Sunday within the octave of the Nativity
As we continue to contemplate the joy of the birth of our blessed Saviour, and the sweet chant of the angelic choirs still resounds in our ears, on this Sunday in the octave, Holy Mother Church does not want us to be mistaken about the reason for which Jesus has come.
The scene is in the temple, forty days after the birth of Our Lord. Mary and Joseph, according to the law of Moses, have just offered Him as the firstborn, and have ransomed Him back for the price of two turtledoves. The venerable old Simeon arrives on the scene, takes the Child in His arms and sings the Nunc dimittis, the third of the New Testament Canticles which celebrate the coming of the Messiah in the flesh. This is where today’s Gospel starts.
Simeon then turns to Our Blessed Lady, blesses her, and then prophecies: Behold this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; and thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed (Lk 2:34-35).
The words fall like a clap of thunder in the midst of a joyous banquet. The child will be for the resurrection of many in Israel, that we readily understand. Has He not come to save and to lift up those who are broken in spirit? But He shall also be for the fall, the ruin, of many in Israel. That’s another matter.
Simeon goes on to say that the Child will be for a sign of contradiction. He Himself will be a sign of contradiction. What is this sign, we might ask? The sign of contradiction is of course the cross, that sign that St Paul says is a stumbling block for the Jews and folly for the Gentiles (cf. 1 Cor 1:23), but for those who are called, it is the power and the wisdom of God.
All of human history converges upon the cross. All of humanity is divided at the cross. All of humanity is divided by the cross. If you are not with the cross, you are against it. And if you are against it, you are against the One who died on it. It is that simple. He that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me (Mt 10:38). These immortal words of the Imitation of Christ come to mind: They who now willingly hear the word of the Cross and follow it, shall not then fear the hearing of eternal damnation. This sign of the Cross shall be in heaven when the Lord cometh to Judgment. Then all servants of the Cross, who in life have conformed themselves to the Crucified, shall draw nigh unto Christ the Judge with great boldness. If thou willingly bear the Cross, it will bear thee, and will bring thee to the end which thou seekest, even where there shall be the end of suffering; though it shall not be here. If thou bear it unwillingly, thou makest a burden for thyself and greatly increaseth thy load, and yet thou must bear it. If thou cast away one cross, without doubt thou shalt find another and perchance a heavier. (Book 2, ch. 12).
This past week, a confrere in Europe sent me a message saying that we need to pray for each other in the present doctrinal confusion. I replied that there is no doctrinal confusion. Indeed, there is no confusion whatsoever in the Catholic Church, for its faith and its moral prescriptions are as clear as the sun in the summer sky. Confusion is the lot of those who have left, or who are in the process of leaving the Catholic faith, but the faith and its moral code remain in their purity and clarity. It has always been, it is today and it always will be a sign of contradiction for those who want a religion to their own liking.
I would like to add to what I said last week that what we are witnessing at the moment in the Church at its highest level is the demise of the faith through the heresy of Modernism that St Pius X so clearly condemned and which is based on the fundamental assumption that religion comes not from above but from inside each individual. For the Modernist, one should not be concerned with doctrinal precision, because each person judges himself and justifies himself before his own conscience. It is entirely subjective, and as such it is entirely dead and deadly. There is no objective truth to strive for, and no objective truth that can save us. We are all alone, locked up in our little world where we make a Jesus in our own image. If adultery is a problem, thinks the Modernist, then Jesus blesses adulterers. If sodomy is a problem, then Jesus blesses sodomites. If abortion is a problem, then Jesus blesses killers. Who am I to judge others? Moral compasses vanish, and the faith becomes a matter for personal taste and opinion. That is the fruit of Modernism. It is a rotten, poisoned fruit which kills those who consume it. Confusion reigns there, for the simple reason that the Modernist cannot be a Catholic at all. For a Catholic things are very clear.
My dear Friends, this year reaches its end. Tonight the monks will sing a Te Deum of thanksgiving for all the graces we have received, and there have been many. It is good to stop and acknowledge them, for even in the midst of so much bad news, there are always touches of divine grace for which we must be grateful.
At the same time it has been a year of continual and persistent attack on the faith and on the foundations of Catholic culture. The coming year will most likely be much worse, for a stone gathers momentum as it approaches the moment of collision. When will the impact be? We do not know. What we do know is that for now we must stand by the crib of the infant God and remind ourselves that He came to be a sign of contradiction, to wake up from their spiritual torpor those who imagine a religion to their own taste, and to their own demise.
With Mother Mary let us stay at our post around the crib of the Infant God. Let us be prepared to follow Him into exile. Let us stand at the foot of the cross and let that sword of sorrow pierce our hearts as well, so that the thoughts of many may be revealed, that is to say, that the great facade of counterfeit Catholicism that leads so many astray may collapse, that the masks may fall, and that it may be clear who is for and who is against the Son of God. And let us pray that we will take to heart those words Our Lord addresses to the church of Philadelphia: Hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.…I would thou wert cold or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth (Apoc 3:11, 15-16).