Thus the Word of God while yet in the bosom of the Father was known to the Father alone; but when he was clothed with flesh as a word is clothed with a voice, then he was first made manifest and known…
For most of us meditation does not come easily. Meditation is a work of the mind, seeking to penetrate more deeply into the richness of reality. It is a kind of reasoning, moving from one thing to another, seeking connections and implications. Yet meditation is not just any reasoning; it’s a reasoning motivated by a strong desire simply to see and to understand. Love is its inspiration, as well as its sustaining and driving force. This is what brings us back to meditation again and again, even when it is difficult or seemingly without fruit.
The birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem is an incomparable subject for meditation. The more we turn it around in our thoughts and enter into its nuance the more we experience its power.
Thomas Aquinas, like so many other authors since the dawn of Christianity, reflected on the details of the story, wondering and trying to discern how they fit together and what it all means. In his mind, every detail is part of a masterpiece that manifests truth—truth about man, and about God and our human destiny. In his own meditating on various aspects of the nativity, Aquinas ponders the facts of the birth—including everything from what century in what land, to what day, season, and precise location. He suggests:
And since ‘what is of God is well ordered’ and becomingly arranged, it follows that Christ was born at a most fitting time.
Aquinas’s root confidence is that the nativity was fundamentally a manifestation. Every single aspect of it is charged with meaning. Things long hidden—and perhaps remaining hidden except to those who takes steps to see—are being revealed. And continue to be revealed.
Meditation is an effort on our part to open our hands—indeed our minds and hearts—to receive a gift. An incomparable gift that continues to be given.
Aquinas’s meditation was deeply enriched by early Christian thinkers—a resource available to us through such works as his Catena Aurea (The Golden Chain) in which he gathers their commentaries on scripture. Here is just one little jewel from the great Venerable Bede on but one detail of the narrative: “In order that he who found no room at the inn might prepare many mansions for us in his Father’s house.”
May this Christmas be a season in which we turn to things that are deep and solid. Certain very concrete things that once happened in this ever changing and volatile world are a permanent witness to things that never change. May our own meditation be one means of securely connecting us and those we love to those wonderful things.
Merry, Merry Christmas.
A quick note of thanks: It is a joy and privilege for me each week to reflect with you briefly on things that matter. Thank you for your encouragement, and simply for joining me each week.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is considered one of the greatest of medieval theologians. He called Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) ‘the Philosopher’ and wrote commentaries on all his major works.
Image: Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656, Dutch) Adoration of the Child, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
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