THE ETERNAL WORD BECOMES LITTLE.
He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant (Phil. ii. 7).
St. Paul says that Jesus Christ, coming on earth, emptied Himself. He annihilated Himself, so to say. And why? To save man and to be loved by man. “Where Thou didst empty Thyself,” says St. Bernard, “there, did Mercy and Charity more brilliantly appear.” Yes, my dear Redeemer, in proportion as Thy abasement was great in becoming Man and in being born an Infant, so were Thy mercy and love shown to be greater towards us, and this with a view to win over our hearts to Thyself.
Although the Jews, by so many signs and wonders, had a certain knowledge of the true God, they were not, however, satisfied; they wished to behold Him face to face. God found means to comply even with this desire of men; He became Man, to make Himself visible to them. “Knowing,” says St. Peter Chrysologus, “that mortals felt an anguish of desire to see Him, God chose this method of making Himself visible to them.” And to render Himself still more attractive in our eyes, He would make His first appearance as a little Child, that thus He might be the more charming and irresitible; He showed Himself an Infant, that He might make Himself more acceptable in our eyes. “Yes,” adds St. Cyril of Alexandria, “He abased Himself to the humble condition of a little Child in order to make Himself more agreeable to our hearts.” “For our advantage was this emptying made.” For this, indeed, was the form most suitable to win our love.
The Prophet Ezechiel rightly exclaimed that the time of Thy coming on earth, O Incarnate Word, should be a time of love, the season of lovers: Behold, thy time was the time of lovers (Ezech. xvi. 8). And what object had God in loving us thus ardently, and of giving us such clear proofs of His love, other than that we might love Him? “God loves only in order to be loved,” says St. Bernard. God Himself had already said as much: And now, O Israel, what does the Lord, thy God require of thee, but that thou fear and love him (Deut. x. 12).
O my sweet, amiable, holy Child, Thy first appearance before us is as a poor Infant, that even from birth Thou mightest lose no time in attracting our hearts towards Thee. And so didst Thou go on through the remainder of Thy life ever showing us fresh and more striking tokens of Thy love, so that at length Thou didst shed the last drop of Thy Blood and die overwhelmed with shame upon the infamous tree of the Cross. And how is it, O Jesus, that Thou couldst have encountered such ingratitude from the majority of mankind? I see few, indeed, that know Thee, and fewer still that love Thee. Ah, my dear Jesus, I, too, desire to be among this small number. O, my sweet Child and my God, forgive me. I love Thee! I love Thee!
In order to force us to love Him God would not commission others, but chose to come Himself in person to be made Man and to redeem us. St. John Chrysostom makes a beautiful reflection on these words of the Apostle: For nowhere doth he take hold of the angels, but of the seed of Abraham he taketh hold (Heb. ii. 16). Why, asks the Saint, did he not say received, but rather taketh hold? Why did not St. Paul simply say that God assumed human flesh? Why would he affirm with marked emphasis that He took it, as it were, by force, according to the strict meaning of the Latin apprehendit? He answers that he spoke thus, making use of the metaphor of those who give chase to those who are fleeing away. By this he would convey the idea that God always longed to be loved by man, but man turned his back upon Him, and cared not even to know of His love; therefore God came from Heaven, and took human flesh, to make Himself known in this way, and to make Himself loved, as it were, by force by ungrateful man who fled from Him.
For this, then, did the Eternal Word become Man; for this He, moreover, became an Infant. He could, indeed, have appeared upon this earth as a full-grown Man, as the first man, Adam, appeared. No, the Son of God wished to present Himself under the form of a sweet little Child, that thus He might the more readily and the more forcibly draw to Himself the love of man. Little children of themselves are loved at once; to see them and to love them is the same thing. Ah, my dear Jesus, it is true that in time past I did not know Thee. Heedless of Thy love I sought only my own gratification, making no account whatever of Thee or of Thy friendship. But now I am conscious of the evil I have done. I am sorry for it and I grieve over it with my whole heart. I love Thee, Jesus, and that so dearly that even if I knew that all mankind were about to rebel against Thee and forsake Thee, yet would I not leave Thee though it should cost me a thousand lives. Accept, O Jesus, of my poor heart to love Thee. There was a time when it cared not for Thee, but now it is enamoured of Thy goodness, O Divine Infant. O Mary, O great Mother of the Word Incarnate, neither do thou abandon me. Thou art the Mother of perseverance and the stewardess of divine grace. Help me, then, and help me always. With thy aid, O my hope, I trust to be faithful to my God for ever. Amen.