Night is a stupendous mystery in that some of the greatest events in human and world history take place during the night. There is something mystical about the deep silence of the night. There is little silence in the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan cities where, for the most part, sin is the only widespread activity.
There are many pilgrims on this earthly pilgrimage who either end or begin their pilgrimage in the night. The newborn's cry or the heavy sigh of the dying - both frequently take place at night when the rest of nature is still.
The austere beauty of a cold winter with nothing but the sparkling light of the stars piercing the black night, is an awesome thing to experience. There is truly mystery in all that. There is mystery in all that because the nothingness of night awaits the somethingness of positive activity.
Shepherds watch on the hillside. They may have a fire to keep them somewhat warm. There is not much else on a scraggy hill when watching a flock of sheep. All is quite; all is silent. Perhaps in the distance, a few flickering lamps send out their meager glow to announce to the rest of the world that there is life down there. Humble as home may be, it is still home and roof and walls and floor keep the cold from entering. It may be poor, but it is cozy and snug.
If only you and I could have been on that hillside just outside of Bethlehem in the reign of Caesar Augustus. We would not have known what divine providence was working in that tiny, overcrowded town of Bethlehem. We would not have had the slightest idea that among the many strangers returning to their place of origin merely to satisfy the whim of a foreign ruler that there would be a special couple.
The ways of God are certainly not our ways. Far from it. Our ways are the ways of the world. We may not wish to admit it; but, it is true.
Our values are the false values of the world which is ruled by Lucifer. We have kept the label `Christian' because deep down in our hearts we would wish to be Christian while at the same time our lives are distant from the ideal. This merely proves the truth of the old saying "Anima humana est naturaliter Christiana." That is to say: "The human soul is naturally Christian."
It was to bring back the immortal soul onto the right way, that God chose the peculiarly uninviting circumstances of entrance into His created world. The Omnipotent enters His world as an impotent infant.
Why? Why this disguise that would eventually lead Him to a death at the hands of His own creatures? He would die at the hands of His noblest work: man.
He Who later on would raise the dead and prove that He was Lord of all life; He Who multiplied fishes and barley loaves and proved that He is the provident Lord; He Who would remain silent when His ignorant creatures hypocritically condemned Him to die on the Cross and thus prove that the power of truth is greater than this life; He Who would rise on the third day and thus prove that love is stronger than death. Yes, He would accept all these humiliations and sufferings and death to prove a point: Humble obedience to the heavenly Father is the greatest good that any creature can desire and strive to accomplish.
The Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ, took upon Himself the visible garb of humanity in its most humble form: the form of the homeless; the form of the humble laborer; the form of the despised.
In order to confound the power of the world. What can be weaker than a child? In order to put to naught the world's pride, He chooses a bed of straw. The entire world was His Home. By His omnipresence, He was always with His creation. But, on the first Christmas Day He came into His world in a way foretold long ago. He was expected; people of faith waiting for Him. But, when He came, the world received Him not. The story of Christmas is a touching story. It is particularly touching because it is the story of God who was homeless in His own Home.
He would later say to one of the Scribes who had said to Him: "Master, I will follow thee wherever thou goest.": "The foxes have dens, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." (Matt. 8, 19,20).
There are those who show so much concern for the Infant that has come into our midst, but often forget the how of His coming. There are some modernized forms of Christianity that speak of the Infant, but nary a word about the Infant's Mother.
They seem to forget that the Incarnate God did not fall from the sky onto a bed of straw. No, He came into this world the same way everyone of the human race since Adam has entered this existence. He came through the gates of the flesh.
You cannot separate a Son from the Mother anymore than you can separate sons from their mothers. And mothers cannot be separated from their sons.
You cannot sever the Mother from the Infant. He came into this world like all other infants: He came into the world by and through His Mother.
If we adore the Child, would it not be proper to venerate His Mother. And, while we kneel to Jesus, is there no bow to the Mother in gratitude for having given Him to us as our Redeemer and Savior?
The Christian world has succeeded in celebrating Christmas without the Mother. We are now succeeding in celebrating Christmas without the Christmas Child!
We live in times of great absurdity. There can never be a Christmas without Christ, and there cannot be a Christ without Mary. Yet, one would be hard put to find many remembrances of the historical fact. `Happy Holidays' have replaced, for the most part, the traditionally sound greeting "Merry Christmas!" Happy holidays are absurdly meaningless. For, why should `Happy Holidays' be an occasion for distorted figures of `Santa Claus' (Who was a Catholic saint named `St. Nicholas.'); the stores have been decorated with brightly sparkling trees which are nothing more than a pagan distortion of the original Christmas tree which Catholics used to symbolize the ever green `tree of life' - Jesus Christ.
But, as we consider this great mystery of redemption, let us consider this strange attitude of God towards something so familiar to us all: the home.
Everyone, as evening draws near, returns to one's home: both man and beast. Each one ceases the pilgrimage of life to continue it on the morrow. Christ is the only one who does not interrupt His pilgrimage. He journeys day and night. And for this reason He does not return to a home where He may lay down His head. Christ alone has no place to which He returns at the end of day.
Our Lord did not have a home in this world, He merely had a stopping place for the night. Jesus was never `at home;' He was always `on the way.' And for this reason He described Himself first of all as the `Way': "I am the Way."
These simple words are as profound in significance as the depths of the sea and the unlimited space of the heavens.
Jesus was the `way' because He came to show mankind the only way back to God. Anyone thinking that all religions are just so many `roads' leading to God are terribly mistaken because they all without exception lead away from God.
Every religion that is not united in faith and charity (i.e., in doctrine and obedience) to the Roman Catholic Church is not a religion leading to God, but a religion binding its followers to the Antichrist.
That this is true can be verified by the fact that the more these people talk about `religion' and `God,' the more they contradict each other. These are all the antichrists of whom St. John speaks. There is an irreconcilable gulf between these antichrists and Christ.
It is not the position of the Church to `dialogue' with the world and make concessions of appeasement. The position of the Church is to realize the simple mandate given Her by Her Master, Jesus Christ: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world." (Matt. 28,1-20).
This Jesus was not an abstract idea. The Jesus Who spoke these words was a Man who addressed these physical sounds
other men. He gave them His power - a power over heaven and over the earth; He gave them the command to teach all nations without exception. The teacher is not the one to be taught. The teacher instructs those who have no instruction. Teaching is the act of transmitting information. Besides this, the function of teaching is also to guide along definite paths those who are being instructed. For this reason Jesus is the Way; and for this same reason His Mystical Body, the Church, is the Way.
Jesus Christ did not tolerate religious error. He condemned it in its false teachers and took pity upon the deceived. He called the deceived `sheep without a shepherd.'
Thus, in order to follow the one and only way back to God, everyone must of necessity follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Mystical Body to whom alone He has entrusted the continuation of His saving mission. He is the way. Only those come to the truth who tread along this way; only those attain life who form their lives according to this way and this truth.
And the first great truth along this one way was eloquently given without a single word in Bethlehem. St. Luke records the event. He writes, certainly, from tradition: "Now it came to pass in those days, that a decree went forth from Caesar Augustus that a census of the whole world should be taken. This first census took place while Cyrinus was governor of Syria. And all were going, each to his own town, to register.
And Joseph also went from Galilee out of the town of Nazareth into Judea to the town of David, which is called Bethlehem - because he was of the house and family of David - to register, together with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass while they were there, that the days for her to be delivered were fulfilled. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke2,1-7).
This Child lying in a manger was given by the angel to the shepherds as a sign. A sign to indicate something specific and distinctive. A `sign' always points to something, indicates something. It calls for some kind of recognition. The angel said to the shepherds: ".. for today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."
In the entire history of the world, how many births were foretold hundreds of years before the event in unheard of detail? How many births were announced not by local means such as word of mouth or newspapers, but by angels from heaven? Only ONE!
And concerning only one child was it said by an angel: "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he shall be king over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Ibid.1,31-33).
The sign whereby the world would know the heir to the throne of David would be that infant lying in a manger in swaddling clothes. It is this infant who will be called Jesus; it is this infant who will reign over the house of Jacob forever. It is this infant who continues to reign over the house of Jacob, that is, the true descendants of the house of Jacob. And those who reject this Jesus are not of the house of Jacob, but are liars and thieves and murderers.
What is the great mystery surrounding this sign: A child wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger?
This is truly an astounding sign. A sign, that is most profound in that which it signifies. All that He had was a little straw to keep His tiny body off the cold and dirty ground. The typical smell of the stable greeted His tiny nostrils. The warm breath of the donkey and the ox, perhaps keeping some of the cold away from this tiny Being. There was nothing in the stable suited for the living and comfort of man. Only the barest of physical needs: a roof to protect against rain; perhaps a door to keep out the cold wind; perhaps a little window for some light. It was a place not for humans to dwell, but a place to keep animals. The purpose of the stable was to protect nature. It was not meant as a house for intelligent beings. The stable does not provide anything whereby a human being might boast or be proud of. The stable merely provides a place to be. Nothing more. There is no material superfluity. Just the stark necessities for existence.
By this sign, the Christian world learned that the stable gives to poverty its true meaning. The Savior's birth in the stable of Bethlehem was a sign not only to His first worshipers, but to the entire world that dedicated humanity is essentially bound up with simplicity of life.
Jesus Christ was born in the stable in Bethlehem not only because there was no room in the inn, but also to free human nature from its attachment to earthly goods. Christ's birth in the stable was an act of redemption: It redeemed man from his slavery to things.
The very first thing a human being becomes attached to is his home - the place where he establishes his `residence' from which he goes forth into the outside world and to which he returns at the end of the day. This attachment to a place is so strong that only the grace of God can give a soul the strength to break that enslaving bond.
The strength of this propensity can be seen in our day most clearly. If we would consider the attachment people have to these material buildings as opposed to convictions of faith, we will see and understand the immense grip exercised by the mere physical edifice upon the spirit.
In all centuries, whenever attacks against the true faith went beyond intellectual debate and entered the world of physical action, the faith invariably lost and the physical edifice won. This means that the majority has always remained with the building while losing the faith, and the few lost their buildings while keeping their faith.
This is eminently true when we look around us. The great apostasy from the true faith has as one of its fundamental properties, the fact that the greater number will choose to lose their faith, but remain comfortably in their buildings. Whereas, the small number - the `little flock' - keeping the faith intact, are forced by the dictates of their conscience to abandon the convenience of the buildings which once was their place of prayer and worship.
How often do we not hear people say: "Where is your church?" The faithful have been forced to gather in private homes, in motels, in other places not destined specifically for divine worship. They have chosen to suffer all these inconveniences because they deem their supernatural faith more important than the place where they may pray and worship. Today, it is rare that a true Catholic can attend an edifice that was constructed for the sole purpose of being God's House. Instead, they must gather in renovated structures: in garages turned into tiny chapels, in warehouses turned into churches. These are the faithful who, like the humble shepherds who heard the message of the angel hastened to an ugly, smelly stable to witness the entrance into His creation the God of all creation! They did not go to the local temple or synagogue; they went as directed by heaven's messenger to the most unlikely place to find the new-born King of Israel: they went to a stable!
Almost everyone from the temple and the synagogue would have nothing to do with a God incarnated and lying in a manger in stable. They had nothing to do with Him then, and their descendants will have nothing to do with Him today. In fact, following the cursed tradition of their spiritual ancestors, they do all in their power to usher in the reign of the Antichrist while undermining the reign of the heir to the throne of David Who continues to rule the house of Jacob even to this day: Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Judeans.
God has raised up a Religious Order in the Church to continue that sign which the Incarnate Son of God gave when He was born in a stable: the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans).
It was St. Francis of Assisi, often called the `second Christ,' who gave up all his earthly possessions and even the right to his parents' home to follow the `great King' wherever He would lead. He left his home and did not create another one. He desired to follow Christ in all things. He followed Christ in His poverty, in His chastity and in His obedience. And, since the Redeemer had no home to return to, so also Francis' way in the world was that of the homeless pilgrim.
From this aspect, St. Francis of Assisi was amazingly similar to Christ. He was like Christ not only in that he did not have his own home, but first of all, because he founded his own life and that of his brothers upon the principle of the pilgrim. It was more than just extending the idea of poverty to the area of buildings and to reject all ownership of property.
All other Religious do not own personal property. They have likewise renounced personal ownership of property. However, they live in houses. Some even take the vow of stability whereby they vow to remain in that same monastery. Such are the Benedictines. Francis, on the other hand, did not wish his brothers to have any kind of house nor any kind of ownership of property even as a community. This is why properties used by Franciscans are held by a trusted layman known as a `Syndic.'
In his Testament, St. Francis wrote concerning this matter: "And the friars should take care not to receive on any account churches, poor dwellings, and all other things that are constructed for them, unless they are as is becoming holy poverty which we have promised in the Rule, always dwelling therein as strangers and pilgrims."
St. Francis' practical love for the Incarnate Son of God showed itself in a realistic manner. His biographers write: The feast of the Birth of the Infant Jesus he observed with heartier rejoicing and sweeter devotion than the other great feasts. He called it the feast of feasts, because on that day the Most High Son of God became a poor little child. The images of the Babe he would kiss with avidity of the soul, and his affection for it, which was poured out in his heart, caused him to stammer words of sweet delight after the manner of babes."
The origin of the Christmas Crib - so hated by the Jewish antichrists - is to be found in the example of St. Francis. Until that time, it was unknown.
Three years before his death, he wanted to observe the feast of Christmas in a unique, until then unheard of manner.
He called a dear friend at Greccio, Giovanni Vellita, and invited him to celebrate the feast of Christmas with the friars. He said to Giovanni: "Giovanni, if thou art willing to celebrate with us the holy feast, prepare diligently what I tell thee. I wish to present in lifelike and visible manner the birth of the Infant of Bethlehem. Therefore, prepare in yonder woods a manger filled with hay. An ox and an ass must also be there, just as in Bethlehem."
Giovannit did as he has been asked. In that holy night, the friars and many of the countryfolk gathered together with torches, singing shepherd songs so that the rocks resounded. And then, vested as a deacon, he read the Gospel of the birth of Jesus. Thomas of Celano, his biographer, describes the scene: "..his voice, his strong voice, his sweet voice, his clear and sonorous voice announced in honey-sweet words the birth of the poor King of heaven. And often, when he was about to pronounce the Name of Jesus, the all too great fire of love overcame him, and he called Him only the Babe of Bethlehem. And the word `Bethlehem' he said with the sound as that of a bleating lamb. But when he has said the word `Jesus' or `Bethlehem.' He let his tongue glide over his lips as if to taste the sweetness of this word with his palate and to relish it."
It would be a great thing if the Franciscan Friars would return to their true spirituality instead of following the Modernist heretics which place them outside of the Church with the rest of the apostates.
But for that small remnant of Friars who are ridiculed, calumniated and despised, the once great Order of St. Francis has fallen into almost complete ruin. Yet, as we are reminded of our Lord's birth in a humble stable, the Order of Friars Minor will also be reborn in a humble stable of the 20th century.
In a collection of apparitions of Our Lord to St. Margaret of Cortona, often called the "Mary Magdalene of the Franciscan Order", Bishop Ange-Marie Hiral, O.F.M. has written: "The history of Christ's Mystical Body, the Church, is that of one great battle between Heaven and Hell. And Holy Scripture warns us that a terrible conflict will take place just before the end of the world.
Our Lord revealed to His servant Margaret that in the last days the Friars Minor will be called to fight against the Anti-Christ."
Our Lord said to Margaret: Tell the Friars Minor to hold themselves ready to withstand his malice, for he will cause them many afflictions. But let My Order have courage. I will be with it."
"A great tribulation will be aroused in the world against the Church by a demon sent by Lucifer. This demon, who has never come out of hell since the day when he was cast into it, will go around the world trying to prepare the way for the Anti-Christ, of whom he will be the forerunner. The persecution will be so great that many religious will leave their order and nuns will abandon their convents. The Friars Minor themselves will be sorely tried at that time. But they must have confidence in Me. I will protect them, and I will give special help to their Order. They must know that I have given more graces to them than to all the others. Let them therefore prepare themselves for tribulations, in which they will acquire further points of resemblance to Me. My love for them is so great that I would like to make their life conform entirely with Mine."
"Know that just as people criticized My miracles and My teaching, so they will dare to criticize the Friars Minor, your Fathers. But just as, despite the accusations of My critics, I did not give up My good works, so let the Friars in turn not cease performing the good works that they do in Me, on account of those who slander them."
"My enemies have increased in number in order to tempt My people. The Friars Minor, to whom I have given the
of My preaching, are the shields of souls."
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