Feast of St. John the Evangelist
While all things were in quiet silence and the night was in the midst of her course, Thine almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven from Thy royal throne. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw His glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth… (Wisdom 18.14-15; St. John 1.14, DRV).
It was promised of Old that God Himself will come and will save you (Isaias 35.4). God Himself comes as man, but He comes first as a poor babe born in a manger carrying the name Jesus (Emmanuel, God-is-with-us). This was God’s “first leap,” as St. Gregory the Great expresses it, “the first leap of the Infinite into human finiteness, the first step in God’s self-humiliation” (Fr. Joseph Holzner, SJ, Paul of Damasus, p.458).
The first Adam, through the suggestion of the first Eve at the subtle instigation of the devil, thought that he could pluck out “being-like-God” from the forbidden tree. Concurring with the devil, he intended to steal divine honors: that he should sit at the throne of God as the supreme judge of what is true and false, of what is good and evil – the same great sin of the modern man: he is the standard and measure of truth, “For me…,” he quips [and this is the same breath that comes out of the mouth of many “Catholics” attached to the New “Catholic Order” (the Novus Ordo) after all the boast that they now better understand more than ever their encounter with God in the New Liturgy thanks to the revolutionary Vatican II that gave them first a revised Mass in their vulgar tongue].
But the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the God-man, thought it not robbery to be equal with God (St. Paul to the Philippians, 2.6). This was His rightful possession because of His eternal generation from the Father: Glorify Thou me, O Father, with Thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was, with Thee (St. John 17.5). Nevertheless, as the second Adam was to undo the injustice of the first Adam, He freely divested Himself of all external glory, and He hid his divine origin, emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man (St. Paul to the Philippians, 2.7).
For God to become man is not absolutely necessary, however. In His almighty power, He could have just forgiven man and accept penance according to man’s utmost capacity. No, man must be redeemed in a most noble, effective, and admirable manner according to the measure of God’s generosity; for true love overcomes every obstacle, accepts every situation, and makes any sacrifice in order to unite us with Him Who has loved us with an everlasting love (Jeremias 31.3).
If we are to be united to God, we must do exactly what the Word did to become united to human nature; He followed the path of prodigious self-abasement, of infinite humility. Here there opens before us the path of “nada” of St. John of the Cross – the path of “nothing,” of total abnegation: “In order to possess everything, desire to possess nothing” (Ascent of Mt. Carmel, I. 13,14). We desire naturally supreme truth and supreme goodness as the final goal of all our rational strivings; and, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, because this is inborn, it cannot be vain or aimless. However, the modern godless “rationalist” man, faced with incontrovertible evidence and realizing his embarrassing folly in thinking, on one hand, that by declaring the material-physical world – in which he moves as a lesser lord and master – to be the only reality affording him a firm and solid ground on which to proclaim the non-existence of a superior Intelligence and Will, now, on the extreme, refusing to yield to the superiority of the “Middle-Ages”-Catholic-Thomistic genius which concludes that “we shall reach our ultimate end [the possession of the Supreme Truth and Supreme Goodness] only if an agent higher than our natural faculties [Who is God] actualises our intellect and fills to repletion our natural desire for knowledge,” proclaims with Vatican II Ecumenism: “There is no absolute truth” [except his statement which is an absolute one?]. This modern godless “rationalist” man asks: “How do we know?” [Only plants, among the living bodily beings, do not know and so from the Catholic-Thomistic viewpoint the vegetative life is the lowest grade of life. A man who refuses to know simply because he will inevitably face the reality of God can retreat to the level of a vegetable?] He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for Me, shall find it (the Eternal Word made flesh in St. Matthew 10.39, cf. 16.25).
Compared to the infinite humiliations of the Eternal Word made flesh, this path should not seem to us to be austere and exacting. What He asks is that we return generous love for generous love by striping ourselves everything that is not Him and hinders our union with Him: sin and our voluntary faults and imperfections; above all, let us divest ourselves of self-love, pride, vanity, all our righteous pretensions. What a striking contrast between these vain pretenses of our “ego” and the touching humility of the Incarnate Word! Sic nos amantem, quis non redamaret? Who would not love Him Who loves us so much? (Adeste Fideles). Out of love for us, Jesus Christ not only stripped Himself during His earthly life of all His greatness and majesty, but from the very first moment He embraced every possible privation. Let us consider how the Holy Child Jesus lived: rough straw, insufficient coverings, a stable for His house, and a manger for His cradle. Let us strive to strip ourselves of our love of riches, of our attachment to our material well-being, our comforts, and everything that is superfluous.
If Christ had thought and lived as we do, He would have insisted on His divine rights, he would have avenged Himself during His earthly life on everyone that offended Him, He would have legions of angels to fight for Him, He would have rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and He would have sold his life for the highest price. The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did none of these things and we are too eager to insist on our rights, we are stubborn, and we will not yield to God and His Church and to others. God adapted Himself to us when He became man; let us learn from the Child Jesus how to come down from the little pedestal of our personality to adapt ourselves to the mentalities, preferences, and needs of our brethren. Certainly, we cannot conform to the desires of our brethren when there is question, however slight, of something in opposition to the honor and glory of God, the observance of His laws and commandments and the constant teachings and precepts of His Church, or simply because we cannot really do them, and that these would prevent us from fulfilling our duties. To do so in such cases would be culpable weakness. But there are many other ocassions when it is simply a matter of not insisting upon our personal feelings, our point of view, our own tastes, but of effacing ourselves, and considering the mentality and tastes of others. Then condescension is a solid Christian virtue, and far from being weakness, it is a beautiful proof of moral strength, of that strength which knows how to overcome self and sacrifice its ego for the sake of the Beloved. For Christian Charity does not make use of its sensitiveness to defend its own rights, to protest against the ingratitude of others [considering that God already foresaw all the ingratitude for and even mockery of His condescension], or to demand some degree of justice; rather, Christian Charity is not easily offended when it meets with a lack of refinement or consideration, and in spite of the coldness and hostility which it may encounter, it continues its one work: to give itself, and to give itself always, for the love of God and for the benefit of those who caused its suffering.