The Joyful Mysteries
Thursday 14th May 2020
Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity
‘...Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.’ (Lk 2: 1-7)
When a man enters a monastery, he is not automatically given a habit, a cell and a set of instructions on how to be the perfect monk. Instead he is entrusted to the care of a Novice Master. St. Benedict, composed a Rule for his monks back in the 6th century and in chapter 58 he wrote the following about the Novice Master:
‘A senior chosen for his skill in winning souls should be appointed to look after them [Novices] with careful attention.’
The skill of ‘winning souls’ and the emphasis on ‘careful attention’ is essential for the Novice Master to have, if he is to accompany his students in discerning the will of God. The new monk is given practical assistance from the Master when it comes to the teaching of monastic etiquette and tradition, passing on monastery customs and giving helpful guidance and techniques in meditating and praying with the Scriptures. However, this is only one part of the Novice Masters role. The description given by St. Benedict in the Rule saw the job of the Master as being more than just a teacher. He stated that a senior monk should be selected for his skill in touching souls and being diligent and attentive to their care. When I was a monk it was not so much the formal teachings given by the Novice Master that helped me but his example, how he lived the monastic life himself.
I was able to see at first-hand how he lived and breathed this unique vocation as a monk just by time together. Daily we would eat together, pray together, talk and share together and work together. Manuals, guides and directives are all very well and good but nothing beats the actual lived experience of another who is generous enough to share that. (Photo of when I was Fr. Patrick)
Experience and realness are the key words to unlocking today’s third Joyful Mystery of the Nativity. Our God is not some distant spiritual entity that hovers above the earth. Our God is not some convoluted high ideal that is unattainable. Our God is not some ‘airy fairy’ notion! Our God is real, true, and genuine. As it was through the experience of seeing the Novice Master live his daily life that helped me to grow so it is in the Nativity that helps us to grow in faith. Jesus, the Son of God, became flesh and blood, he became Incarnate. He allowed us to experience him not at a distance but amongst us and dwelling with us. It is this encounter, this experience that we are still talking about today 2000 years later! It is this moment in human history that has shaped and changed the world and opened the way towards heaven. God the Son allowed us to experience his real and living presence in order to help us believe and nurture our faith.
Let’s reflect back to Moses for a moment to see how blessed we truly are.
‘Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I beg you.’ (Ex 33:18)
Moses had heard the voice of God, he had felt His presence and so it was only natural that he wanted to see the face of God. Simply put, Moses wanted to experience the fullness of God. This is the answer the Almighty gives:
‘‘You cannot see my face,’ he said ‘for man cannot see me and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Here is a place beside me. You must stand on the rock, and when my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with my hand while I pass by. Then I will take my hand away and you shall see the back of me; but my face is not to be seen.’’ (Ex 33:20-23)
Moses is partly granted his request to see God but only his back, for to see the face of the Lord God Almighty would be too much and result in death. His glory and light would be too powerful and overwhelming for a fragile human to gaze upon, even for a great prophet like Moses. Moses’ experience of God is not perfect or clear. There is something missing.
Like Moses, God’s people for a long time were only able to experience the Lord God in a particular way. There was still some distance, some obstacle and barrier in the relationship between Creator and creation and this as we know was down to sin. Human beings free and purposeful choice to turn away from God, to prefer darkness to light, to worship the ‘I’ and ‘Me’ rather than the Creator. All this obviously had an effect upon peoples experience of God.
It was God’s mercy that broke down that dividing wall of sin built by us. It was God’s love that sent his only Son to dwell among us. On the night of the Nativity shepherds did not hide in the clefts of rocks and wise men did not shun the bright light of a star. All those people gathered around the manger were the first to have the honour and privilege to see the face of God Himself in Jesus Christ – the Word made flesh. Moses’ experience of God never allowed him the grace to see and gaze upon the face of Divine Love Himself. It is through the Incarnation that we are blessed and have been able to experience God who is real, he took on flesh and blood.
As the Novice Master teaches the student by his example and simply living the monastic life so God Himself drew his people into this authentic and genuine mystery by becoming Incarnate. Because of the Incarnation God is not some passing fancy for us. He has physically rubbed shoulders with us. His voice was heard, his body was seen, his blood was wiped and his tears dried. His meals were cooked and eaten; his thirst quenched. He touched and healed. He spoke and taught. He died, was buried and truly rose from the dead. He is Risen, Alive and will come again. The painting below by Caravaggio says it all.
The mystery of the Nativity is not just about the Word becoming Incarnate. But through his bodily presence, he has drawn us all into the presence of God, in a unique and intimate way. No barrier’s or walls, no obstacles or illusions. No; just simply the experience of God amongst His people, loving them.
First Single Bead: Our Father
Let us begin this decade in a spirit of thanks. Thanks that we are loved so much by God that he came amongst us. He took on our fragility and humanity so that we could share in his divinity and return to the heart of the Father.
Ten Beads: Hail Mary for each one
Let us ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to imitate our Lady.
‘As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.’
The enormity of what took place at the Nativity did not overwhelm Mary but in her gentle and quiet way she embraced the love and mercy of God in the great mystery of the Incarnation. May we too treasure this miracle of Christmas not just once a year but 365 days a year.
Single Bead: Glory be
Let us remember the work of God the Holy Trinity and reflect on how we have experienced it in our lives and continue to experience it through the love and mercy that flows from the God of Life.
Tomorrow our Rosary Reflection will be postponed until Saturday. Instead tomorrows posting will be information from the diocese and updates in regards to the Covid-19 pandemic.
God Bless and keep praying.
St. Matthias, pray for us.