The Way of BeautyKneeling before the Mystery

It is the day before Christmas Eve and the Holy Night. The Church prays at Morning Prayer:

Your light will come, Jerusalem;

the Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.

You will see his glory within you.

After four weeks of Advent with its intense longing for the Savior, we now rest in the certainty of fulfillment.  Emmanuel, God-with-us, greatly desires to come close to every man, woman, and child and remain close to all.

Crowned with Glory and Honor

The doctrine of man and woman as made in the image and likeness of God is one of the most important and most beloved verses in all of Scripture (Gen 1:16).  Psalm 8 paraphrases Genesis: "You have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor" (v 5). 

Paraphrasing the two previous verses, the Eastern Church Fathers never tired of summing up two great mysteries of Christianity: the Incarnation and the Nativity.  Jesus Christ assumes our nature, and we share in his:

God condescended

to become a human person

that we men and women

might become as God.

In another well-known proverb, St. Irenaeus of Lyons (d 2nd c.) proclaims God's glory and the glory of his image:

The glory of God is

man and woman fully alive,

and the glory of man and woman is

the contemplation of God.

More in The Way of Beauty

St. John of the Cross, the great Spanish Carmelite, mystic, and poet, best expresses the mystery before which we kneel in two of his Romanzas, the Incarnation and the Birth.  They summon us to prayer as we kneel before the mystery of God-made-man. 

The Incarnation

Now that the time had come

when it would be good 

 to ransom the bride

serving under the hard yoke

of that law

(Column continues below)

which Moses had given her,

the Father, with tender love,

spoke in this way:

"Now you see, Son, that your bride

was made in your image,

and so far as she is like you

she will suit you well;

yet she is different, in her flesh,

which your simple being does not have.

In perfect love

this law holds:

that the lover become

like the one he loves;

for the greater their likeness

the greater their delight.

Surely your bride's delight 

would greatly increase

were she to see you like her,

in her own flesh."

"My will is yours,"

the Son replied,

"and my glory is that you will be mine.

This is fitting, Father,

what you, the Most High, say;

for in this way

your goodness will be more evident,

your great power will be seen 

and your justice and wisdom.

I will go and tell the world,

spreading the word

of your beauty and sweetness

and of your sovereignty.

I will go seek my bride

and take upon myself 

her weariness and labors

in which she suffers so;

and that she may have life,

I will die for her,

and lifting her out of that deep,

I will restore her to you."

Then he called 

the archangel Gabriel

and sent him to 

the virgin Mary,

at whose consent

the mystery was wrought,

in whom the Trinity

clothed the Word with flesh.

and though Three work this,

it is wrought in the One;

and the Word lived incarnate

in the womb of Mary.

And he who had only a Father

now had a Mother too,

but she was not like others

who conceived by man. 

From her own flesh

he received his flesh,

so he is called

Son of God and of man. 

The Birth

When the time had come 

for him to be born,

he went forth like the bridegroom

from his bridal chamber,

embracing his bride,

holding her in his arms,

whom the gracious Mother

laid in a manger

among some animals

that were there at the time.

Men sang songs

and angels melodies

celebrating the marriage

of Two such as these.

But God there in the manger

cried and moaned;

and these tears were jewels

the bride brought to the wedding.

The Mother gazed in sheer


on such an exchange:

in God, man's weeping,

and in man, gladness,

to the one and the other

things usually so strange.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.