Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015 - Litany Lane Blog: Benevolence, Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalms 97:1-12, John 1:1-18, Pope Francis's Catchesis, Hymn of the Week - Oh Holy Night, Our Lady of Medjugorje's Monthly Message, Feast of the Nativity of Jesus, Church of the Nativity, Mystical City of God Book 4 Chapter 3 and 4 - Journey to Bethlehem, Birth of Jesus, Catholic Catechism - Part Two - The Celebration of the Christian Mystery - Section Two the Seven Sacraments - Chapter Two The Sacrament of Healing - Article 4 Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, RECHARGE: Heaven Speaks to Young Adults

Christmas 2015 - Litany Lane Blog:

Benevolence, Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalms 97:1-12, John 1:1-18, Pope Francis's Catchesis, Hymn of the Week - Oh Holy Night,  Our Lady of Medjugorje's Monthly Message, Feast of the Nativity of Jesus,  Church of the Nativity, Mystical City of God Book 4 Chapter 3 and 4 - Journey to Bethlehem, Birth of Jesus, Catholic Catechism - Part Two - The Celebration of the Christian Mystery - Section Two the Seven Sacraments - Chapter Two The Sacrament of Healing - Article 4 Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick,  RECHARGE: Heaven Speaks to Young Adults


P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Serenity Happens). A remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience, tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7. ~ Zarya Parx 2015

"Where There is a Will, With God, There is a Way", "There is always a ray of sunshine amongst the darkest Clouds, the name of that ray is Jesus" ~ Zarya Parx 2014

The world begins and ends everyday for someone.  We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift of knowledge, reason and free will, make the most of these gifts. Life on earth is a stepping stone to our eternal home in Heaven. The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, wonder and awe (fear of the Lord) , counsel, knowledge, fortitude, and piety (reverence) and shun the seven Deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony...Its your choice whether to embrace the Gifts of the Holy Spirit rising towards eternal light or succumb to the Seven deadly sins and lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to the Darkness, Purgatory or Heaven is our Soul...it's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...~ Zarya Parx 2013


"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012



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Prayers for Today:  Christmas






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Hymn of the Week
 


 
"Oh Holy Night"
 
Performed by  Josh Groban  
Set to scenes from the movie -  The Nativity Story
 
Standard YouTube License
 
 
Album Available at Amazon -   (Google Play • AmazonMP3 • iTunes)
 
Noel



Movie Available at Amazon -   (DVD • Amazon Instant Play • Bluray)

The Nativity Story

Contents

**Copyright Disclaimer - Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research under the term "fair use", which is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational, and personal use also tips the balance in favor of fair use.


 
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Our Lady of Medjugorje Monthly Messages


One Single Flower for Baby Jesus -
On December 20th 1984, Our Lady Of Medjugorje asked everyone to do something concrete. She asked the families to bring a single flower to the crib of baby Jesus in the Nativity to show our dedication.

December 20, 1984 "Dear children! Today I am inviting you to do something concrete for Jesus Christ. As a sign of dedication to Jesus I want each family to bring a single flower before that happy day. I want every member of the family to have a single flower by the crib so Jesus can come and see your dedication to Him! Thank you for having responded to my call."

December 2, 2015 message form our Lady of Medjugorje:

Dear children
I am always with you because my Son entrusted you to me. And you, my children, you need me, you are seeking me, you are coming to me and you are bringing joy to my motherly heart. I have, and always will have love for you, for you who suffer and who offer your pains and sufferings to my Son and to me. My love seeks the love of all of my children, and my children seek my love. Through love, Jesus seeks unity between Heaven and earth, between the Heavenly Father and you, my children - His Church. Therefore, it is necessary to pray much, to pray and love the Church to which you belong. Now, the Church is suffering and needs apostles who by loving unity, by witnessing and giving, show the ways of God. The Church needs apostles who by living the Eucharist with the heart do great works; it needs you, my apostles of love. My children, from the very beginning the Church was persecuted and betrayed, but day by day it grew. It is indestructible because my Son gave it a heart - the Eucharist, and the light of His resurrection shone and will continue to shine upon it. Therefore, do not be afraid. Pray for your shepherds that they may have the strength and the love to be bridges of salvation. Thank you. ~ Blessed Mother Mary


November 25, 2015 message from our Lady of Medjugorje:

“Dear children! Today I am calling all of you: pray for my intentions. Peace is in danger, therefore, little children, pray and be carriers of peace and hope in this restless world where the evil one is attacking and tempting in every way. Little children, be firm in prayer and courageous in faith. I am with you and intercede before my Son Jesus for all of you. Thank you for having responded to my call.” ~ Blessed Mother Mary




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 Papam Franciscus
(Pope Francis)


Pope Francis Daily Catechesis:

December 20, 2015



(2015-12-25 Vatican Radio)


Christmas Greetings of the Holy Father (after the Urbi et Orbi Blessing)
To you, dear brothers and sisters all over the world who have come to this Square and to all those who join us by radio, television and other media, I offer my most cordial good wishes.

It is Christmas of the Holy Year of Mercy, and so I pray that all can welcome into their lives the mercy of God which Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, so that we in turn can show mercy to our brothers and sisters.  In this way, we will make peace grow!  Happy Christmas!

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Christmas!
Christ is born for us, let us rejoice in the day of our salvation!

Let us open our hearts to receive the grace of this day, which is Christ himself.  Jesus is the radiant “day” which has dawned on the horizon of humanity.  A day of mercy, in which God our Father has revealed his great tenderness to the entire world.  A day of light, which dispels the darkness of fear and anxiety.  A day of peace, which makes for encounter, dialogue and, above all, reconciliation.  A day of joy: a “great joy” for the poor, the lowly and for all the people (cf. Lk 2:10).

On this day, Jesus, the Saviour is born of the Virgin Mary.  The Crib makes us see the “sign” which God has given us: “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12).  Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too set out to see this sign, this event which is renewed yearly in the Church.  Christmas is an event which is renewed in every family, parish and community which receives the love of God made incarnate in Jesus Christ.  Like Mary, the Church shows to everyone the “sign” of God: the Child whom she bore in her womb and to whom she gave birth, yet who is the Son of the Most High, since he “is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20).  He is truly the Saviour, for he is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world (cf. Jn 1:29).  With the shepherds, let us bow down before the Lamb, let us worship God’s goodness made flesh, and let us allow tears of repentance to fill our eyes and cleanse our hearts.  This is something we all need!

He alone, he alone can save us.  Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst.  The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations.

Where God is born, hope is born.  He brings hope.  Where God is born, peace is born.  And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war.  Yet precisely where the incarnate Son of God came into the world, tensions and violence persist, and peace remains a gift to be implored and built.  May Israelis and Palestinians resume direct dialogue and reach an agreement which will enable the two peoples to live together in harmony, ending a conflict which has long set them at odds, with grave repercussions for the entire region.

We pray to the Lord that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people.  It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country.  May the attention of the international community be unanimously directed to ending the atrocities which in those countries, as well as in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and sub-Saharan Africa, even now reap numerous victims, cause immense suffering and do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples.  My thoughts also turn to those affected by brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis.
To our brothers and sisters who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith, may the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength.  They are our martyrs of today.

We also pray for peace and concord among the peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and South Sudan, that dialogue may lead to a strengthened common commitment to the building of civil societies animated by a sincere spirit of reconciliation and of mutual understanding.

May Christmas also bring true peace to Ukraine, offer comfort to those suffering from the effects of the conflict, and inspire willingess to carry out the agreements made to restore concord in the entire country.

May the joy of this day illumine the efforts of the Colombian people so that, inspired by hope, they  may continue their commitment to working for the desired peace.

Where God is born, hope is born; and where hope is born, persons regain their dignity.  Yet even today great numbers of men and woman are deprived of their human dignity and, like the child Jesus, suffer cold, poverty, and rejection.  May our closeness today be felt by those who are most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the victims of human trafficking and the drug trade.

Nor may our encouragement be lacking to all those fleeing extreme poverty or war, travelling all too often in inhumane conditions and not infrequently at the risk of their lives.  May God repay all those, both individuals and states, who generously work to provide assistance and welcome to the numerous migrants and refugees, helping them to build a dignified future for themselves and for their dear ones, and to be integrated in the societies which receive them.

On this festal day may the Lord grant renewed hope to all those who lack employment – and they are so many!; may he sustain the commitment of those with public responsibilities in political and economic life, that they may work to pursue the common good and to protect the dignity of every human life.

Where God is born, mercy flourishes.  Mercy is the most precious gift which God gives us, especially during this Jubilee year in which we are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father for each of us.  May the Lord enable prisoners in particular to experience his merciful love, which heals wounds and triumphs over evil.

Today, then, let us together rejoice in the day of our salvation.   As we contemplate the Crib, let us gaze on the open arms of Jesus, which show us the merciful embrace of God, as we hear the cries of the Child who whispers to us: “for my brethren and companions’ sake, I will say: Peace be within you” (Ps 121[122]:8).

 
Christmas Greetings of the Holy Father (after the Urbi et Orbi Blessing)
To you, dear brothers and sisters all over the world who have come to this Square and to all those who join us by radio, television and other media, I offer my most cordial good wishes.

It is Christmas of the Holy Year of Mercy, and so I pray that all can welcome into their lives the mercy of God which Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, so that we in turn can show mercy to our brothers and sisters.  In this way, we will make peace grow!  Happy Christmas!

Reference:  

  • Vatican News. From the Pope. © Copyright 2015 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Accessed - 12/25/2015


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Liturgical Celebrations to be presided over by Pope:  2015


Vatican City, Spring 2015 (VIS)

The following is the English text of the intentions – both universal and for evangelization – that, as is customary, the Pope entrusted to the Apostleship of Prayer for 2015. 


December
Universal: That all may experience the mercy of God, who never tires of forgiving.
Evangelization: That families, especially those who suffer, may find in the birth of Jesus a sign of certain hope.


Reference: 
  • Vatican News. From the Pope. © Copyright 2015 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Accessed 12/20/2015.


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Today's Word:  benevolence  [buh-nev-uh-luh ns]


Origin: 1350-1400; Middle English < Latin benevolentia. 
noun
1.  desire to do good to others; goodwill; charitableness: to be filled with benevolence toward one's fellow creatures.
2.  an act of kindness; a charitable gift.
3.  English History. a forced contribution to the sovereign.


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Today's Old Testament Reading - Psalms 97:1, 6, 11-12


1 Yahweh is king! Let earth rejoice, the many isles be glad!
6 The heavens proclaim his saving justice, all nations see his glory.
11 Light dawns for the upright, and joy for honest hearts.
12 Rejoice in Yahweh, you who are upright, praise his unforgettable holiness.

 

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Today's Epistle -   Isaiah 52:7-10


7 How beautiful on the mountains, are the feet of the messenger announcing peace, of the messenger of good news, who proclaims salvation and says to Zion, 'Your God is king!'
8 The voices of your watchmen! Now they raise their voices, shouting for joy together, for with their own eyes they have seen Yahweh returning to Zion.
9 Break into shouts together, shouts of joy, you ruins of Jerusalem; for Yahweh has consoled his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 Yahweh has bared his holy arm for all the nations to see, and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.



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Today's Gospel Reading -   John 1:1-18



The Prologue of John’s Gospel
John 1:1-18


1. OPENING PRAYER
In the darkness of a starless night,
a night of no sense,
you, the Word of life,
like lightning in the storm of forgetfulness,
entered within the bounds of doubt
under cover of the limits of precariousness
to hide the light.
Words made of silence and of the ordinary,
your human words, heralds of the secrets of the Most High:
like hooks cast into the waters of death
to find man once more, immersed in his anxious follies,
and reclaim him, plundered, through the attractive radiance of
forgiveness.
To you, Ocean of Peace and shadow of eternal Glory,
I render thanks:
Calm waters on my shore that awaits the wave, I wish to seek you!
And may the friendship of the brothers protect me
when night falls on my desire for you. Amen.


2. READING
a) The Gospel:
1 In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him. 4 What has come into being in him was life, life that was the light of men; 5 and light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it. 6 A man came, sent by God. His name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness to the light, so that everyone might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, he was to bear witness to the light. 9 The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone; he was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world that had come into being through him, and the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to his own and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believed in his name 13 who were born not from human stock or human desire or human will but from God himself. 14 The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John witnesses to him. He proclaims: 'This is the one of whom I said: He who comes after me has passed ahead of me because he existed before me.' 16 Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received -- one gift replacing another, 17 for the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.

b) A moment of silence:
Allow the voice of the Word echo within us.


3. MEDITATION
a) Some question for reflection:
- God who is light has chosen to dispel the darkness of man by making himself darkness. Man is born blind (cfr Jn 9:1-41): blindness is his condition of creature. The symbolical gesture of Jesus in gathering mud to spread over the eyes of the man born blind in John, signifies the newness of the incarnation: it is a gesture of new creation. The blind man whose eyes are still covered with the mud of creation is asked to make not an act of faith but one of obedience: to go to the pool of Siloe, which means “sent”. The one “sent” is Jesus. Are we able to obey the Word, which comes to us every day?

- The blind man in the Gospel of John is poor: he has no pretence and asks for nothing. We often live in daily blindness, resigned that we do not deserve better horizons. Can we see ourselves as having nothing so that the gift of God may be ours too, a gift of the redemption of the flesh, but above all a gift of light and faith?

- «The law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known»
(Jn 1:17-18). The knowledge of what happens in the story of our lives leads us to get out of the blindness of presumption and to contemplate the light that shines on the face of the Son of God. Our eyes, flooded with light, become open to events. When shall we be able to see God in our midst? 


b) A key to the reading:
John was someone who was able to see the light shining, who saw, heard and touched the light. In the beginning was the Word: constantly turned towards the love of the Father, the Word became the Father’s true explanation, his only exegesis (Jn 1:18), the revelation of his love. In the logos was life and life was light, but the darkness did not welcome the light. In the OT the revelation of the Word is the revelation of light: to this corresponds the fullness of grace, the grace of grace, given to us in Jesus, the revelation of God’s unlimited love (Jn 1:4-5, 16). The whole witness of the OT is a witness of light: from Abraham to John the Baptist, God sends witnesses to his light. John the Baptist is the last of these: he announces the light that is to come into the world and recognises in Jesus the long awaited light (Jn 1:6-8;15).

Dabar IHWH is God’s communication with man, which took place with all those whom God has called and to whom the word of the Lord came (cfr Is 55: 10-11). As Augustine says: The Word of God is the true light. 


The word comes from the mouth of God, but it keeps its full force, and it is a person who creates and sustains the world. This word that creates and saves is identified with the Torah, which for Israel is the divine revelation in its totality, with Wisdom:  The law will go out from Zion, and the oracle of Yahweh from Jerusalem (Is 2:3)


The memra (aramaic) is the concept used by John to go from the dabar to the logos: in the targum the memra has a creating function, but above all a revealing function that is expressed particularly through the image of light. In the Targum Neophiti, the famous poem of the four nights on Ex 12:42 it is written: «The first night was when IHWH revealed himself above the world to create it: the world was desert and empty and darkness covered the face of the abyss. And the memra of IHWH was the light that shone». In the Targum Jerushalaim manuscript 110 says: «With his word IHWH shone and shed light». 


The midrash stresses that the law was before the world, it was life, it was light: «The words of the Torah are light for the world» (Midrash Dt Rabba 7.3). Only daughter of God, the Torah was written with black fire in the white flame and sits on God’s knees while God sits on his throne of glory (cfr Midrash on Psalm 90:3).

The logos-light becomes present in the world. All is life in him: the Word takes the place of the Torah. The signs are transcendent, and more than a substitution we see a fulfilment. If for the Jew the Torah is God’s daughter, John shows that she is the logos that from the beginning is with God, is God. This logos becomes flesh: man, frail, limited, finite, placing his glory in the flesh. He put down his tent, skené, among us, he became the shekinah of God among us, and he showed his glory, the overwhelming presence of God to men. The glory that dwelt in the tent of the exodus  (Ex 40:34-38), that dwelt in the temple (1 Kings 8: 10), now dwells in the flesh of the Son of God. This is indeed an epiphany. The shekinah is made visible, because the shekinah is Christ, place of the presence and of the divine glory. There is one who has seen the glory of God: the only Son full of grace and truth; he comes to reveal to us the face of the Father, the only one who can do this because he has his existence in the bosom of the Father. From this fullness of life comes the new creation. Moses gave the law. Christ gives grace and truth, love and fidelity. In the Son we can contemplate God without dying because whoever sees the Son sees also the Father: Jesus is the exegesis, the narration of the divine life. 

And the place of revelation is his flesh. This is why John says at the time of fulfilment: “We have seen his glory” (Jn 1: 14), when at the “time of glorification” there is only darkness. The light is hidden when it gives its life for love of men, love to the very end, without restriction, respecting the freedom of man to crucify the Author of life. God is glorified at the moment of the passion: a love completed, definitive, unlimited, a love shown even to its extremist consequences. This is the mystery of the light that becomes a way in the darkness, because love likes the darkness of the night when life becomes more intimate and one’s words die to live in the breath of the words of the person loved, the light is in the love that gives light to that hour of expropriation, the hour when one loses oneself to find oneself again in the embrace of life. 


4. PRAYER
Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress,
put on the beauty of God's glory for evermore,
wrap the cloak of God's saving justice around you,
put the diadem of the Eternal One's glory on your head,
for God means to show your splendour
to every nation under heaven,
and the name God gives you for evermore will be,
'Peace-through-Justice, and Glory-through-Devotion'.
Arise, Jerusalem,
stand on the heights and turn your eyes to the east:
see your children reassembled from west
and east at the Holy One's command,
rejoicing because God has remembered.
Though they left you on foot driven by enemies,
now God brings them back to you,
carried gloriously, like a royal throne.
For God has decreed the flattening of each high mountain,
of the everlasting hills,
the filling of the valleys to make the ground level
so that Israel can walk safely in God's glory.
And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade for Israel,
at God's command;
for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory,
with the mercy and saving justice which come from him.
Baruc 5,1-9 


5. CONTEMPLATION
Father of light, I come to you with my whole being. After going through times of goodness and times of slipping into evil I finally understand, because of my experience, that alone I only exist in shadow and darkness. Without your light I cannot see anything. Indeed, you are the source of life; you, Sun of justice, who opens my eyes, you the way that leads to the Father. Today you have come among us, eternal Word, as light that goes on crossing the pages of history to offer humankind the gifts of grace and joy in the desert of famine and emptiness: the bread and wine of your holy Name, which at the hour of the cross will become visible signs of consummated love, give us birth with you from that fertile side that is the Church, the cradle of your life for us.  Like Mary, we wish to stay by your side to learn to be like her, full of grace from the Most High. And when our tents will welcome the cloud of the Spirit in the radiance of one more word, we shall understand the Glory of your Face and we shall bless in an adoring silence without any further hesitation the Beauty of being one with you, living Word of God.


Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites, www.ocarm.org.



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Feast Day:  The Nativity of Jesus


Feast Day:  December 25




The Nativity of Jesus, also called simply The Nativity, refers to the accounts of the birth of Jesus in the gospels of Luke and Matthew, and secondarily on some apocryphal texts.

The canonical gospels of Luke and Matthew both describe Jesus as born in Bethlehem in Judea, to a virgin mother. In the Gospel of Luke account, Joseph and Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, and Jesus is born there and laid in a manger.[1] Angels proclaim him a savior for all people, and shepherds come to adore him. In the Matthew account, astronomers follow a star to Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus, born the King of the Jews. King Herod orders the massacre of all the boys less than two years old in Bethlehem, but the family flees to Egypt and later settles in Nazareth.

The main religious celebration among members of the Catholic Church and other Christian groups is the Church service on Christmas Eve or on the morning of Christmas Day. During the forty days leading up to Christmas, the Eastern Orthodox Church practices the Nativity Fast, while the majority of Christian congregations (including the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, many Mainline churches, and Baptists) begin observing the liturgical season of Advent four Sundays before Christmas. Both are seen as times of spiritual cleansing, recollection and renewal to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

New Testament narratives

Accounts of the Nativity of Jesus in the New Testament appear in two of the four Canonical Gospels: the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew. Luke's account takes place mostly before the birth of Jesus and centers on Mary, while Matthew's story takes place mostly after the birth of Jesus and centers on Joseph. The two other canonical gospels, the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John, begin their narratives of Jesus' life in his adulthood; both mention that he came from Galilee, and John mentions the name of Jesus' father, but neither John nor Mark gives any other details of his life prior to adulthood.

The betrothal of Joseph and Mary, and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem appear in both Matthew and Luke. Many events in the Luke account are not in the Gospel of Matthew, - for example, the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem - and others appear only in Matthew, such as the Flight to Egypt.

The Nativity accounts in the New Testament are generally considered to end with finding Jesus in the temple several years later, after the family has returned to Galilee.


Gospel of Matthew

The Nativity appears in chapters 1 and 2 of the Gospel of Matthew, in which Matthew places special emphasis on the origins of the names of the child. Two specific passages, namely from 1:21–23, have theological significance in that they refer to the names "Jesus" and "Emmanuel".

Following Joseph and Mary's betrothal in Matthew 1:18, Joseph is troubled in Matthew 1:19–20 because Mary is pregnant. However, in the first of Joseph's three dreams an angel assures him not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because her child was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

The angel's message to Joseph in Matthew 1:21 includes the origin of the name Jesus and has salvific implications when the angel instructs Joseph: "you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins". It is the only place in the New Testament where "saves his people" appears with "sins".

Scholars have debated whether the quote in Matthew 1:22–23 is spoken by the angel or by Matthew. However, Matthew 1:23 does provide the basis for the use of the name Emmanuel. The name Emmanuel (from the Hebrew words: אֵל '’El, i.e.," God" and עִמָּנוּ i.e., Immānū, "with us") is related to Isaiah 7:14 and is one of almost a dozen cases in his Gospel where, while discussing Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecies, Matthew alludes to one of the prophets.

In Matthew 2:1–2 the Star of Bethlehem reveals the birth of Jesus to a number (traditionally three) of Magi, (Greek μάγος', "astrologer"), commonly translated as "wise man", who travel to Jerusalem from an unspecified country "in the east".

The Magi go to see Herod the Great and ask, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." Herod asks his advisers where the Messiah was to be born. They answer, "Bethlehem" , the birthplace of King David, and quote the prophet Micah(Matthew 2:4–6). Herod tells the Magi to go to Bethlehem and to report back to him when they have found the child. As the Magi travel to Bethlehem, the star "goes before" them and leads them to a house where they find and adore Jesus. They present Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (in Matthew 2:9-11).

In a dream, the Magi receive a divine warning of Herod's intent to kill the baby Jesus, whom he sees as a rival. Consequently, the magi return to their own country without telling Herod where to find Jesus. An angel tells Joseph to flee with his family to Egypt. Meanwhile, Herod orders that all male children of Bethlehem under the age of two be killed, an event traditionally called the "Massacre of the Innocents". Herod's statement in Matthew 2:16–18, referring to boys two years or younger, suggests that the Magi arrived in Bethlehem a number of months after Jesus' birth.

After Herod's death, Jesus' family returns from Egypt, but they are afraid to return to Bethlehem because Herod's son rules Judea. Instead they move to Galilee and settle in Nazareth, fulfilling, according to the author, a prophecy: "He will be called a Nazarene".


Gospel of Luke

Add caption
The Nativity is a prominent element of the Gospel of Luke, and comprises over 10% of the text. It is three times the length of the Nativity text in the Gospel of Matthew and in itself longer than several of the books of the New Testament. Luke does not rush into the birth of Jesus, but prepares for the event by narrating several episodes prior to Jesus'. Luke's Gospel includes an account of the birth of John the Baptist using it to draw parallels between the births of John and Jesus.

Luke draws parallels between the angelic visit (1:5–25) to Zechariah about the birth of John and the Annunciation to Mary (1:26–38) about the birth of Jesus, and between the Song of Zechariah (1:57–80) about John and the Song of Simeon (2:1–40) about Jesus. However, while Luke devotes only two verses (1:57–58) to the birth of John, the birth of Jesus is narrated in twenty verses (2:1–20). Luke relates the two births in the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth and states that Mary and Elizabeth are cousins. There is no mention of a family relationship between John and Jesus in the other Gospels, and the scholar Raymond E. Brown has described it as "of dubious historicity". Géza Vermes calls it "artificial and undoubtedly Luke's creation".

In the Gospel of Luke, Mary learns from the angel Gabriel that she will conceive and bear a child called Jesus. When she asks how this can be, since she is a virgin, he tells her the Holy Spirit would "come upon her" and "nothing will be impossible with God". She responds: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word". Later, Mary visits her relative Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. John leaps in his mother's womb, recognizing the presence of Jesus, the Messiah.

When Mary is due to give birth, she and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Joseph's ancestral town, Bethlehem, to register in the census of Quirinius (as in Luke 2:2). In Bethlehem, Mary gives birth to Jesus and, having found no place for themselves in the inn, places the newborn in a manger.

An angel of the Lord visits the shepherds and brings them "good news of great joy": "to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord." The angel tells them they will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. The angel is joined by a "heavenly host" who say "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors. The shepherds hurry to the stable in Bethlehem where they find Jesus with Mary and Joseph. They repeat what the angel has told them, and then they return to their flocks. Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem to be circumcised, before returning to their home in Nazareth.

Place of birth

Altar  Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
The Gospels of both Matthew and Luke place the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Although Matthew does not explicitly state Joseph's place of origin or where he lived prior to the birth of Jesus, the account implies that the family lived in Bethlehem, and explains that they later settled in Nazareth. However, Luke 1:26–27 clearly states that Mary lived in Nazareth before the birth of Jesus, at the time of the Annunciation.

The Gospel of Luke states that Mary gave birth to Jesus and laid him in a manger “because there was no place for them in the inn", but does not say exactly where Jesus was born. The Greek word kataluma may be translated as either “inn” or “guestroom”, and some scholars have speculated that Joseph and Mary may have sought to stay with relatives, rather than in an inn, only to find the house full, whereupon they resorted to the shelter of a room with a manger.

In the 2nd century, Justin Martyr stated that Jesus had been born in a cave outside the town, while the Protoevangelium of James described a legendary birth in a cave nearby. The Church of the Nativity inside the town, built by St. Helena, contains the cave-manger site traditionally venerated as the birthplace of Jesus, which may have originally been a site of the cult of the god Tammuz. In Contra Celsum 1.51, Origen, who from around 215 travelled throughout Palestine, wrote of the "manger of Jesus".




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        Today's Snippet I:   Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem



        The Church of the Nativity is a basilica located in Bethlehem, West Bank. The church was originally commissioned in 327 by Constantine and his mother Helena over the site that is still traditionally considered to be located over the cave that marks the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The Church of the Nativity site's original basilica was completed in 339 and destroyed by fire during the Samaritan Revolts in the 6th century. A new basilica was built 565 by Justinian, the Byzantine Emperor, restoring the architectural tone of the original. The site of the Church of the Nativity has had numerous additions since this second construction, including its prominent bell towers. Due to its cultural and geographical history, the site holds a prominent religious significance to those of both the Christian and Muslim faiths.

        The site of the Church of the Nativity is a World Heritage Site, and was the first to be listed under Palestine by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The site is also on UNESCO's List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

        History

        First century holy site (c. 4–6 – 327 AD)

        The holy site, known as the Grotto, that the Church of the Nativity sits atop, is today associated with the cave in which the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is said to have occurred. In 135, Hadrian is said to have had the Christian site above the Grotto converted into a worship place for Adonis, the Greek god of beauty and desire. A father with the Church of the Nativity, Jerome, noted before his death in 420 that the holy cave was at one point consecrated by the heathen to the worship of Adonis, and that a pleasant sacred grove was planted there in order to wipe out the memory of Jesus. Although some modern scholars dispute this argument and insist that the cult of Adonis-Tammuz originated the shrine and that it was the Christians who took it over, substituting the worship of Jesus, the antiquity of the association of the site with the birth of Jesus is attested by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165 ), who noted in his Dialogue with Trypho that the Holy Family had taken refuge in a cave outside of town:
        Joseph took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found Him.(chapter LXXVIII).
        Additionally, the Greek philosopher Origen of Alexandria (185 - c. 254) wrote:
        In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumor is in those places, and among foreigners of the Faith, that indeed Jesus was born in this cave who is worshipped and reverenced by the Christians. (Contra Celsum, book I, chapter LI).

        Fourth century basilica, (327 – c. 529/556)

        The first basilica on this site was begun by Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine I. Under the supervision of Bishop Makarios of Jerusalem, the construction started in 327 and was completed in 333. Construction of this early church was carried out as part of a larger project following the First Council of Nicaea during Constantine's reign to build on the supposed sites of the life of Jesus. The design of the basilica centered around three major architectural sections: (1) an octagonal rotunda over the area believed to be where Jesus of Nazareth was born; (2) a boxed atrium area of 148 by 92 feet (45 m × 28 m); and (3) double-aisled forecourt of 95 by 93 feet (29 m × 28 m). The structure was burnt down and destroyed in a revolt between the Jews and the Samaritans in 529 or 556.


        Sixth century basilica, (565)

        The current basilica was rebuilt in its present form in 565 by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. When the Persians under Chosroes II invaded in 614, they did not destroy the structure. According to legend, their commander Shahrbaraz was moved by the depiction inside the church of the Three Magi wearing Persian clothing, and commanded that the building be spared. The Crusaders made further repairs and additions to the building during the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, with permission and help given by the Byzantine Emperor, and the first King of Jerusalem was crowned in the church. Over the years, the compound has been expanded, and today it covers approximately 12,000 square meters. The theft in 1847 of the silver star marking the spot where Christ was born, was one of the direct causes for French involvement in the Crimean War against Russia.

        Eleventh and twelfth century additions and restoration, (c. 1050-1169)

        Until 1131, the Church of the Nativity was used as the primary coronation church for crusader kings. During this time, extensive decoration by the crusaders and various restorations of the basilica and grounds took place. This decoration and restoration process took place until 1169.
         

        Fourteenth century roof restoration, (1448–1480)

        The roof of the Church of the Nativity lay in poor condition after the desecration that occurred in April 1244 at the hands of the Khwarezmian Turks In August 1448, the Duchy of Burgundy committed resources to the project, but it was not until 1480 that they were able to get the project underway in Bethlehem. Due to this worsening condition of the wooden Church roof, in 1480 an extensive roof reconstruction and renovation project took place on the Church of the Nativity. Multiple regions contributed supplies to have the Church roof repaired, with England supplying the lead, the Second Kingdom of Burgundy supplying the wood, and the Republic of Venice providing the labor.


        Nineteenth century damage, conflict, and administration (1834-1869)

        Between 1834 and 1837, earthquakes and aftershocks in Bethlehem inflicted significant damage to the Church of the Nativity. The initial earthquake, the 1834 Jerusalem earthquake, damaged the church's bell tower, the furnishings of the cave on which the church is built, and other parts of its structure. Minor damages were further inflicted with a series of strong aftershocks in 1836 and with the Galilee earthquake of 1837 shortly thereafter.

        By 1846, the Church of the Nativity and its surrounding site lay in disrepair. The Church's state had left the site vulnerable to looting. Much of the marble floors of the interior of the Church were looted in the early half of the 19th century, and many were transferred to use in other buildings around the region, including to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In that same year, the religiously significant silver star was stolen that had been displayed above the Grotto of the Nativity. In 1851, the Church of the Nativity was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. But near Christmas of 1852, Napoleon III sent his ambassador to the Ottoman Empire and forced the Ottomans to recognise France as the "sovereign authority" in the Holy Land, which the Latins had lost in the eighteenth century. The Sultan of Turkey replaced the silver star over the Grotto with a Latin inscription, but the Russian Empire disputed the change in "authority," citing two treaties—one from 1757 and the other from 1774 (the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca)—and deployed armies to the Danube area. As a result, the Ottomans issued firmans essentially reversing their earlier decision, renouncing the French treaty, and restoring the Greeks to the sovereign authority over the churches of the Holy Land for the time being. Since individual churches did not have a say in firmans, tensions arose at the local level. These, along with the theft of the silver star, helped to further fuel the debate between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire over the occupation of holy sites around the region. This theft is often cited by scholars as one of the catalysts of the Crimean War


        Twenty-first century siege of the church, (2002)


        In April 2002, during the second Intifada, some 50 armed Palestinians wanted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) locked themselves in the church with some 200 monks and other Palestinians who arrived at the site for different reasons, and were held as hostages by the gunmen. Because of the historic value of the building the IDF did not break into the building, but instead prevented the entry of food. The siege lasted 39 days and some of the gunmen were shot by IDF snipers. After lengthy negotiations it was agreed that the remaining gunmen would be evacuated to Gaza, Spain and Italy.
        The Siege is a Palestinian play developed and devised by The Freedom Theatre which recounts the story.

        2014 arson

        Shortly after the 2014 visit to Israel of Pope Francis the cave beneath the church was set on fire by an unknown arsonist. The cave that was burnt had been visited by Pope Francis earlier that same day.


        Current administration

        The church is administered jointly by Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic authorities. All three traditions maintain monastic communities on the site. As a result, however, there have been repeated brawls among monk trainees over quiet respect for others' prayers, hymns and even the division of floorspace for cleaning duties. The Palestinian police have been called to restore peace and order.


        Site architecture and layout

        The structure of the site of the Church of the Nativity is a combination of two churches and a crypt beneath—the Grotto of the Nativity where tradition states that Jesus of Nazareth was born.

        Site layout and architectural expansion


        • The main Basilica of the Nativity is maintained by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. It is designed like a typical Roman basilica, with five aisles (formed by Corinthian columns) and an apse in the eastern end, where the sanctuary is. The church features golden mosaics covering the side walls, which are now largely decayed. The basilica is entered through a very low door, called the "Door of Humility." The original Roman style floor has since been covered over, but there is a trap door in the modern floor which opens up to reveal a portion of the original mosaic pavement from the Constantinian basilia. The church also features a large gilded iconostasis, and a complex array of lamps throughout the entire building. The wooden rafters were donated by King Edward IV of England. The same king also donated lead to cover the roof; however, this lead was later taken by the Ottoman Turks, who melted it down for ammunition to use in war against Venice. Stairways on either side of the Sanctuary lead down by winding stairs to the Grotto.
        • The adjoining Church of St. Catherine, the Roman Catholic Church, was built in a more modern Gothic revival style, and has since been further modernized according to the liturgical trends which followed Vatican II. This is the church where the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem celebrates Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Certain customs still observed in this Midnight Mass predate Vatican II, but must be maintained because the "status quo" (the customs, rights and duties of the various church authorities that have custody of the Holy Places) was legally fixed by a firman in 1852, under the Ottoman Empire, that is still in force to this day.
        • The Bas-relief of the Tree of Jesse is a large work by well-known religious sculptor Czesław Dźwigaj which was recently incorporated into the Church of St. Catherine as a gift of Pope Benedict XVI during his trip to the Holy Land in 2009. Measuring in at 3.75 by 4 metres (12.3 by 13.1 ft), its corpus represents an olive tree figuring as the Tree of Jesse displaying Christ's lineage from Abraham through St. Joseph along with other biblical motifs. Situated along the passage used by pilgrims making their way to the Grotto of the Nativity, the bas relief also incorporates symbolism from the Old Testament. The upper portion is dominated by a crowned figure of Christ the King in an open armed pose blessing the Earth.
        • The Grotto of the Nativity, an underground cave located beneath the basilica, enshrines the site where Jesus is said to have been born. The exact spot is marked beneath an altar by a 14-pointed silver star set into the marble floor and surrounded by silver lamps. This altar is denominationally neutral, although it features primarily Armenian Apostolic influences. Another altar in the Grotto, which is maintained by the Roman Catholics, marks the site where traditionally Mary laid the newborn Baby in the manger.
        • Numerous Chapels are found in the compound as well, including the Chapel of Saint Joseph, commemorating the angel's appearance to Joseph, commanding him to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13); the Chapel of the Innocents, commemorating the children killed by Herod (Matthew 2:16–18); and the Chapel of Saint Jerome, where traditionally he translated the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate).
        • Manger Square, a large paved courtyard in front of the Church, is the site where crowds gather on Christmas Eve to sing Christmas carols in anticipation of the midnight services.
         

        Preservation and related concerns

        Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity, UNESCO
        The basilica was placed on the 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites by the World Monuments Fund:
        The present state of the church is worrying. Many roof timbers are rotting, and have not been replaced since the 19th century. The rainwater that seeps into the building not only accelerates the rotting of the wood and damages the structural integrity of the building, but also damages the 12th-century wall mosaics and paintings. The influx of water also means that there is an ever-present chance of an electrical fire. If another earthquake were to occur on the scale of the one of 1834, the result would most likely be catastrophic. ... It is hoped that the listing will encourage its preservation, including getting the three custodians of the church – the Greek Orthodox Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, and the Franciscan order – to work together, which has not happened for hundreds of years. The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority would also have to work together to protect it.

        In 2010, the Palestinian Authority announced that a multimillion-dollar restoration programme was imminent.

        World Heritage Site


        In 2012, the church complex became the first Palestinian site to be listed as a World Heritage Site by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session on 29 June. It was approved by a secret vote of 13–6 in the 21-member committee, according to UNESCO spokeswoman Sue Williams, and following an emergency candidacy procedure that by-passed the 18-month process for most sites, despite the opposition of the United States and Israel. The site was approved under criteria four and six. The decision was a controversial one on both technical and political terms. It has also been placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger as it is suffering from damages due to water leaks.

         References


        • "Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem – UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Whc.unesco.org. Retrieved 2015-12-25.

        • "UN grants Nativity Church 'endangered' status – Middle East". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2015-12-25.




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            THE MYSTICAL CITY OF GOD

            Mystical City of God, the miracle of His omnipotence and the abyss of His grace the divine history and life of the Virgin Mother of God our Queen and our Lady, most holy Mary expiatrix of the fault of eve and mediatrix of grace. Manifested to Sister Mary of Jesus, Prioress of the convent of the Immaculate Conception in Agreda, Spain. For new enlightenment of the world, for rejoicing of the Catholic Church, and encouragement of men. Completed in 1665.


            THE DIVINE HISTORY AND LIFE OF THE VIRGIN MOTHER OF GOD
            Venerable Mary of Agreda
            Translated from the Spanish by  Reverend George J. Blatter
            1914, So. Chicago, Ill., The Theopolitan; Hammond, Ind., W.B. Conkey Co., US..
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            Translation from the Original Authorized Spanish Edition by Fiscar Marison (George J. Blatter). Begun on the Feast of the Assumption 1902, completed 1912.
            This work is published for the greater Glory of Jesus Christ through His most Holy Mother Mary and for the sanctification of the Church and her members.



            Book 4, Chapter 3

            THE JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM


            It had been decreed by the immutable will of Providence that the Onlybegotten of the Father should be born in the town of Bethlehem (Mich. 5, 2), and accordingly it had been foretold by the Saints and Prophets of foregone ages (Jerem. 10, 9); for the decrees of the absolute will of God are infallible, and since nothing can resist them (Esther 13, 9), sooner would heaven and earth pass away than that they fail of accomplishment (Matth. 24, 35). The fulfillment of this immutable decree the Lord secured by means of an edict of Caesar Augustus for the whole Roman empire, ordering the registration or enumeration of all the world, as saint Luke says (Luke 2, 1). The Roman empire at that time embraced the greater part of what was then known of the earth and therefore they called themselves masters of the world, ignoring all the other nations. The object of this census was to make all the inhabitants acknowledge themselves as vassals of the emperor, and to pay a certain tax to their temporal lord; for this registration every one was to go to his native city in order to be inscribed. This edict was also proclaimed in Nazareth and came to the hearing of saint Joseph while he was on some errand. He returned to his house in sorrowful consternation and informed his heavenly Spouse of the news which had spread about concerning the edict. The most prudent Virgin answered: “Let not this edict of our temporal ruler cause thee any concern, my master and spouse, for all that happens to us is ordained by the Lord and King of heaven and earth; and in all events his Providence will assist and direct us (Eccli. 22, 28). Let us resign ourselves into his hands and we shall not be disappointed.”


            Most holy Mary was capable of being entrusted with all the mysteries of her most holy Son and She knew of the prophecies and their fulfillment; hence, also, that the Onlybegotten of the Father and her own was to be born in Bethlehem, a Stranger and an Unknown. But She said nothing of this to saint Joseph; for without being commissioned by the Lord She would reveal none of his secrets. All that She was not commanded to reveal She concealed with admirable prudence, notwithstanding her desire of consoling her most faithful and holy spouse. She wished to entrust Herself to his direction and arrangement without acting the part of those who are wise in their own conceit, as Wisdom warns us (Prov. 3, 7). They therefore conferred with each other about the course to be pursued; for already the pregnancy of the heavenly Lady was far advanced and her parturition was approaching. Saint Joseph said: “Queen of heaven and earth and my Mistress, if Thou hast no order to the contrary from the Almighty, it seems to me necessary that I go alone. Yet, although this order refers only to the heads of families, I dare not leave Thee without assistance, nor could I live without Thee, nor would I have a moment’s peace away from Thee; for my heart could not come to any rest without seeing Thee.


            They at the same time resolved upon the day of their departure, and Joseph diligently searched in the town of Nazareth for some beast of burden to bear the Mistress of the world. He could not easily find one because so many people were going to different towns in order to fulfill the requirements of the edict of the emperor. But after much anxious inquiry saint Joseph found an unpretentious little beast which, if we can call such creatures fortunate, was the most fortunate of all the irrational animals; since it was privileged not only to bear the Queen of all creation and the blessed fruit of her womb, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, but afterwards to be present at his Birth (Jsaias 1, 3); and since it gave to its Creator the homage denied to Him by men, as I shall relate (No. 485). They provided the articles for the journey, which would last five days. The outfit of the heavenly travelers was the same as that which they had provided for their previous journey to the house of Zacharias on their visit to Elisabeth. They carried with them bread, fruit and some fishes, which ordinarily composed their nourishment. As the most prudent Virgin was enlightened regarding their protracted absence, She made use of prudent concealment in taking along the linens and clothes necessary for her heavenly delivery, for She wished to dispose all things according to the exalted intents of the Lord and in preparation for the events which She expected. Their house they left in charge of some neighbor until they should return.


            The most pure Mary and the glorious saint Joseph departed from Nazareth for Bethlehem alone, poor and humble in the eyes of the world. None of the mortals thought more of them than what was warranted by their poverty and humility. But O the wonderful sacraments of the Most High, hidden to the proud, and unpenetrated by the wisdom of the flesh! They did not walk alone, poor or despised, but prosperous, rich and in magnificence. They were most worthy of the immense love of the eternal Father and most estimable in his eyes. They carried with them the Treasure of heaven, the Deity itself. The whole court of the celestial ministers venerated them. All the inanimate beings recognized the living and true Ark of the Testament (Josue 3, 16) more readily than the waters of the Jordan recognized its type and shadow, when they courteously laid open and free the path for its passage and for those that followed it. They were accompanied by the ten thousand angels, which as mentioned (No. 450), were appointed by God himself as the servants of her Majesty during that whole journey. These heavenly squadrons marched along as their retinue in human forms visible to the heavenly Lady, more refulgent than so many suns. She herself walked in their midst better guarded and defended than the bed of Solomon, surrounded by the sixty valiant ones of Israel, girded with their swords (Cant. 3, 7). Besides these ten thousand angels there were many others, who descended from heaven as messengers of the eternal Father to his Onlybegotten made man in his most holy Mother, and who ascended from earth as their ambassadors with messages and treaties from them to the heavenly Father.


            With these wonderful favors and delights, however, the Lord joined some hardships and inconveniences which the divine Mother encountered on the way. For the concourse of people in the taverns, occasioned by the imperial edict, was very disagreeable and annoying to the modest and retiring Virgin–Mother and her spouse. On account of their poverty and timid retirement they were treated with less hospitality and consideration than others, especially the well–to–do; for the world judges and usually confers its favors according to outward appearance and according to personal influence. Our holy pilgrims were obliged repeatedly to listen to sharp reprimands in the taverns, at which they arrived tired out by their journey, and in some of them they were refused admittance as worthless and despicable people. Several times they assigned to the Mistress of heaven and earth some corner of the hallway; while at others She did not fare even so well, being obliged to retire with her husband to places still more humble and unbecoming in the estimation of the world. But in whatever places She tarried, how contemptible soever it might be considered, the courtiers of heaven established their court around their supreme King and sovereign Queen. Immediately they surrounded and enclosed them like an impenetrable wall, securing the bridal chamber of Solomon against the terrors of the night. Her most faithful spouse Joseph, seeing the Mistress of heaven so well guarded by the angelic hosts, betook himself to rest and sleep; for to this She urged him on account of the hardships of travel. She, however, continued her celestial colloquies with the ten thousand angels of her retinue.


            Thus variously and wonderfully assisted, our travelers arrived at the town of Bethlehem at four o’clock of the fifth day, a Saturday. As it was at the time of the winter solstice, the sun was already sinking and the night was falling. They entered the town, and wandered through many streets in search of a lodging–house or inn for staying over night. They knocked at the doors of their acquaintances and nearer family relations; but they were admitted nowhere and in many places they met with harsh words and insults. The most modest Queen followed her spouse through the crowds of people, while he went from house to house and from door to door. Although She knew that the hearts and the houses of men were to be closed to them, and although to expose her state at her age to the public gaze was more painful to her modesty than to their failure to procure a night–lodging, She nevertheless wished to obey saint Joseph and suffer this indignity and unmerited shame. While wandering through the streets they passed the office of the public registry and they inscribed their names and paid the fiscal tribute in order to comply with the edict and not be obliged to return. They continued their search, betaking themselves to other houses. But having already applied at more than fifty different places, they found themselves rejected and sent away from them all. The heavenly spirits were filled with astonishment at these exalted mysteries of the Most High, which manifested the patience and meekness of his Virgin Mother and the unfeeling hardness of men. At the same time they blessed the Almighty in his works and hidden sacraments, since from that day on He began to exalt and honor poverty and humility among men.


            It was nine o’clock at night when the most faithful Joseph, full of bitter and heartrending sorrow, returned to his most prudent Spouse and said: “My sweetest Lady, my heart is broken with sorrow at the thought of not only not being able to shelter Thee as Thou deservest and as I desire, but in not being able to offer Thee even any kind of protection from the weather, or a place of rest, a thing rarely or never denied to the most poor and despised in the world. No doubt heaven, in thus allowing the hearts of men to be so unmoved as to refuse us a night–lodging conceals some mystery. I now remember, Lady, that outside the city walls there is a cave, which serves as a shelter for shepherds and their flocks. Let us seek it out; perhaps it is unoccupied, and we may there expect some assistance from heaven, since we receive none from men on earth.” The most prudent Virgin answered: “My spouse and my master, let not thy kindest heart be afflicted because the ardent wishes which the love of thy Lord excites in thee cannot be fulfilled. Since I bear Him in my womb, let us, I beseech thee, give thanks for having disposed events in this way. The place of which thou speakest shall be most satisfactory to me. Let thy tears of sorrow be turned into tears of joy, and let us lovingly embrace poverty, which is the inestimable and precious treasure of my most holy Son. He came from heaven in order to seek it, let us then afford Him an occasion to practice it in the joy of our souls; certainly I cannot be better delighted than to see thee procure it for me. Let us go gladly wherever the Lord shall guide us.” The holy angels accompanied the heavenly pair, brilliantly lighting up the way, and when they arrived at the city gate they saw that the cave was forsaken and unoccupied. Full of heavenly consolation, they thanked the Lord for this favor, and then happened what I shall relate in the following chapter.


            WORDS OF THE QUEEN

            The Virgin Mary speaks to Sister Mary of Agreda, Spain

            My dearest daughter, if thou art of a meek and docile heart, these mysteries which thou hast written about and hast understood, will stir within thee sweet sentiments of love and affection toward the Author of such great wonders. I wish that, bearing them in mind, thou from this day on embrace with new and great esteem the contempt and neglect of the world. And tell me, dearest, if, in exchange for this forgetfulness and scorn of the world, God look upon thee with eyes of sweetest love, why shouldst thou not buy so cheaply what is worth an infinite price? What can the world give thee, even when it esteems thee and exalts thee most ? And what dost thou lose, if thou despise it? Is its favor not all vanity and deceit (Ps. 4, 3)? Is it not all a fleeting and momentary shadow, which eludes the grasp of those that haste after it? Hence, if thou hadst all worldly advantage in thy possession, what great feat would it be to despise it as of no value? Consider how little thou dost in rejecting all of it for the love of God, for mine and that of the holy angels. And if the world does not neglect thee as much as thou shouldst desire, do thou on thy own behalf despise it, in order to remain free and unhampered to enjoy to the full extent the highest Good with the plenitude of his most delightful love and companionship.


            My most holy Son is such a faithful Lover of souls that He hast set me as the teacher and living example of the love of humility and true contempt of worldly vanity and pride. He ordained also for his own glory as well as for my sake that I, his Servant and Mother, should be left without shelter and be turned away by mortals, in order that afterwards his beloved souls might be so much the more readily induced to offer Him a welcome, thus obliging Him, by an artifice of love, to come and remain with them. He also sought destitution and poverty, not because He had any need of them for bringing the practice of virtues to the highest perfection, but in order to teach mortals the shortest and surest way for reaching the heights of divine love and union with God.


            Thou knowest well, my dearest, that thou hast been incessantly instructed and exhorted by divine enlightenment to forget the terrestrial and visible and gird thyself with foritude (Prov. 31, 17), to raise thyself to the imitation of me, copying in thyself, according to thy capacity, the works and virtues manifested to thee in my life. This is the very first purpose of the knowledge which thou receivest in writing this history thou hast in me a perfect model, and by it thou canst arrange the converse and conduct of thy life in the same manner as I arranged mine in imitation of my sweetest Son. The dread with which this command to imitate me has inspired thee as a being above thy strength, thou must moderate and thou must encourage thyself by the words of my most holy Son in the Gospel of saint Matthew: “Be ye perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect” (Matth. 5, 8). This command of the Most High imposed upon his holy Church is not impossible of fulfillment, and, if his faithful children on their part dispose themselves properly, He will deny to none of them the grace of attaining this resemblance to the heavenly Father. All this my most holy Son has merited for them. But the degrading forgetfulness and neglect of men hinder them from maturing within themselves the fruits of his Redemption.


            Of thee particularly I expect this perfection, and I invite thee to it by the sweet law of love which accompanies my instruction. Ponder and scrutinize, by the divine light, the obligation under which I place thee, and labor to correspond with it like a faithful and anxious child. Let no difficulty or hardship disturb thee, nor deter thee from any virtuous exercise, no matter how hard it may be. Nor be content with striving after the love of God and salvation of thyself alone; if thou wouldst be perfect in imitating me and fulfilling all that the Gospel teaches, thou must work for the salvation of other souls and the exaltation of the holy name of my Son, making thyself an instrument in his powerful hands for the accomplishment of mighty works to advance his pleasure and glory.


            Book 4, Chapter 4

            CHRIST OUR SAVIOR IS BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY IN BETHLEHEM

            The palace which the supreme King of kings and the Lord of lords had chosen for entertaining his eternal and incarnate Son in this world was a most poor and insignificant hut or cave, to which most holy Mary and Joseph betook themselves after they had been denied all hospitality and the most ordinary kindness by their fellow–men, as I have described in the foregoing chapter. This place was held in such contempt that though the town of Bethlehem was full of strangers in want of night–shelter, none would demean or degrade himself so as to make use of it for a lodging; for there was none who deemed it suitable or desirable for such a purpose, except the Teachers of humility and poverty, Christ our Savior and his purest Mother. On this account the wisdom of the eternal Father had reserved it for Them consecrating it in all its bareness, loneliness and poverty as the first temple of light (Malachy 4, 2, Ps. 111, 4) and as the house of the true Sun of justice, which was to arise for the upright of heart from the resplendent Aurora Mary, turning the night of sin into the daylight of grace.


            Most holy Mary and saint Joseph entered the lodging thus provided for them and by the effulgence of the ten thousand angels of their guard they could easily ascertain its poverty and loneliness, which they esteemed as favors and welcomed with tears of consolation and joy. Without delay the two holy travelers fell on their knees and praised the Lord, giving Him thanks for his benefit, which they knew had been provided by his wisdom for his own hidden designs. Of this mystery the heavenly Princess Mary had a better insight; for as soon as She sanctified the interior of the cave by her sacred footsteps She felt a fullness of joy which entirely elevated and vivified Her. She besought the Lord to bless with a liberal hand all the inhabitants of the neighboring city, because by rejecting Her they had given occasion to the vast favors, which She awaited in this neglected cavern. It was formed entirely of the bare and coarse rocks, without any natural beauty or artificial adornment; a place intended merely for the shelter of animals; yet the eternal Father had selected it for the shelter and dwelling–place of his own Son.


            The angelic spirits, who like a celestial militia guarded their Queen and Mistress, formed themselves into cohorts in the manner of court guards in a royal palace. They showed themselves in their visible forms also to saint Joseph; for on this occasion it was befitting that he should enjoy such a favor, on the one hand in order to assuage his sorrow by allowing him to behold this poor lodging thus beautified and adorned by their celestial presence, and on the other, in order to enliven and encourage him for the events which the Lord intended to bring about during that night, and in this forsaken place. The great Queen and Empress, who was already informed of the mystery to be transacted here, set about cleaning with her own hands the cave, which was so soon to serve as a royal throne and sacred mercy–seat; for neither did She want to miss this occasion for exercising her humility, nor would She deprive her only begotten Son of the worship and reverence implied by this preparation and cleansing of his temple.


            Saint Joseph, mindful of the majesty of his heavenly Spouse (which, it seemed to him, She was forgetting in her ardent longing for humiliation), besought Her not to deprive Him of this work, which he considered as his alone; and he hastened to set about cleaning the floor and the corners of the cave, although the humble Queen continued to assist him therein. As the angels were then present in visible forms, they were (according to our mode of speaking) abashed at such eagerness for humiliation, and they speedily emulated with each other to join in this work; or rather, in order to say it more succinctly, in the shortest time possible they had cleansed and set in order that cave, filling it with holy fragrance. Saint Joseph started a fire with the material which he had brought for that purpose. As it was very cold, they sat at the fire in order to get warm. They partook of the food which they had brought, and they ate this, their frugal supper, with incomparable joy of their souls. The Queen of heaven was so absorbed and taken up with the thought of the impending mystery of her divine delivery, that She would not have partaken of food if She had not been urged thereto by obedience to her spouse.


            After their supper they gave thanks to the Lord as was their custom. Having spent a short time in this prayer and conferring about the mysteries of the incarnate Word, the most prudent Virgin felt the approach of the most blessed Birth. She requested her spouse saint Joseph to betake himself to rest and sleep as the night was already far advanced. The man of God yielded to the request of his Spouse and urged Her to do the same; and for this purpose he arranged and prepared a sort of couch with the articles of wear in their possession, making use of a crib or manger, that had been left by the shepherds for their animals. Leaving most holy Mary in the portion of the cave thus furnished, saint Joseph retired to a corner of the entrance, where he began to pray. He was immediately visited by the divine Spirit and felt a most sweet and extraordinary influence, by which he was wrapped and elevated into an ecstasy. In it was shown him all that passed during that night in this blessed cave; for he did not return to consciousness until his heavenly Spouse called him. Such was the sleep which saint Joseph enjoyed in that night, more exalted and blessed than that of Adam in paradise (Gen. 21, 2).


            The Queen of all creatures was called from her resting–place by a loud voice of the Most High, which strongly and sweetly raised Her above all created things and caused Her to feel new effects of divine power; for this was one of the most singular and admirable ecstasies of her most holy life. Immediately also She was filled with new enlightenment and divine influences, such as I have described in other places, until She reached the clear vision of the Divinity. The veil fell and She saw intuitively the Godhead itself in such glory and plenitude of insight, as all the capacity of men and angels could not describe or fully understand. All the knowledge of the Divinity and humanity of her most holy Son, which She had ever received in former visions was renewed and, moreover, other secrets of the inexhaustible archives of the bosom of God were revealed to Her. I have not ideas or words sufficient and adequate for expressing what I have been allowed to see of these sacraments by the divine light; and their abundance and multiplicity convince me of the poverty and want of proper expression in created language.


            The Most High announced to his Virgin Mother, that the time of his coming into the world had arrived and what would be the manner in which this was now to be fulfilled and executed. The most prudent Lady perceived in this vision the purpose and exalted scope of these wonderful mysteries and sacraments, as well in so far as related to the Lord himself as also in so far as they concerned creatures, for whose benefit they had been primarily decreed. She prostrated Herself before the throne of his Divinity and gave Him glory, magnificence, thanks and praise for Herself and for all creatures, such as was befitting the ineffable mercy and condescension of his divine love. At the same time She asked of the divine Majesty new light and grace in order to be able worthily to undertake the service and worship and the rearing up of the Word made flesh, whom She was to bear in Her arms and nourish with her virginal milk. This petition the heavenly Mother brought forward with the profoundest humility, as one who understood the greatness of this new sacrament. She held Herself unworthy of the office of rearing up and conversing as a Mother with a God incarnate of which even the highest seraphim are incapable. Prudently and humbly did the Mother of wisdom ponder and weigh this matter. And because She humbled Herself to the dust and acknowledged her nothingness in the presence of the Almighty, therefore his Majesty raised Her up and confirmed anew upon Her the title of Mother of God. He commanded Her to exercise this office and ministry of a legitimate and true Mother of Himself; that She should treat Him as the Son of the eternal Father and at the same time the Son of her womb. All this could be easily entrusted to such a Mother, in whom was contained an excellence that words cannot express.


            The most holy Mary remained in this ecstasy and beatific vision for over an hour immediately preceding her divine delivery. At the moment when She issued from it and regained the use of her senses She felt and saw that the body of the infant God began to move in her virginal womb; how, releasing and freeing Himself from the place which in the course of nature He had occupied for nine months, He now prepared to issue forth from that sacred bridal chamber. This movement not only did not cause any pain or hardship, as happens with the other daughters of Adam and Eve in their childbirths; but filled Her with incomparable joy and delight, causing in her soul and in her virginal body such exalted and divine effects that they exceed all thoughts of men. Her body became so spiritualized with the beauty of heaven that She seemed no more a human and earthly creature. Her countenance emitted rays of light, like a sun incarnadined, and shone in indescribable earnestness and majesty, all inflamed with fervent love. She was kneeling in the manger, her eyes raised to heaven, her hands joined and folded at her breast, her soul wrapped in the Divinity and She herself was entirely deified. In this position, and at the end of the heavenly rapture, the most exalted Lady gave to the world the Only begotten of the Father and her own, our Savior Jesus, true God and man, at the hour of midnight, on a Sunday, in the year of the creation of the world five thousand one hundred and ninety–nine (5199), which is the date given in the Roman Church, and which date has been manifested to me as the true and certain one.


            At the end of the beatific rapture and vision of the Mother ever Virgin, which I have described above, was born the Sun of Justice, the Only begotten of the eternal Father and of Mary most pure, beautiful, refulgent and immaculate, leaving Her untouched in her virginal integrity and purity and making Her more godlike and forever sacred; for He did not divide, but penetrated the virginal chamber as the rays of the sun penetrate the crystal shrine, lighting it up in prismatic beauty.


            The infant God therefore was brought forth from the virginal chamber unencumbered by any corporeal material substance foreign to Himself. But He came forth glorious and transfigured for the divine infinite wisdom decreed and ordained that the glory of his most holy soul should in his Birth overflow and communicate itself to his body, participating in the gifts of glory in the same way as happened afterwards in his Transfiguration on mount Tabor in the presence of the Apostles (Matth. 17, 2). This miracle was not necessary in order to penetrate the virginal enclosure and to leave unimpaired the virginal integrity; for without this Transfiguration God could have brought this about by other miracles. Thus say the holy doctors, who see no other miracle in this Birth than that the Child was born without impairing the virginity of the Mother. It was the will of God that the most b1essed Virgin should look upon the body of her Son, the God–man, for this first time in a glorified state for two reasons. The one was in order that by this divine vision the most prudent Mother should conceive the highest reverence for the Majesty of Him whom She was to treat as her Son, the true God–man. Although She was already informed of his two–fold nature, the Lord nevertheless ordained that by ocular demonstration She be filled with new graces, corresponding to the greatness of her most holy Son, which was thus manifested to Her in a visible manner. The second reason was to reward by this wonder the fidelity and holiness of the divine Mother; for her most pure and chaste eyes, that had turned away from all earthly things for love of her most holy Son, were to see Him at his very Birth in this glory and thus be rejoiced and rewarded for her loyalty and beautiful love.


            The sacred evangelist Luke tells us that the Mother Virgin, having brought forth her firstbegotten Son, wrapped Him in swathing clothes and placed Him in a manger. He does not say that She received Him in her arms from her virginal womb; for this did not pertain to the purpose of his narrative. But the two sovereign princes, saint Michael and saint Gabriel, were the assistants of the Virgin on this occasion. They stood by at proper distance in human corporeal forms at the moment when the incarnate Word, penetrating the virginal chamber by divine power, issued forth to the light, and they received Him in their hands with ineffable reverence. In the same manner as a priest exhibits the sacred host to the people for adoration, so these two celestial ministers presented to the divine Mother her glorious and refulgent Son. All this happened in a short space of time. In the same moment in which the holy angels thus presented the divine Child to his Mother, both Son and Mother looked upon each other, and in this look, She wounded with love the sweet Infant and was at the same time exalted and transformed in Him. From the arms of the holy princes the Prince of all the heavens spoke to his holy Mother: “Mother, become like unto Me, since on this day, for the human existence, which thou hast today given Me, I will give thee another more exalted existence in grace, assimilating thy existence as a mere creature to the likeness of Me, who am God and Man.” The most prudent Mother answered : “Trahe me post Te, curremus in odorem unguentorum tuorum” (Cant. 1, 3). Raise me, elevate me, Lord, and I will run after Thee in the odor of thy ointments. In the same way many of the hidden mysteries of the Canticles were fulfilled; and other sayings which passed between the infant God and the Virgin Mother had been recorded in that book of songs, as for instance: “My Beloved to me, and I to Him, and his desire is toward me” (Cant. 2, 16). “Behold thou art beautiful, my friend, and thy eyes are dove’s eyes. Behold, my beloved, for thou art beautiful”; and many other sacramental words which to mention would unduly prolong this chapter.


            The words, which most holy Mary heard from the mouth of her most holy Son, served to make Her understand at the same time the interior acts of his holiest soul united with the Divinity; in order that by imitating them She might become like unto Him. This was one of the greatest blessings, which the most faithful and fortunate Mother received at the hands of her Son, the true God and man, not only because it was continued from that day on through all her life, but because it furnished Her the means of copying his own divine life as faithfully as was possible to a mere creature. At the same time the heavenly Lady perceived and felt the presence of the most holy Trinity, and She heard the voice of the eternal Father saying: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am greatly pleased and delighted” (Matth. 17, 5). The most prudent Mother made entirely god–like in the overflow of so many sacraments, answered: “Eternal Father and exalted God, Lord and Creator of the universe, give me anew thy permission and benediction to receive in my arms the Desired of nations (Agg. 2, 8); and teach me to fulfill as thy unworthy Mother and lowly slave, thy holy will.” Immediately She heard a voice, which said: “Receive thy Onlybegotten Son, imitate Him and rear Him; and remember, that thou must sacrifice Him when I shall demand it of thee.” The divine Mother answered: “Behold the creature of thy hands, adorn me with thy grace so that thy Son and my God receive me for his slave; and if Thou wilt come to my aid with thy Omnipotence, I shall be faithful in his service; and do Thou count it no presumption in thy insignificant creature, that she bear in her arms and nourish at her breast her own Lord and Creator.”


            After this interchange of Words, so full of mysteries, the divine Child suspended the miracle of his transfiguration, or rather He inaugurated the other miracle, that of suspending the effects of glory in his most holy body, confining them solely to his soul; and He now assumed the appearance of one capable of suffering. In this form the most pure Mother now saw Him and, still remaining in a kneeling position and adoring Him with profound humility and reverence, She received him in her arms from the hands of the holy angels. And when She saw Him in her arms, She spoke to Him and said: “My sweetest Love and light of my eyes and being of my soul, Thou hast arrived in good hour into this world as the Sun of justice (Malach. 4, 2), in order to disperse the darkness of sin and death! True God of the true God, save thy servants and let all flesh see him, who shall draw upon it salvation (Is. 9, 2). Receive me thy servant as thy slave and supply my deficiency, in order that I may properly serve Thee. Make me, my Son, such as Thou desirest me to be in thy service.” Then the most prudent Mother turned toward the eternal Father to offer up to Him his Onlybegotten, saying: “Exalted Creator of all the Universe, here is the altar and the sacrifice acceptable in thy eyes (Malachy 3, 4). From this hour on, O Lord, look upon the human race with mercy and inasmuch as we have deserved thy anger, it is now time that Thou be appeased in thy Son and mine. Let thy justice now come to rest, and let thy mercy be exalted; for on this account the Word has clothed itself in the semblance of sinful flesh (Rom. 8, 3), and became a Brother of mortals and sinners (Philip 2, 7). In this title I recognize them as brothers and I intercede for them from my inmost soul. Thou, Lord, hast made me the Mother of thy Onlybegotten without my merit, since this dignity is above all merit of a creature; but I partly owe to men the occasion of this incomparable good fortune since it is on their account that I am the Mother of the Word made man and Redeemer of them all. I will not deny them my love, or remit my care and watchfulness for their salvation. Receive, eternal God, my wishes and petitions for that which is according to thy pleasure and good will.”


            The Mother of mercy turned also toward all mortals and addressed them, saying: “Be consoled ye afflicted and rejoice ye disconsolate, be raised up ye fallen, come to rest ye uneasy. Let the just be gladdened and the saints be rejoiced; let the heavenly spirits break out in new jubilee, let the Prophets and Patriarchs of limbo draw new hope, and let all the generations praise and magnify the Lord, who renews his wonders. Come, come ye poor; approach ye little ones, without fear, for in my arms I bear the Lion made a lamb, the Almighty, become weak, the Invincible subdued. Come to draw  life, hasten to obtain salvation, approach to gain eternal rest, since I have all this for all, and it will be given to you freely and communicated to you without envy. Do not be slow and heavy of heart, ye sons of men; and Thou, O sweetest joy of my soul, give me permission to receive from Thee that kiss desired by all creatures. Therewith the most blessed Mother applied her most chaste and heavenly lips in order to receive the loving caresses of the divine Child, who on his part, as her true Son, had desired them from Her. 


            Holding Him in Her arms She thus served as the altar and the sanctuary, where the ten thousand angels adored in visible human forms their Creator incarnate. And as the most blessed Trinity assisted in an especial manner at the birth of the Word, heaven was as it were emptied of its inhabitants, for the whole heavenly court had betaken itself to that blessed cave of Bethlehem and was adoring the Creator in his garb and habit of a pilgrim (Phil. 2, 7). And in their concert of praise the holy angels intoned the new canticle: “Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis” (Luke 2, 14). In sweetest and sonorous harmony they repeated it, transfixed in wonder at the new miracles then being fulfilled and at the unspeakable prudence, grace, humility and beauty of that tender Maiden of fifteen years, who had become the worthy Trustee and Minister of such vast and magnificent sacraments.


            It was now time to call saint Joseph, the faithful spouse of the most discreet and attentive Lady. As I have said above he was wrapped in ecstasy, in which he was informed by divine revelation of all the mysteries of this sacred Birth during this night. But it was becoming that he should see, and, before all other mortals, should in his corporeal faculties and senses be present and experience, adore and reverence the Word made flesh; for he of all others had been chosen to act as the faithful warden of this great sacrament. At the desire of his heavenly Spouse he issued from his ecstasy and, on being restored to consciousness, the first sight of his eyes was the divine Child in the arms of the Virgin Mother reclining against her sacred countenance and breast. There he adored Him in profoundest humility and in tears of joy. He kissed his feet in great joy and admiration, which no doubt would have taken away and destroyed life in him, if divine power had not preserved it; and he certainly would have lost all the use of his senses, if the occasion had permitted. When saint Joseph had begun to adore the Child, the most prudent Mother asked leave of her Son to arise (for until then She had remained on her knees) and, while saint Joseph handed Her the wrappings and swaddling–clothes, which She had brought, She clothed Him with incomparable reverence, devotion and tenderness. Having thus swathed and clothed Him, his Mother, with heavenly wisdom, laid Him in the crib, as related by saint Luke (Luke 2, 7). For this purpose She had arranged some straw and hay upon a stone in order to prepare for the God–Man his first resting–place upon earth next to that which He had found in her arms. According to divine ordainment an ox from the neighboring fields ran up in great haste and, entering the cave, joined the beast of burden brought by the Queen. The blessed Mother commanded them, with what show of reverence was possible to them to acknowledge and adore their Creator. The humble animals obeyed their Mistress and prostrated themselves before the Child, warming Him with their breath and rendering Him the service refused by men. And thus the God made man was placed between two animals, wrapped in swaddling–clothes and wonderfully fulfilling the prophecy, that “the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel hath not known me, and my people hath not understood.” (Is. 13.)


            WORDS OF THE QUEEN

            The Virgin Mary speaks to Sister Mary of Agreda, Spain

            My daughter, if men would keep their heart disengaged and if they would rightly and worthily consider this great sacrament of the kindness of the Most high towards men, it would be a powerful means of conducting them in the pathway of life and subjecting them to the love of their Creator and Redeemer. For as men are capable of reasoning, if they would only make use of their freedom to treat this sacrament with the reverence due to its greatness, who would be so hardened as not to be moved to tenderness at the sight of their God become man, humiliated in poverty, despised, unknown, entering the world in a cave, lying in a manger surrounded by brute animals, protected only by a poverty–stricken Mother, and cast off by the foolish arrogance of the world? Who will dare to love the vanity and pride, which was openly abhorred and condemned by the Creator of heaven and earth in his conduct? No one can despise the humility, poverty and indigence, which the Lord loved and chose for Himself as the very means of teaching the way of eternal life. Few there are, who stop to consider this truth and example: and on account of this vile ingratitude only the few will reap the fruit of these great sacraments.


            But if the condescension of my most holy Son was so great as to bestow so liberally upon thee his light and knowledge concerning these vast blessings, ponder well how much thou art bound to co–operate with this light. In order that thou mayest correspond to this obligation, I remind and exhort thee to forget all that is of earth and lose it out of thy sight; that thou seek nothing, or engage thyself with nothing except what can help thee to withdraw and detach thee from the world and its inhabitants so that, with a heart freed from all terrestrial affection, thou dispose thyself to celebrate in it the mysteries of the poverty, humility and divine love of the incarnate God. Learn from my example the reverence, fear and respect, with which thou must treat Him, remembering how I acted, when I held Him in my arms; follow my example, whenever thou receivest Him in thy heart in the venerable sacrament of the holy Eucharist, wherein is contained the same God–Man, who was born of my womb. In this holy Sacrament thou receivest Him and possessest Him just as really, and He remains in thee just as actually, as I possessed Him and conversed with Him, although in another manner.


            I desire that thou go even to extremes in this holy reverence and fear; and I wish that thou take notice and be convinced, that in entering into thy heart in the holy Sacrament, thy God exhorts thee in the same words, which thou hast recorded as spoken to me: become like unto Me. His coming down from heaven onto the earth, his being born in humility and poverty, his living and dying in it, giving such rare example of the contempt of the world and its deceits; the knowledge, which thou hast received concerning his conduct and which thou hast penetrated so deeply by divine intelligence: all these things should be for thee like living voices, which thou must heed and inscribe into the interior of thy heart. These privileges have all been granted to thee in order that thou discreetly use the common blessings to their fullest extent, and in order that thou mayest understand, how thankful thou must be to my most holy Son and Lord, and how thou shouldst strive to make as great a return for his goodness, as if He had come from heaven to redeem thee alone and as if He had instituted all his wonders and doctrines in the holy Church for none else than thee (Gal. 7, 12).



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            Catholic Catechism 

             

            PART TWO - THE CELEBRATION OF THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY 

            SECTION TWO - THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH

            CHAPTER TWO - THE SACRAMENTS OF HEALING  

            ARTICLE 5 - THE ANOINTING OF THE SICK


            1499 "By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ."98

             
            I. ITS FOUNDATIONS IN THE ECONOMY OF SALVATION
            Illness in human life
            1500 Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude. Every illness can make us glimpse death.

            1501 Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.


            The sick person before God
            1502 The man of the Old Testament lives his sickness in the presence of God. It is before God that he laments his illness, and it is of God, Master of life and death, that he implores healing.99 Illness becomes a way to conversion; God's forgiveness initiates the healing.100 It is the experience of Israel that illness is mysteriously linked to sin and evil, and that faithfulness to God according to his law restores life: "For I am the Lord, your healer."101 The prophet intuits that suffering can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others.102 Finally Isaiah announces that God will usher in a time for Zion when he will pardon every offense and heal every illness.103

             
            Christ the physician
            1503 Christ's compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that "God has visited his people"104 and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins;105 he has come to heal the whole man, soul and body; he is the physician the sick have need of.106 His compassion toward all who suffer goes so far that he identifies himself with them: "I was sick and you visited me."107 His preferential love for the sick has not ceased through the centuries to draw the very special attention of Christians toward all those who suffer in body and soul. It is the source of tireless efforts to comfort them.

            1504 Often Jesus asks the sick to believe.108 He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands,109 mud and washing.110 The sick try to touch him, "for power came forth from him and healed them all."111 And so in the sacraments Christ continues to "touch" us in order to heal us.

            1505 Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.".112 But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the "sin of the world,".113 of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.


            "Heal the sick . . ."
            1506 Christ invites his disciples to follow him by taking up their cross in their turn..114 By following him they acquire a new outlook on illness and the sick. Jesus associates them with his own life of poverty and service. He makes them share in his ministry of compassion and healing: "So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.".115
             
            1507 The risen Lord renews this mission ("In my name . . . they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."116) and confirms it through the signs that the Church performs by invoking his name.117 These signs demonstrate in a special way that Jesus is truly "God who saves."118
             
            1508 The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing119 so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness," and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church."120
             
            1509 "Heal the sick!"121 The Church has received this charge from the Lord and strives to carry it out by taking care of the sick as well as by accompanying them with her prayer of intercession. She believes in the life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies. This presence is particularly active through the sacraments, and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist, the bread that gives eternal life and that St. Paul suggests is connected with bodily health.122
             
            1510 However, the apostolic Church has its own rite for the sick, attested to by St. James: "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [presbyters] of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."123 Tradition has recognized in this rite one of the seven sacraments.124

             
            A sacrament of the sick
            1511 The Church believes and confesses that among the seven sacraments there is one especially intended to strengthen those who are being tried by illness, the Anointing of the Sick:
            This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord.125
            1512 From ancient times in the liturgical traditions of both East and West, we have testimonies to the practice of anointings of the sick with blessed oil. Over the centuries the Anointing of the Sick was conferred more and more exclusively on those at the point of death. Because of this it received the name "Extreme Unction." Notwithstanding this evolution the liturgy has never failed to beg the Lord that the sick person may recover his health if it would be conducive to his salvation.126
             
            1513 The Apostolic Constitution Sacram unctionem infirmorum,127 following upon the Second Vatican Council,128 established that henceforth, in the Roman Rite, the following be observed:
            The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given to those who are seriously ill by anointing them on the forehead and hands with duly blessed oil - pressed from olives or from other plants - saying, only once: "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up."129
             
            II. WHO RECEIVES AND WHO ADMINISTERS THIS SACRAMENT?
            In case of grave illness . . .
            1514 The Anointing of the Sick "is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived."130
             
            1515 If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the person's condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced.

            " . . . let him call for the presbyters of the Church"
            1516 Only priests (bishops and presbyters) are ministers of the Anointing of the Sick.131 It is the duty of pastors to instruct the faithful on the benefits of this sacrament. The faithful should encourage the sick to call for a priest to receive this sacrament. The sick should prepare themselves to receive it with good dispositions, assisted by their pastor and the whole ecclesial community, which is invited to surround the sick in a special way through their prayers and fraternal attention.


            III. HOW IS THIS SACRAMENT CELEBRATED?
            1517 Like all the sacraments the Anointing of the Sick is a liturgical and communal celebration,132 whether it takes place in the family home, a hospital or church, for a single sick person or a whole group of sick persons. It is very fitting to celebrate it within the Eucharist, the memorial of the Lord's Passover. If circumstances suggest it, the celebration of the sacrament can be preceded by the sacrament of Penance and followed by the sacrament of the Eucharist. As the sacrament of Christ's Passover the Eucharist should always be the last sacrament of the earthly journey, the "viaticum" for "passing over" to eternal life.

            1518 Word and sacrament form an indivisible whole. The Liturgy of the Word, preceded by an act of repentance, opens the celebration. The words of Christ, the witness of the apostles, awaken the faith of the sick person and of the community to ask the Lord for the strength of his Spirit.

            1519 The celebration of the sacrament includes the following principal elements: the "priests of the Church"133 - in silence - lay hands on the sick; they pray over them in the faith of the Church134 - this is the epiclesis proper to this sacrament; they then anoint them with oil blessed, if possible, by the bishop.
            These liturgical actions indicate what grace this sacrament confers upon the sick.


            IV. THE EFFECTS OF THE CELEBRATION OF THIS SACRAMENT
            1520 A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death.135 This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God's will.136 Furthermore, "if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."137
             
            1521 Union with the passion of Christ. By the grace of this sacrament the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ's Passion: in a certain way he is consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Savior's redemptive Passion. Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus.

            1522 An ecclesial grace. The sick who receive this sacrament, "by freely uniting themselves to the passion and death of Christ," "contribute to the good of the People of God."138 By celebrating this sacrament the Church, in the communion of saints, intercedes for the benefit of the sick person, and he, for his part, though the grace of this sacrament, contributes to the sanctification of the Church and to the good of all men for whom the Church suffers and offers herself through Christ to God the Father.

            1523 A preparation for the final journey. If the sacrament of anointing of the sick is given to all who suffer from serious illness and infirmity, even more rightly is it given to those at the point of departing this life; so it is also called sacramentum exeuntium (the sacrament of those departing).139 The Anointing of the Sick completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as Baptism began it. It completes the holy anointings that mark the whole Christian life: that of Baptism which sealed the new life in us, and that of Confirmation which strengthened us for the combat of this life. This last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father's house.140

             
            V. VIATICUM, THE LAST SACRAMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN
            1524 In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of "passing over" to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."141 The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father.142
             
            1525 Thus, just as the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist form a unity called "the sacraments of Christian initiation," so too it can be said that Penance, the Anointing of the Sick and the Eucharist as viaticum constitute at the end of Christian life "the sacraments that prepare for our heavenly homeland" or the sacraments that complete the earthly pilgrimage.


            IN BRIEF
            1526 "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (Jas 5:14-15).

            1527 The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has as its purpose the conferral of a special grace on the Christian experiencing the difficulties inherent in the condition of grave illness or old age.

            1528 The proper time for receiving this holy anointing has certainly arrived when the believer begins to be in danger of death because of illness or old age.

            1529 Each time a Christian falls seriously ill, he may receive the Anointing of the Sick, and also when, after he has received it, the illness worsens.

            1530 Only priests (presbyters and bishops) can give the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, using oil blessed by the bishop, or if necessary by the celebrating presbyter himself.

            1531 The celebration of the Anointing of the Sick consists essentially in the anointing of the forehead and hands of the sick person (in the Roman Rite) or of other parts of the body (in the Eastern rite), the anointing being accompanied by the liturgical prayer of the celebrant asking for the special grace of this sacrament.

            1532 The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects:
            - the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church;
            - the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age;
            - the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance;
            - the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul;
            - the preparation for passing over to eternal life.



            98 LG 11; cf. Jas 5:14-16; Rom 8:17; Col 1:24; 2 Tim 2:11-12; 1 Pet 4:13.
            99 Cf. Pss 6:3; 38; Isa 38.
            100 Cf. Pss 32:5; 38:5; 39:9, 12; 107:20; cf. Mk 2:5-12.
            101 Ex 15:26.
            102 Cf. Isa 53:11.
            103 Cf. Isa 33:24.
            104 Lk 7:16; cf. Mt 4:24.
            105 Cf. Mk 2:5-12.
            106 Cf. Mk 2:17.
            107 Mt 25:36.
            108 Cf. Mk 5:34, 36; 9:23.
            109 Cf. Mk 7:32-36; 8:22-25.
            110 Cf. Jn 9:6-7.
            111 Lk 6:19; cf. Mk 1:41; 3:10; 6:56.
            112 Mt 8:17; cf. Isa 53:4.
            113 Jn 1:29; cf. Isa 53:4-6.
            114 Cf. Mt 10:38.
            115 Mk 6:12-13.
            116 Mk 16:17-18.
            117 Cf. Acts 9:34; 14:3.
            118 Cf. Mt 1:21; Acts 4:12.
            119 Cf. 1 Cor 12:9,28,30.
            120 2 Cor 12:9; Col 1:24.
            121 Mt 10:8.
            122 Cf. Jn 6:54, 58; 1 Cor 11:30.
            123 Jas 5:14-15.
            124 Cf. Council of Constantinople II (553) DS 216; Council Of Florence (1439) 1324- 1325; Council Of Trent (1551) 1695-1696; 1716-1717.
            125 Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1695; cf. Mk 6:13; Jas 5:14-15.
            126 Cf. Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1696.
            127 Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Sacram unctionem infirmorum, November 30, 1972.
            128 Cf. SC 73.
            129 Cf. CIC, Can. 847 § 1.
            130 SC 73; cf. CIC, Cann. 1004 § 1; 1005; 1007; CCEO, Can. 738.
            131 Cf. Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1697; 1719; CIC, Can. 1003; CCEO, Can. 739 § 1.
            132 Cf. SC 27.
            133 Jas 5:14.
            134 Cf. Jas 5:15.
            135 Cf. Heb 2:15.
            136 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1325.
            137 Jas 515; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1717.
            138 LG 11 § 2.
            139 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1698.
            140 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1694.
            141 Jn 6:54.
            142 Cf. Jn 13:1.





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            RE-CHARGE:  Heaven Speaks to Young Adults


            To all tween, teens and young adults, A Message from Jesus: "Through you I will flow powerful conversion graces to draw other young souls from darkness. My plan for young men and women is immense. Truly, the renewal will leap forward with the assistance of these individuals. Am I calling you? Yes. I am calling you. You feel the stirring in your soul as you read these words. I am with you. I will never leave you. Join My band of young apostles and I will give you joy and peace that you have never known. All courage, all strength will be yours. Together, we will reclaim this world for the Father. I will bless your families and all of your relationships. I will lead you to your place in the Kingdom. Only you can complete the tasks I have set out for you. Do not reject Me. I am your Jesus. I love you...Read this book, upload to your phones/ipads.computers and read a few pages everyday...and then Pay It Forward...




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