IN THE DESERT

St Luke, who tells us this story of the birth of John, says nothing more of the early years of John except that the boy went at some undetermined date into the desert to live as an ascetic until the day when he began his work of preparing the way for the Lord.

A REAL GENTLEMAN

Meanwhile Mary had returned to Nazareth. She was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth. On discovering that Mary, his betrothed, was already with child, Joseph was perplexed. His knowledge of her purity and her innocence, his great love for her, did not allow him to suspect her of some shameful sin. Yet he knew that he was not himself the father of the child, and so he was minded to restore to her her freedom, but in such wise that no stigma should attach to her name.

AN UNKNOWN VISITOR APPEARS DURING THE NIGHT

While he was in this frame of mind God sent him an angel in a dream who said to him: ‘Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus. For he shall save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:20-21). In these words, by addressing Joseph as the son of David, the angel suggests to Joseph that the child is the expected Messias, the Anointed One of the House of David. Moreover, by repeating what Gabriel had already said, that the child is to be named Jesus, that is, Jahweh is a saviour, he intimates the same thing. He also says clearly that Jesus is so-called because He will fulfil His role by saving the people from their sins.

‘THE ROOT OF JESSE’; A DESCENDANT OF KING DAVID

Thus enlightened by the angel of God Joseph takes Mary to himself as his wife. In this way Jesus, the son of Mary, became legally the son of Joseph, and hence also the son of David. St Luke seems to intimate (Luke 1:32, 69). That Mary was also of the House of David, and hence Jesus would have received the very blood of David from His mother.

But in the eyes of the Jews if His legal human father were not of the House of David, He would not have been considered of the family of David. On the other hand, the fact that Joseph was His legal father made Him in their eyes a true descendant of the House of David. On the side then of both His true mother and His legal foster father Jesus was truly of the House of David, and so could be the Child promised by God Who would inherit the throne of David forever.

OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT ORDERS

Now the birth of Jesus was as follows: Augustus, the Roman Emperor, ordered an enrolment or census should be made throughout the whole empire. As St Luke tells us, everyone was to be enrolled, each in his own city of origin. Hence Joseph, though living in Nazareth, had to go to Bethlehem, the city of David, from which the family of David took its origin.

It was this circumstance which led to the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, instead of at Nazareth. In this way was fulfilled the prophecy of Micheas [Micah]: ‘And thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousand of Juda: out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel: and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity’ (Micheas 5:2).

ALL BED & BREAKFASTS WERE BOOKED TO FULL CAPACITY BY CENSUS TOURISTS

In obedience to the order of the emperor, Joseph and Mary, who was with child, went to Bethlehem. They were unable to find shelter at the inn. Hence they were forced to seek shelter in one of the surrounding caves. While there Mary gave birth to her Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.

AMAZING NEWS IN THE COUNTRYSIDE

It was not fitting that the birth of the expected Saviour of Israel should go entirely unnoticed. God sent an angel to some shepherds who were pasturing their flocks in the same district.

To them the angel said: ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all the people; for there has been born to you today in the town of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’

Scarcely had he finished speaking when a multitude of heavenly angels appeared and sang joyfully: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will’ (Luke 2:10-12, 14).

And thus, in the silent simplicity of a cave and in proximity to peaceful shepherds with their gentle flocks, the Prince of Peace, God’s peace to men of good will, came in the flesh to their earth.

HISTORICAL DATING

The historians are not in agreement on the exact date of this wonderful event. In the sixth century of our own era a certain Dionysius Exiguus made the year 1 A.D. (anno domini, that is, the year in which the Lord Jesus was born) the year 754 of the city of Rome. He made a mistake. Jesus was born while Herod the Great was still alive, and Herod died in the year 750 of Rome. Hence Jesus must have been born at least before that time, that is, by our present reckoning, at least in the early months of the year 4 B.C. Historians vary in their estimates of the year between the years 8 and 4 B.C.

A STRANGE AND WONDERFUL EVENT

The birth of Jesus is truly a strange and wonderful, even a portentous event. It is heralded in glowing though mysterious terms by the angel Gabriel. The ‘Son of the Most High,’ he says, is to be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Though Mary is betrothed to Joseph, the child will have no human father. The omnipotent power of God will incarnate Him in the womb of His mother. He will be called Jesus because He will be a saviour. He is the Messias, the Anointed One of Israel because He will inherit the throne of David, His ancestor, and will rule forever.

In Him will be fulfilled God’s ancient promise to Abraham to bring blessings to the whole world. A way will be prepared for Him by John, the son of Zachary; John will go before Jesus in the spirit and power of Elias; John, who will thus fulfil the prophecy of Malachias [Malachi]: ‘Behold I send my angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord whom you seek, and the angel of the testament whom you desire shall come to his temple’ (Malachias 3:1).”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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TODAY’S GOSPEL READING (JOHN 7:40-52)

WOULD THE CHRIST BE FROM GALILEE?

Several people who had been listening to Jesus said, “Surely he must be the prophet,” and some said, “He is the Christ”, but others said, “Would the Christ be from Galilee? Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from the town of Bethlehem?” So the people could not agree about him. Some would have liked to arrest him, but no one actually laid hands on him.

The police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees who said to them, “Why haven’t you brought him?” The police replied, “There has never been anybody who has spoken like him.” “So,” the Pharisees answered, “you have been led astray as well? Have any of the authorities believed him? Any of the Pharisees? This rabble knows nothing about the Law – they are damned.” One of them, Nicodemus – the same man who had come to Jesus earlier – said to them, “But surely the Law does not allow us to pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing and discovering what he is about?” To this they answered, “Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself: prophets do not come out of Galilee.”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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FOR YOUR DIARY: PILGRIMAGE TO THE HOLY LAND 2013

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ CELEBRATING THE YEAR OF FAITH ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

SOUTHWARK DIOCESAN PILGRIMAGE TO THE HOLY LAND

• Archbishop Peter will lead this pilgrimage and warmly invites you to join him.

• The itinerary includes 3 nights in Jerusalem and Bethlehem each, and 2 nights in Tiberias in Galilee.

• It will be from 22nd to 30th April 2013 and cost £1,465 per person (flights, full board accommodation and an English speaking guide). The only extras are single room supplement of £329 and travel insurance of £64.

• Further information and booking forms from Fr David of the Centre for Catholic Formation: 020 8672 7684 or dgibbons@ccftootingbec.org.uk

 
 

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O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM (CHRISTMAS CAROL)

1. O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by.
Yet, in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.

2. O morning stars, together
proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the King,
and peace to men on earth;
for Christ is born of Mary;
and, gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wondering love.

3. How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming;
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still
the dear Christ enters in.

4. Where children pure and happy
pray to the blessed Child,
where misery cries out to thee,
son of the mother mild;
where charity stands watching
and faith holds wide the door,
the dark night waits, the glory breaks,
and Christmas comes once more.

5. O holy child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast our sin, and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell:
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel.

– Phillips Brooks

 
 

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