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12/23: Work and Joy

4 Advent, December 23

Mic. 5:2-5a
Cant. 15 (or 3) or Ps. 80:1-7
Heb. 10:5-10 • Luke 1:39-45 (46-55)

From Bethlehem, a small clan of Judah, a savior will come forth whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. He will stand and feed his flock in the strength and majesty of the Lord. He will make the flock secure and he will be one of peace. Old and ancient, the One hoped for is, in truth, enthroned upon the cherubim (Mic. 5:2-5a; Ps. 80:1). “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 124:8). “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation” (Ps. 62:1). “Stir up your might, and come to save us” (Ps. 80:2). God alone restores and saves and brings light and everlasting peace. Enthroned high above the heavens, God deigns to act and care for a human flock.

We know how, but we would do well to pretend that we do not. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus Christ works salvation in the secret chamber of his mother’s love, and he is to her, as he is to us, magnificent joy.

We may join the work and participate in the joy.

Christ’s work is beautifully though demandingly described by St. Irenaeus: “The Word of God dwelt in man and became the Son of man, in order to accustom man to perceive God and to accustom God to dwell in man, according to the Father’s pleasure. Therefore, on account of this, the Lord himself gave this sign of our salvation — Emmanuel from the Virgin — because it was the Lord himself who was saving them, because through themselves they had no way to be saved” (Against Heresies 3.20.2-3).

This is the act of God, in which his power is shown in mercy and lowliness by fitting the second person of the Trinity to us and reforming our nature so that we are fitted to him. Classically stated, he became what we are so that we could become what he is. And we become what he is by adoption and grace, and by the reformation of our nature (recapitulation in Christ) and the progressive formation of Christ, the image of the Father, in us. In Christ, we are assumed and elevated and transformed from glory to glory.

This work is a cause for joy, a joy we so desperately need and God is pleased to give. “Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:46-49). What does it mean to magnify the Lord? It certainly cannot mean to increase God!

As St. Ambrose says, we are drawn to notice a change in ourselves, not in God. “The Lord is magnified just as you have read elsewhere, Magnify the Lord with me, not in such a way that something is joined to the Lord by a human voice, but because the Lord is magnified in us” (Exposition on Luke 2.19.22-23, 26-27). If only — God help us — we may have this joy renewed and increased, a soul magnified and ever more sublime by its participation in the life of God.

Look It Up
Read Luke 1:46.

Think About It
You do not want less.


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