the life of Jesus - for everything is connected, everything is woven together.
Perhaps we think: It's Christmastime; our hearts should be focused on the joy of His birth. Certainly! But perhaps something is missing then?
Not only modern artists emphasize the connection between the Manger and the Cross. In a cloister of a convent of South Tyrol is a well-known picture: God the Father is sending his Son to the earth in order to become man in Mary; Jesus, however, shown as a little child, already carries the Cross.
The artists indeed call our attention to something unusual in the story of Christmas. They call our attention to the ultimate consequence which is connected with the Incarnation of Jesus Christ: his death on the Cross of Golgotha.
THE ULTIMATE CONSEQUENCE OF THE INCARNATION OF GOD
The saints as well realized this connection.
Thus we read in the retreat booklet by St. Ignatius:
We should in and by the Christmas narration "look and ponder what Mary and Joseph are doing: they go on a journey; they are laboring, that the Lord can be born in the greatest poverty, in order finally, after so much effort, hunger and thirst, heat and cold, insults and offenses, to die on the Cross - and all this for me."
The Gospels as well indicate that the Cross above the Manger is more than a mere decoration. Herod seeks to take the life of the newborn Child Jesus. Death is indeed present as a menacing possibility. We are used to seeing only splendor and glory around the newborn Jesus. But the artists, the saints, and even more the Evangelists, know better:
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.
In a way of the cross of Advent season it says in the 1st station:
"Get down on your knees, O soul, close your eyes and look within: Jesus is condemned to death: There lies the newborn Infant, subject to all the laws of nature: ...coldness, hunger, nakedness and poverty await Him. Jesus' first hour in the stable of Bethlehem is already a redemptive act - expiation, salvation, and satisfaction.
We adore You, O Jesus, and we praise You, for by Your holy Cross, already from that first hour of Your life, and by Your Passion and Death, You have redeemed the whole world."
The founder of St. John's Community, Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, once said:
"The Advent season is totally orientated towards Christmas, and Christmas is orientated towards the Cross. Jesus came to this world in order to save us. Mary became Mother that we should be able to live from the salvation which Jesus wants to give us."
In a fictive text the dying Lord turns to the side and says to man:
"Behold, my child, the Manger and the Cross are one, only transformed.
In the Manger I received the Cross as a talent. At the Cross I gave the talent back as a victor.
In the Manger Mary placed Me from eternal life into temporal life, from the arms of the Father into the arms of the world.
At the Cross Mary placed Me from temporal life into eternal life, from the arms of the world (the beams of the Cross) back into the arms of My Father.
There under the Cross Mary received Me for all of you. For all of you I was born in the Manger as a man.
For you I shed my Blood on the Cross , for you Mary had her heart be pierced.
The ultimate consequence of the Incarnation of Christ is his passion and death on the Cross. The ultimate consequence of Bethlehem is Golgotha. The ultimate consequence of the love of God is our redemption!
Fr. Bernhard Speringer ORC is a priest of the "Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross" (www.cruzios.org) in Austria. He was ordained 2001 in Innsbruck. His main task is leading spiritual exercises in Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, especially for members of the "Opus Sanctorum Angelorum" (www.opusangelorum.org). He is Editor-in-Chief of "St. Josephsblatt" and known for his contributions and publications in various Catholic media, including conferences on Radio Maria.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Advent, Bethlehem, Christmas, cross, Fr. Bernhard Speringer
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