Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Crib and the Cross

PRAISED BE Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

“Where is the new-born King of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage,” so did the magi ask as they went to Jerusalem in search for the child of promise. This seems to be a strange way of referring to the child: “king of the Jews.” It seems to be a title that only gentiles would address the Son of David. Amongst the Jewish circles, people would normally speak of the “king of Israel.” Only gentiles would call him “King of the Jews.” In fact, Pope Benedict pointed out that the same title will be written by Pontius Pilate on the inscription over the Cross: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. “As the first Gentiles inquire after Jesus – there are already echoes of the mystery of the Cross, a mystery that is inseparably linked with Jesus’ kingship.” [Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives, 102.]

Not only Herod was troubled by this inquiry, but all Jerusalem as well. “This…could be an anticipation of Jesus’ regal entrance into the Holy City on the eve of His Passion, when Matthew [the same author] says that the whole city was quaking [cf. Mt. 21:10].” [Ibid., 103.] The chief priests and the scribes of the people would meet. On this occasion, they meet to determine where the King of the Jews was to be born according to the prophecies…but later on, they would meet to connive and have Jesus sentenced to death. “What from a lofty perspective of faith is a star of hope, from the perspective of daily life is merely a disturbance. It is true: God disturbs our comfortable day-to-day existence. Jesus’ kingship goes hand in hand with this passion.” [Ibid.]

Not only did they offer gold and frankincense...they also offered myrrh.
We see the shadow of the Cross all over the story of the adoration by the Magi. Not only did they offer the child gifts of gold and incense to honor his royalty and divinity. They offered him myrrh, which is used for the anointing of a corpse. Nicodemus, in the story of the Lord’s Passion, would bring myrrh for the anointing of the body of Jesus. The Magi acknowledged the Child to be King and God but they saw this royalty and divinity revealed in his Death on the Cross. The Cross is the Wisdom of God. The Cross is the Power of God.  The mystery of the Incarnation cannot be separated from the mystery of the Cross. The Cross was the purpose of the Incarnation. He took on human nature so that he can die on the Cross and redeem us from sins. In the humility of the manger, He is king. In the humiliation of the Cross, He is enthroned as King.

“The impact of eternity on the temporal order can be seen in the crib and on the cross. How does the divine enter into the human? This happens in the experience of poverty and annihilation, in the experience of failure…This is the law of the supernatural here on earth: the law of the Cross. The supernatural, the divine, are accompanied by the law of the cross…The divine does not come on earth in order to triumph according to human modes. It does not come to display itself in a glory that would be natural, and in a triumph that would be temporal. God has chosen poverty, apparent failure, a seeming lack of preparation, self-abasement: such is the law imposed by the Holy Trinity on our Lord for his coming on earth and for his departure.” This will be the same law that will preside over the development of grace in our souls. It is the same law of the development of the Church. “The Church, because it is Christ…will reproduce Christ. The Church will live according to the laws of Christ…Christ is the prototype. The Church must pass by the same way and follow the same laws for its birth, its development, and its end. To be born in a manger and to die crucified  - these laws…we have to remember them.” (Fr. Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus, Emmanuel: When God walked on our Land, 76-77.)

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. 

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