Today is the twelfth day of Christmas and the Eve of the Feast of Epiphany. Over this short season of Christmas we’ve pondered the meaning of Christmas and God’s awesome decision to take on human nature, in order to redeem human nature. Below is the reflection of St. Bernard of while abbot of Clairvaux.
The Kindness of God Made Manifest in Christ's Humanity
The kindness and humanity of God our Savior has appeared. Thanks be to God, through whom our consolation overflows in this pilgrimage, in this exile, in this distress.
Before his humanity appeared, his kindness lay concealed. The latter indeed existed first, because the mercy of the Lord is from eternity. But how could men know it was so great? It was promised indeed, but not yet experienced: hence many did not believe in it. The Lord spoke in fragmentary and varied fashion through the prophets saying I know the thoughts that I think towards you, thoughts of peace and not of affliction.
But what reply did man make, man who felt the affliction and knew nothing of peace? How long will you keep saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace? Therefore the angels of peace were weeping bitterly saying, Lord who has believed our report? But now let men believe at least their own sight, because the testimonies of God are becoming exceedingly credible. He has set his tabernacle in the sun, so that it cannot escape even an eye that is troubled.
Behold, peace no longer promised, but conferred; no longer delayed, but given; no longer predicted, but bestowed. Behold, God the Father has sent down to earth as it were a bag filled with his mercy; a bag to be rent open in the passion so that our ransom which it concealed might be poured out; a small bag indeed, but full. It is indeed a small child who is given to us, but a child in whom dwells ass the fullness of the Godhead.
After the fullness of time had come, there came too the fullness of the Godhead. He came in the flesh, so that at least he might make himself manifest to our earthly minds, so that when this humanity of his appeared, his kindness might also be acknowledged. Where the humanity of God appears his kindness can no longer be hidden. In what way indeed could he have better commended his kindness than by assuming my mortal flesh? My flesh, that is, not Adam's, as it was before the fall.
What greater proof could he have given of his mercy than by taking upon himself that which needed mercy? Where is there such fullness of loving-kindness as in the fact that the Word of God became perishable like the grass for our sakes? Lord, what is man that you make much of him or pay him any heed?
Let man infer from this how much God cares for him. Let him know from this what God thinks of him, what he feels about him. Man, do not ask about your own sufferings, but about what he suffered. Learn from what he was made for you, how much he makes of you, so that his kindness may show itself to you from his humanity.
The lesser he has made himself in his humanity, the greater he has shown himself in kindness. The more he humbles himself on my account, the more powerfully he engages my love. The kindness and humanity of God our Savior appeared, says the Apostle. The humanity of God shows the greatness of his kindness, and he who added humanity to the Name of God gave great proof of this kindness.
~Bernard of Clairvaux