by Fr. Benedict Solomon, O.Praem.
Advent is the time we dedicate to prepare for Christmas and the mystery of the Incarnation, God’s greatest miracle. The Incarnation, at its most basic and profound level, is a love story. It is the love of an infinitely merciful God for a broken and lost humanity. God came into our world on a search and rescue mission, to save us from our sins.
He chose to enter into our life and lifestyle, to follow the same path as all of us, being born, growing up, laboring as an adult, and ultimately, dying. This is truly an amazing thing to contemplate. Jesus, the only Son of God, chose to spend most of His life living a private, ordinary existence just like yours and mine.
Jesus’ rescue mission did not begin with His public ministry. It began with His Incarnation and continued along the spectrum of His whole life. As the Catechism states, “Christ’s whole life is the mystery of redemption” (CCC 517).
There is, therefore, in the Catholic vision of reality, a profound understanding that the natural is saturated by the supernatural, that matter is suffused by grace. We call this the Incarnation Principle.
The Incarnation of God the Son is the bedrock which underlies the relationship between God and man. In assuming a human nature, God demonstrates that creation, including our human nature, is not only good but is capable of being further elevated and sanctified through the infusion of the Divine life.
This is the basis of our entire sacramental system, which uses outward material signs as the conduit or distribution point of God’s supernatural life — from the initiation of the believer’s journey in Baptism to its conclusion in Anointing of the Sick. It is the basis of the Church, a visible society which itself serves as a living connection between God and man, a sort of macro-sacrament. It is even the basis for society, which begins with a proper understanding of matrimony, which St. Paul tells us takes as its model the relationship of Christ and the Church. For in matrimony a man and a woman join in a profound sanctifying union of both body and spirit, a union which is both faithful and fertile, and generating new life.
This understanding of the goodness of creation, of matter, of humanity and of human joys and aspirations—and the lesson that this goodness is designed to be further filled, animated and elevated by the love of God—is so central to God’s plan that our faith begins and ends with it. It begins with God’s self-emptying of glory as He takes on human flesh and it ends in the resurrection of the glorified Christ, Who forever retains His human body and His identity as a man.
Not in the abstract, then, is Catholic salvation worked out, but in the concrete; not in the general, but in the particular. Each virtue is cultivated, each habit transformed and elevated, each relationship purified, each work ennobled. And the power for this continuous transformation is given us in the sacraments.
This means that even with every Christmas card you write or gift you wrap, you advance God’s redemptive love – in you and in those who receive this kindness from you.
Every Catholic is called to a life-long process of permitting our incarnate Christ to elevate with His grace not only himself but his loves, his labors, and the microcosm over which he has dominion. Yet, there will come a time when everything on the natural level will end and only the supernatural remains – just as the dawn gives way to day. This is why after communion, when we receive the very body and blood of Christ, we will pray: May these mysteries, O Lord, in which we have participated profit us, we pray. For even now as we walk among passing things you teach us by them to love the things of heaven and to hold fast to what endures.
This divine project, which unites all of earth and heaven has no detail neglected or flattened and no element lost or discarded, is unique to Catholicism.
But even the Incarnation Principle is not so much explained as demonstrated, not so much preached as lived. It was lived first by Christ Himself, born of Mary and protected by Joseph, in Bethlehem, in a stable, in a manger—and so at length in us through the sacraments and this time of Advent thoughtfully lived.
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