Rev José Mario O Mandía
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) once composed an enchanting polyphony for a male choir with words taken from a hymn attributed to St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). Part of it goes:
Iesu, Rex admirabilis / et triumphator nobilis, / dulcedo ineffabilis, / totus desiderabilis.
Iesu, dulcedo cordium, / fons vivus, lumen mentium, / excedens omne gaudium / et omne desiderium.
“Jesus, wonderful King, noble victor, unspeakable sweetness, everything the heart can ever desire.
“Jesus, You are the sweetness of hearts, You are a living fountain, the light of minds, who exceeds all joy and all desire.”
Christmas invites us to turn our gaze to the new-born Jesus. He is the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One.
In the Old Testament, those anointed were either prophets, priests, or kings. The Anointed in the New Testament is all of these three: a prophet who teaches the truth; a priest who acts on behalf of men to offer sacrifices to God, and acts on behalf of God to sanctify men; and a king and shepherd who rules and guides the people to their ultimate destination.
But Jesus Christ accomplishes His mission in a new way. His methods are indeed revolutionary. He carries out his task not from a temple, or a classroom, or a palace. Indeed He spoke in the Synagogue and in the Temple, but where He is most effective is in the manger, on the Cross, and in the Tabernacle.
From the manger He teaches us what emptying oneself means – He puts aside His Divine Nature and His Divine Powers. He teaches us detachment from power, possessions and pleasure. From the manger He offers Himself to the Father while blessing those who come to adore. From the manger He conquers our hearts, he attracts us, in order to lead us to the heavenly kingdom.
From the Cross He teaches us even more eloquently the same lessons of obedience, humility and detachment. He does not even claim His human rights: when they take away his garments, He does not say, “You have no right to take that – that’s mine!” From the Cross He offers Himself as Victim to the Father in the most perfect Sacrifice and blesses those who look up to Him. From the Cross He defeats evil and assures us of victory in our own struggles.
From the Tabernacle He teaches us the greatest lesson of self-abasement. He hides not only His Divinity, but also his Human Nature. He disguises Himself as bread and wine. On the altar, He renews the offering He made on the Cross, takes up our own tiny offerings, blesses, multiplies their value, and gives them away generously, with His own Blood and Body. And He stays behind in the Tabernacle, so that anyone who wishes to receive a blessing, can do so at his own convenience; Jesus is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And from the Tabernacle, He is the Good Shepherd who rules our hearts with His characteristic gentleness and loving forgiveness. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner! I am not worthy, but only say the word ….”