St Bernard on Christmas

Reader: you will not be sorry to read the following. It is worth meditating on at length. Believe me. Editor

‘The kindness and humanity of God our Saviour appeared.’

Thanks be to God, through whom our consolation overflows in this pilgrimage, in this exile, in this distress.

Before his humanity appeared, his kindness lay concealed. The latter indeed existed first, because the mercy of the Lord is from eternity. But how could people know it was so great? It was promised indeed, but not yet experienced: hence many did not believe in it. ‘The Lord’ indeed ‘spoke in fragmentary and varied fashion through the prophets’ saying ‘I know the thoughts that I think towards you, thoughts of peace and not of affliction.’

But what reply did people make, people who felt the affliction, and knew nothing of peace ? How long will you keep saying, ‘Peace, peace, when there is no peace’? Therefore ‘The angels of peace were weeping bitterly’ saying ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ But now let people believe at least their own sight, because ‘the testimonies of God are become exceedingly credible’. ‘He has set his tabernacle in the sun’, so that it cannot escape even an eye that is troubled.

Behold, peace no longer promised, but conferred; no longer delayed, but given; no longer predicted, but bestowed. Behold, God the Father has sent down to earth as it were a bag filled with his mercy; a bag to be rent open in the passion so that our ransom which it concealed might be poured out; a small bag indeed, but full. It is indeed a small child who is given to us, but in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead.

After the fulness of time, had come, there came too the fulness of the Godhead. He came in the flesh, so that at least he might make himself manifest to our earthly minds, so that when this humanity of his appeared, his kindness might also be acknowledged. Where the humanity of God appears, his kindness can no longer be hidden. In what way, indeed, could he have better commended his kindness than by assuming my flesh? My flesh, that is, not Adam’s, as it was before the fall.

What greater proof could he have given of his mercy than by taking upon himself that which needed mercy? Where is there such fulness of loving-kindness as in the fact that the Word of God became perishable like the grass for our sakes: ‘Lord, what is man, that you make much of him or pay him any head?’

Let man infer from this how much God cares for him. Let him know from this what God thinks of him, what he feels about him. Man, do not ask about your own sufferings; but about what he suffered. Learn from what he was made for you, how much he makes of you, so that his kindness may show itself to you from his humanity.

The lesser he has made himself in his humanity, the greater has he shown himself in kindness. The more he humbles himself on my account, the more powerfully he engages my love. ‘The kindness and humanity of God our Saviour appeared’ says the Apostle. The humanity of God shows the greatness of his kindness, and he who added humanity to the name of God gave great proof of his kindness.

I was trying to use inclusive language but was afraid of inaccuracy so gave up. editor

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