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A Meditation On The Incarnation Of Christ, Sermons On The Life And
Passion Of Our Lord And Of Hearing And Speaking Good Words. -Thomas A Kempis

THE light is come into the world. Aid me, I almighty Father, that according to the desire of my heart, as I meditate I on the solemnity of to-day’s festival of Thy most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, some sweet and devout matter may come to me to bestir my sloth to devotion and giving of thanks. Enlighten my heart with the invisible light of Thy wisdom; Who didst make this most sacred night to shine with the dawn of the true light: and hast ordained that this day be solemnized with festive joys.

For nothing shall be pleasant or joyous to me: unless Thou Thyself first enlighten my mind; so that at rest from all disturbance of vice: it may be rapt in the contemplation of so great a celebration.

Happy festival on which both joy of mind is felt: and the soul invited by Thee is plentifully refreshed with spiritual banquets. For it is no feast to me: save it be in the heart. But indeed it is often celebrated outwardly on that account: that it may be the more joyously and gratefully solemnized within. For outward festivities are an encouragement to internal feasting: and a certain presage of eternal joys.

When therefore my interior man concords well and rejoices with the outward festivity; I seem to have now not a single but a double feast: for what is wrought without, is the more holily possessed within. It is also a double major feast: it is even a solemn. Which things the spiritual and devout soul better understands: that is wont to celebrate such feasts in spirit and in truth. FOR THE SPIRITUAL MAN JUDGES ALL THINGS. And how much one feast of the heart differs from another, and excels by a particular gladness: she, to whom Jesus deigns to come and TO MANIFEST HIMSELF ON THE FESTIVAL, knows well, taught by sweet experience. For He it is of Whom the chief festivals are solemnized: and happy she to whom He comes, and allows Himself to be seen with joy. But I think that the soul is not always drawn to God with one and the same affection of devotion, nor always visited by her Beloved in the same manner. And so, according to the lesser and the more sublime visitations, the diversity of festivals may not inaptly be distinguished; so that now it is a double feast in the soul: when according to the prophet David heart and flesh together rejoice in the living God; when so great a joy is felt poured into the heart, that it is necessary to express the same by exterior voice and gesture: and it becomes delightful to praise God devoutly in hymns and canticles. But then a double major is kept; when so great is the inebriation of the interior man, and the gladness of the exterior sensitive man: that human weakness for the heat of love cannot contain and endure it: but neither by any symbols of words can be expressed: what things the soul, visited by God, experiences wrought within her on such a feast. THEY ARE RATHER TO BE CONCEALED BY SILENCE: if ever any such are granted of God to be experienced.

But she secretly discourses of these things with God alone: Who understands her better in her silence and without words. FOR THEN IT BEHOVES EVERY CREATURE TO BE SILENT: WHEN GOD SPEAKS to a soul above natural understanding. AND THEN IS SHE BEST INSTRUCTED: WHEN THUS HER SPEECH IS WITH GOD ALONE. O teacher, truth: how speedily and perfectly is he imbued, to whom Thou dost manifest Thyself. On this feast the altar pieces are uncovered and the relics of the saints are exposed: for to this loving soul the hidden things of scripture are revealed: and the secrets of the heavenly fatherland, the state of the saints, and the eternal rewards are made known by way of special consolation.

O great and happy feast: whose celebration is granted not to all, but to a few. How far are these holy solemnities from the lovers of the world; who relish only earthly things: and look to outward things alone. To them appears foolish, and almost nothing: whatever is not resplendent with outward glitter. They usually wonder how the good can take leisure in God, and abstain from the pleasures of the flesh; for they know not how great comfort the spirit possesses within, and these experience: who for the love of God renounce all worldly delights. But such men live in ignorance and error: as pursue and love only visible things.

But when is a solemn festival of the soul celebrated? Would there were one to tell me and make me understand: if, however, that can be told which is so sublime and secret: as to be far removed from all previous standard. If ever then the soul resting in rapture of mind, FORGETFUL OF ALL THINGS PRESENT AND LIKEWISE OF HERSELF, abide mindful of God alone, and freed from all corporeal imagery pass into the abyss of the divine light, looking upon eternal things; what man would deny that she is celebrating a solemn feast, who, illumined by the rays of the eternal sun, stands so admirably raised above all things created? All this, however, seems to belong rather to the glory of eternal blessedness: than to the wretchedness of the present life. We possess therefore now rather the name and commemoration of a solemn feast than the real experience: because its perfect brightness is reserved for the saints in Heaven. O festival of festivals: where men and angels gathered together praise God three and one. O how solemnly they chant there, how sweetly they praise; where they have always present: clearly see, and joyously contemplate God. Indeed, from the thought of that rejoicing and perpetual solemnity of Heaven: I find all joyous festivity of the present time become discordant. Therefore towards that solemn and eternal festival, which for its greatness can neither be conceived nor expressed; the whole affection of our devotion should vehemently aspire and be incited: as often as feasts are solemnly celebrated on earth. Whence all our feasts are as it were prefaces to that eternal festivity: rather than to be named true festivals. Here, however, they commence in the light of faith: but there they are all perfected in the light of glory. For there is the praise of the angels, and the most sweet harmony of the holy souls: there in the Creator’s presence all rejoice in unison. But with us it is well: if at any time it is granted to experience a little thereof. Who would not be glad to be present among the hymning choirs of angels; where there is no discord of voices, no relaxing frivolity, no harassing occupation, no pressing need, no corrupting affection, no distracting imagination: no subject of disturbance, no occasion of temptation, no carelessness, no disorder, no toil, no weariness, no fatigue: but sovereign peace and tranquillity, supreme joy and honied sweetness, absolute concord and deifying brightness, full bliss and perfect security? O how brief and trifling is that which here we celebrate: how imperfect and wanting in splendour that which here we solemnize. For as long as we suffer the darkness of our own corruption, as long as we bear a mortal body: we scarcely grasp clearly anything of the light and the boundless spirit of immortality. For our celebration endures barely one night and day: SINCE OUR WEAKNESS CANNOT LONG PERSIST IN DEVOTION. And would that a greater part of the time were spent in spiritual melodies: and less were given to outward celebrations. If the truth be considered, it is clearly evident, that our festivals here are imperfect, however sublime our chant or music; however much interiorly we rejoice or praise: for speedily the present joy is lessened by divers hindrances. However this is not very wonderful, seeing that we are strangers and pilgrims upon earth; and that the whole time of our journeying is suited rather to struggle than to rejoicing: and that the celebration of feasts belongs rather to the citizens of Heaven than to the exile sons of Eve. But lest we be cast down and harassed by our miseries, and become forgetful of the divine blessings: the eternal wisdom of God has provided, and holy mother Church has ordained; that in the desire of the soul each year the festivals of Christ and His saints be solemnized: in order that devotion may be aroused, faith strengthened, charity increased. For so much the more devoutly does one celebrate the feasts, and the more worthily honour God in His saints: the more he makes progress in the spirit, and the more utterly he gives himself to the love of eternity. For therefore came the Light into the world to show us the way to Heaven: to enkindle our heart to the love of Itself, and draw us away from all earthly things; to give us the light of wisdom, and chase away the darkness of ignorance: to make us together with Itself sharers of the kingdom, children of grace, and coheirs of eternal glory. O glorious Light born of the Father: O bright Wisdom of God, brought forth of a virgin this night: grant me devoutly and worthily to tender Thee thanks; grant me to sing aloud to Thy name, reverently bow, humbly kneel, worshipfully adore: and with the holy angels solemnly to chant to Thee, “Glory in the highest.” For praise and honour befit Thee, O Lord; Who didst deign to be incarnate for our salvation. Amen.

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