Perhaps we think: It's Christmastime; our hearts should be focused on the joy of His birth. Certainly! But perhaps something is missing then? The birth and death of Jesus Christ, the Manger and the Cross, belong together indissolubly. God became man in order to die for us as man. God was born in Bethlehem in order to be able to lay down his life on Golgotha out of love for men! Thus the Manger and the Cross form a union. Both the Manger and the Cross are for us the revelation of God's love. God loved us so much that he did not shrink back from becoming man in a manger. God loved men so much that he did not shrink back from dying on the Cross.
'Manger and Cross', by Beate Heinen
On the day after Christmas the Church celebrates the first martyr, the holy deacon Stephen. He was the first in Church history to lay down his life for the sake of his faith, for Christ. Three days after the Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord and Redeemer we celebrate the feast of the "Holy Innocents", the victims of the infanticide in Bethlehem. St. Augustine and numerous Fathers of the Church praised and venerated the infant martyrs. They were "granted", as St. Augustine said, "not only to die as witnesses (martyrs) for Jesus, but in His place." Maybe they were not the first who consciously and out of their own free will gave their lives for Christ as St. Stephen did. Yet they died for the sake of Christ. They died in His place, as the very goal of the infanticide of Bethlehem was Jesus Himself.
Already this temporal sequence makes us aware how closely life and death, Christmas and Easter, Bethlehem and Golgotha, the Manger and the Cross are bound together.
INCARNATION AND REDEMPTION
The "Passio Domini", the passion of our Lord is not limited to the three paschal days, from the passion of our Lord from the Mount of Olives until the death on the Cross. In the widest sense the Passion of the Lord really begins with the Incarnation.
Do we not contemplate in Advent season the "Coming of the LORD in His lowliness"?
Do we not contemplate the infinite condescension and humiliation of the LORD, the Creator's Son, GOD's Son, who did not shrink back from becoming man?
Is not the search for shelter a way of the Cross for the Lord, who is suffering as He comes into what is his own but his own people did not receive Him?
Is Bethlehem not a Mount of Olives as well, where the Lord and in a special way Mary and Joseph as well suffered an agony, as they were not able to find a lodging for the Son of God who was entrusted to them?
Is the stable of Bethlehem not a Golgotha as well, where the Lord begins his life in a manger in order to yield it 33 years later on another wood, the wood of the Cross?
The Passion of the Lord began with the Incarnation and continues by way of the refusal of the Messiah in Bethlehem and his birth in a cold, dirty stable; by way of the prophesy of Simeon and the flight before Herod to Egypt until to the last chapter of this Passion: the death on the Cross.
The birth and death of the Redeemer, one could say: "Manger and Cross", are most closely connected! Born in the wood of the Manger, normally already constructed in the form of a cross - the Lord died on another wood, the wood of the Cross - and all this because of the sin which was committed at the wood of the tree of knowledge in the Paradise.
There is not only a science of the Cross (cf. Edith Stein), but also a science of the Manger.
"Lord, by Your birth you delivered Yourself also to death,
in Your manger You felt and experienced the wood of the Cross for the first time,
and your first sobbing as a child rose up before the Face of the Father.
Thus Your redemptive passion began."
MANGER AND CROSS
On a stone drawing by Wilhelm Geyer of the stable of Bethlehem only a part of the timberwork remains. It stands above the Child and his Mother raised up like a threatening Cross. The longer one looks at this picture, the more the Child and his Mother withdraw into the background. Surely the two persons constitute the center of the picture. But ever stronger the gallows-like beams protrude and determine the meaning of the image of the birth of CHRIST that the artist wants to give.
And from the artist Beate Heinen a picture originates with the title "Manger and Cross". In the foreground one sees a rock cave with the newborn Child Jesus - not in a kind of manger, but in a kind of trough looking like a coffin. From the manger a way starts through a blooming garden. Along the way the trees become more and more bare, the colors more gloomy.
At the rear edge of the image a hill with three crosses can be perceived. The way is winding upwards, it is steep. Nothing is growing there any more. There is no green, only grey. It is not a place of life, but of death. We know the name of the hill: Golgotha.
The way is leading from the Manger to the Cross.
Jesus had to go this way. It was the way of his life. The painter showed it with her picture quite clearly: the Cross and the Manger belong together. It is not possible to accept only a part of ...
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