Rorate Caeli

A Christmas meditation

 Given by Father Konrad zu Loewenstein FSSP at Midnight Mass, 2017

St. Mary’s Church, Warrington, England

(based on the Biblical Commentary of Fr. Cornelius a Lapide)

We read that Our Blessed Lady in the Christmas scene 'meditated all these things in her heart'. The Latin word 'conferens' suggests the making of comparisons, that is of the human and the Divine: the human in the birth of a human child of a human mother in the poorest and meanest of conditions; the Divine in the birth of God predicted by an Archangel, heralded by the conception and the exultation in the womb of St. John the Baptist, by the prophecies of St. Elisabeth and Zachariah, by the host of angels and the star.

And amongst the signs of Divine action we can include the character of the birth itself and the presence of ministering angels.  

The birth did not affect the virginal integrity of the Mother any more than had the Conception, Our Lady being perpetually a Virgin: before, during, and after the Birth; nor was the birth in any way painful, since the pains of child-labour were not inherited by Our Most Blessed Mother, immune as she was from every stain of Original Sin. For whereas Eve, the mother of death, brought forth in pain as a punishment for sin, Our Lady, the Mother of Life, brought forth in joy, exempt from every sin.

Our Lady revealed to St. Bridget: 'He went forth from my closed virginal womb with unspeakable joy and exaltation... I brought him forth... kneeling alone in prayer in the stable. For with such exaltation and gladness of soul did I bear Him, that I felt no trouble nor any pain, but straightway I wrapped Him in the clean clothing which I had long before prepared'. In the Angelic Discourse we read: 'Moreover when the Son of God was conceived, He entered throughout the whole body of the Virgin with His Divinity, so when He was born with His humanity and His Godhead, He was poured forth throughout her body like all the sweetness shed whole from the bosom of the rose, the glory of maidenhood remaining in His Mother.'

Where did Our Blessed Lord repose at His birth? Barradius asserts on the ground on account of His Divine humility, where, according to a tradition related by Ribadaneira, the Blessed Virgin as soon as she saw Christ, struck with wonder at God made man, prostrated herself on the ground before Him, and with the deepest reverence and joy of heart saluted Him with the words: 'Thou art come to me, who has longed for Thee, my God! my Lord! my Son!'  - not doubting at all that she was understood by Him, Infant as He was, and that thus she adored Him, kissing His feet as her God, His hands as Her lord, His face as her Son. Others are of the opinion that He was placed by angels into the arms of His Blessed Mother; others still, with St. Bridget and Fr. a Lapide, hold that the Divine Infant raised Himself with His own power into the arms of His most sweet Virgin Mother. 

As for the presence of ministering angels, Father Cornelius a Lapide rightly remarks: 'If the stars of the Morning praised God and all the Sons of God (that is the Angels) rejoiced at the creation of the world as Job says (38.7), how much more did they do so at the Incarnation and the Nativity of the Word? Indeed St. Paul states (Heb 1.6): 'When [the Father] brings forth His firstborn into the world, He says: 'And let all the angels of God worship Him'. And we may readily imagine that not only in the sky above the shepherds, surrounded by a new and majestic divine light, but also in the very stable of Bethlehem, hosts of angels adore.

As the same Father a Lapide comments: 'All the angels accompanied Christ their God and Lord to earth, as all royal households accompany a King when he goes abroad. They were amazed at God the Immeasurable as it were straightened into a span's breadth, they venerated Him and adored Him... And so it came to pass that this stable was as it were turned into the highest Heaven, full of angels, yes of Cherubim and Seraphim, who, all leaving Heaven, came down to adore their God made man. Such was the work of the Incarnation and Nativity of the Word - hitherto inconceivable and as it were entirely incredible to the angels, as being the supreme and appropriate work of Divine Power, Wisdom, Justice, and Clemency, and surpassing every understanding of men and angels. 

And so Our Lady, in her maidenly silence and modesty, her heavenly prudence, her firmest Faith and Hope, contemplated all these things, both human and Divine, comparing the signs of deepest lowliness which she saw with what she knew of God's Supreme Majesty: the stable with heaven; the swaddling clothes with that with which He Himself is vested Who is 'covered with light as with a garment' (Ps. 104); the crib with the throne of God; the beasts with the Seraphim: seeing in them all a wondrous harmony such as to confirm her faith that it was the only begotten Son of God Himself Who was born of her, Who would, in the course of time, unfold and bring to their consummation such mysteries in the Redemption of the world.   

And just as the Revelation of God as an Infant Child causes wonder to the angels for its sublime novelty, so it raises the hearts of mankind, and above all of Our Blessed Lady, to adore the Godhead, as the Church sings in the Preface of the Nativity: 'Because by the mystery of the Incarnate Word a new effulgence of Thy glory has shone upon the eyes of our soul, that coming to know God visibly, we may by Him be rapt into yearning after things which are not seen'. And so Our Blessed Lady, all the angels and mankind rejoice together, and so we too, dear faithful, rejoice together and thank God for coming to earth out of love for us, so that we too might love Him as an Infant Child, as our God, our Redeemer, and our Infinite Good.