A Sermon for the Eve of the Nativity

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux had such a deep love for the Holy Family; it was said that as a child he had been blessed with an apparition of the Nativity of Jesus and loved to speak of Christmas night and the birth of Christ.

One Christmas Eve, the reader of the Martyrology in the chapter hall proclaimed the birth of Christ:

“Jesus Christus, Filius Dei, nascitur in Bethlehem Judae”,

At which Saint Bernard exclaimed:

“Hearken, O heavens, and thou, O earth, give ear! Admire and sing praises, O universe, but chiefly thou, O man! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda.”

On this, the Eve of Christmas, we offer a few excerpts from Saint Bernard’s Sermon for the Eve of Christmas:

On the Miraculous Nature of the Nativity”

The custom of our Order does not demand a sermon to-day; but as tomorrow we shall be engaged longer than usual in the celebration of the Masses, and the short remaining time will not allow of a long sermon, I thought it would not be out of place to prepare your hearts today for so great a festival. It is the more permissible as the mystery of this day is so profound and so incomprehensible.

It is a fountain of life whose waters can never be exhausted—waters that flow the more plentifully the more freely they are drawn. I know, too, how great are your sufferings and tribulations for Christ’s sake, and glad should I be that your comfort might also abound through Him.

Worldly consolation is what I am neither willing nor permitted to offer. Such a consolation is both useless and valueless—yea, it is a thing to be dreaded, for it is a true hindrance to the consolation which is from heaven. For this reason He Who is the delight and glory of the angels is become the salvation and the consolation of all who suffer.

He Who is glorious and transcendent in His own city… became little and humble, when in exile, that He might rejoice the exiles. He Who in the highest heavens is the glory of the Father became, as a Child on earth, “peace to men of good will.” A Little One is given to little ones, that the Great One may be given to the great, and that those whom the Little One justifies, the Great and Mighty One may afterwards magnify and render glorious.

Hence, without doubt, St. Paul, the vessel of election, pours out to us the treasures which he had received from the fullness of this Child. For Christ, though a Child, is full of grace and truth. “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead corporally.” … Of the showing forth of the mystery, he says “Rejoice”; of the promise of it he adds: “Again I say, Rejoice.” Rejoice that you have received the gifts of the left hand; rejoice in the expectation of the rewards of the right. “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand shall embrace me.” For the left hand raises, the right receives. The left hand heals and justifies; the right embraces and blesses. In the left hand are contained His merits, in the right His rewards. In the right are delights, in the left are remedies.

But see how gentle the Physician is! behold how wise! Consider diligently the novelty of these remedies that He brings. See how they are not merely precious, but beautiful as well. They are fruits beneficial for our healing, and at the same time they are charming to the spiritual eye, sweet to the spiritual taste. Notice, I beg of you, that His first remedy is in His left hand; this is His conception without human cooperation. How new, how wonderful, how attractive is this gift! For what is fairer than the chaste generation; what more glorious than a holy and pure conception in which there is no shame, no stain, no corruption? “Behold,” He says, “I make all things new.” Who is it that so speaks? It is no other than the Lamb Who sitteth upon the throne—the Lamb all sweetness, the Lamb all happiness, the Lamb all unction; for His name is Christ.

O miraculous novelty! The curse of Eve is reversed in our Virgin, for she brought forth her Son without pain or sorrow. The curse has been changed into a blessing, as the Angel Gabriel foretold: “Blessed art thou amongst women.” O only blessed one amongst women! Blest, not cursed! Alone free from the universal malediction! And no wonder that Jesus gave no sorrow to His Mother, since He Himself bore all the sorrows of the world, as Isaiah says: “Truly He hath carried our sorrows.”

There are two things from which our weak human nature shrinks—pain and shame. Christ came to take both from us, and this He did by accepting both in His own person—when, for instance, not to mention other occasions, He was condemned to death, and to a most shameful death, by wicked men. And, to give us fullest confidence of this deliverance, He first freed His Mother from both. This is an unheard-of wonder, yet we see here still greater miracles and still fuller glory.

Behold here an Infant without stain! Behold the Lamb without spot, the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sins of the world! Who could better take them away than He Who knew no sin? He, indeed, can cleanse me, who has never Himself been defiled. His touch can remove the clay from my eyes, for His hand is free from the lightest dust. … He Who has no smallest grain of dust in His own eye can take the beam from mine.

We have now certainly seen the riches of salvation and of life. We have seen His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father. What Father? “And He shall be called the Son of the Most High.”… “That which shall be born of thee shall be holy, and shall be called the Son of God.” Oh, truly the Holy One! Here miracles increase in number, riches are multiplied, a treasure is opened out. Our treasure was hidden. The incorruption of the Mother was hidden in the legal purification, and the innocence of the Child in the customary circumcision.

Hide, O Mary, hide the brightness of the new Sun; place Him in the manger, wrap your Infant in swaddling-clothes, for His swathing-bands are our riches. The rags of our Saviour are more precious than purple, and His poor manger is more glorious than the gilded thrones of kings. The poverty of Christ is greater riches than all this world’s wealth, for what is richer or more precious than the humility by which heaven is bought and Divine grace is obtained? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And St. James says: “God resists the proud, and gives his grace to the humble.”

We see humility commended in our Lord’s Nativity, for in it “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and in habit was found as man.” If you desire to find yet greater riches, yet higher glory, behold His charity in His passion; for “greater love than this no man hath, that he lay down his life for his friends.” These riches of salvation are the Precious Blood in which we were redeemed. This glory is the cross of our Lord, so that with the Apostle we exclaim, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ”; and elsewhere: “I have not judged myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

This is the “left hand,” Jesus Christ and Him crucified; the “right hand” is Jesus Christ and Him glorified. Show us, O’ Lord, Thy right hand, and it is sufficient for us, for “at Thy right hand are delights even to the end.”… They are light inaccessible, peace which surpasseth all understanding, a stream of delights ceaselessly flowing. Eye hath not seen light inaccessible, ear hath not heard what is peace incomprehensible.

But though their sound “hath gone forth into all the earth,” it hath surpassed all their understanding to comprehend how deep is this peace; they could not, therefore, transmit it to other ears. “Ear hath not heard it.” St. Paul himself says: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended.” But faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God—yes, faith, not vision; the promise of peace, not its manifestation.

It is true even now there is peace upon earth to men of good-will. But what is this peace compared to that plenitude and abundance of peace to be enjoyed in God’s house? Whence our Lord says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.” My peace—that is, the peace which surpasseth all understanding, and is peace upon peace.

You are not able to receive it yet, therefore I promise you the country of peace, and “leave” you in the meantime the way of peace. “Neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.”

Why, indeed?

Why cannot the thought of the good things God has prepared for us enter into our hearts? Is it that pride lifts up the heart and grace cannot flow in? It would seem so, for every proud spirit, like Satan, exalts itself above God. God wishes His will to be done; the proud man prefers to do his own. What folly! God desires His will to be carried out only in those things which reason approves; the proud man will have his will accomplished without reason, and even contrary to reason. This is a height to which the streams of grace cannot rise.

“Unless you be converted, and become as this little child,” says our Lord, “you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” He is Himself the little and humble Child whom He sets for our Model. He is the Fountain of life, in whom dwells and from whom flows the fullness of all grace. Prepare, then, the way for the waters of grace. Cast down the heights of earthly and proud thoughts. Be conformed to the Son of man, not to the first and fallen man, for the streams of grace cannot “enter into” the heart of the proud and carnal—that is, of the earthly-minded man.

Cleanse your “eye,” that you may be capable of beholding the most pure light of faith. Incline your “ear” to the call of obedience, that you may one day attain to perpetual rest and peace upon peace. That future life is called “light” because of its serenity, peace because of its tranquillity, a fountain because of its abundance and its eternity. We may attribute the “fountain“ to the Father, of Whom the Son is born, and from Whom the Holy Ghost proceeds; “light” to the Son, Who is the brightness of eternal life, and the true light enlightening every man who cometh into this world; “peace,” to the Holy Ghost, Who rests upon the humble and peaceable.

I do not mean to say that these names are proper to any of the three Divine Persons, for the Father is Light, since the Son is Light of Light; and the Son is Peace, as the Apostle says, “He is our peace who hath made both one”; and the Holy Ghost is the “Fountain of Water springing up into life everlasting.” But when shall we attain to these wonderful truths?

When, O Lord, wilt Thou fill us with joy by the sight of Thy countenance? We rejoice in Thee that Thou, the Orient from on high, hast visited us. We rejoice, too, “in the blessed hope” of Thy second coming. But when shall come that fullness of joy not in the memory of past blessings, but in actual possession of the eternal—joy, not in the expectation of good things, but in their present manifestation? “Behold,” He says, “I am with you all days, even to the end of the world.”

“The Lord is nigh, be nothing solicitous.” He is at hand, and will soon appear. Faint not; be not weary. “Seek Him while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” He is near to them who are of a contrite heart; He is near to those who wait for Him, who expect Him in truth.”  (Aeterna Press, St. Bernard of Clairvaux Collection)

And the Spirit and the Bride say: Come.
And he that heareth, let him say: Come.
And he that thirsteth, let him come:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

This Christmas more than ever, we pray for you, each and every one – a very blessed and happy Christ Mass to you and yours in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary!

Remember – Our Lady needs us to obey:  First Saturdays of Reparation, daily rosary, at least 5 mysteries, wear her brown scapular and live your Total Consecration to her Immaculate Heart, offering daily duties in reparation and for the conversion of poor sinners.

†  Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.

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