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Ave Maria! Fourth Sunday of Advent, A.D. 2019 On the Incarnation

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We read in the Book of Wisdom:

"All were foolish who were in ignorance of God, who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing Him who Is, and from studying His works did not discern their Artisan: but instead either fire or wind ... or the mighty water ... or the luminaries of heaven ... they considered gods.... from these things let them realize how much more powerful is He who made them.... For from the greatness and the beauty of created things, their Author, by analogy, is seen" (Wisdom xiii: 1, 2, 4, 5)

Following this passage in the Old Testament Book of Wisdom, and simply through natural reason, the Church has long held that it is possible for man to know about God through his natural reasoning processes, without the necessity of divine revelation. We can, know the Author of creation by studying the evidence in what He has created.

Anyone who has taken an introductory philosophy course will remember Saint Thomas Aquinas' five proofs of the existence of God. He reminds us that by considering motion and causality and perfection, we must realize that these things exist only with reference to the First Mover, First Cause, and the All Perfect; that the Unnecessary beings in the world would not exist if it were not for a Necessary Being; and that the order of things in the physical universe demands an Orderer. All of these things, we refer to as God.

But, perhaps, it is not surprising that of those who study Aquinas' "proofs"—while most will agree that these "proofs" do indeed point to the existence of God, but if they are already Christians they will notice that something is missing in this purely rational approach to God. The idea of an "All Perfect Prime Mover and Orderer" seems a bit sterile. It seems okay if we think about God being "out there" somewhere in eternity, but it lacks the warmth of the God we know through the Gospels. And it lacks that warmth, precisely because lacks the dimension of divine revelation that allows us to know God not only in eternity, but as having entered human history in time and place.

The God of the philosophers lacks the warmth of the God who was born in a stable during the reign of Caesar Augustus to Joseph and Mary; the God who began His public life during the reign of Tiberius Caesar and Herod the Great, when Annas and Caiphas held the high priesthood of the Jews; the God who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose from the dead on the third day. The God of the philosophers seems unloving and unlovable when compared to the God who experienced the human condition and moved amongst His people.

Christians are rather unique in this idea that our God became man Incarnate. Among the religions that know God to be the one and only God, we are certainly unique. The Jews and the Moslems know God as more than the Prime Mover, but even as a personal God, their God is far off and removed. He speaks only and occasionally through a few chosen prophets. The Jews enjoyed His presence in the Pillar of Fire that led them to the Promised Land and then took up residence in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. But none, other than Christians, recognize that God became man of the Blessed Virgin by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. None, other than Christians, recognize that the same divine Holy Ghost dwells in the souls of those in the state of grace. None, other than Christians, recognize that God dwells physically in the tabernacle on the altar.

And today, even among Christians one can find some, or perhaps even all of these relations between God and His people denied. The Mass, the Sacraments, the Blessed Mother, even the historical reality of Jesus Christ come under greater and greater attack as time passes. Even where these things are given token acknowledgement, they often take a "back seat" to the idea of religion being a social or philanthropic thing -- to the idea of religion as being nothing more than thinking happy thoughts and getting to know each other. For many, Sunday morning church is little more than a social obligation; an opportunity to chat; an opportunity to impress neighbors and business associates with a new suit or a fancy hat. Just ask yourself: How many people do you suppose come to church on Sunday to worship God above all else. How many do you suppose are focused on God once again visiting us, and being with us, and offering Himself for us to the Father as He did two-thousand years ago?

In a few days we celebrate Christmas—the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ—perhaps even more than the Annunciation, the most notable observance of the Incarnation. I would ask you to keep this feast a holy and Catholic manner; being, as it were, "a witness" before those who deny the Incarnation, and particularly before those who would like us to deny the Incarnation as well. Christmas is not about shopping, not about eating, not about presents, not about drinking, not about reindeer. Christmas is not "the holidays," nor "the season"—it is the Christ-Mass, the Nativity, the birth of Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary. It is not about Santa Claus, or Chris Cringle, or Macy's and Gimbel's—it is about the birth of Jesus to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, the Incarnation of God in the history of His people.

The Incarnation sets us apart from all non-believers in a profound and essential way. It is the Incarnation that makes God something more than a force to be feared. It is the Incarnation that gives dignity and natural rights to human beings. It is the Incarnation that raises us above the level of physical creation, making us adopted sons and daughters of God. Without the Incarnation there is no "peace on earth," and very few "men of good will." Civilization depends upon it: Keep a holy Christmass in honor of God's Incarnation.

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