He crouches like a lion recumbent,
the king of beasts--who would dare rouse him?
The scepter shall never depart from Judah,
or the mace from between his legs,
While tribute is brought to him,
and he receives the people's homage.
- Genesis 49:9b-10
The entrance of God into the world at the birth of Jesus is an event which forever changed the course of human history. In fact, the Incarnation of Christ is the fulfillment of history. The promises made to the patriarchs and prophets, the hopes of God’s chosen people, and the visions of seers and sages from far-away places were realized in the birth of the Christ at Bethlehem.
The power of the new-born King, the One who would rule God’s people with justice, and the afflicted with right judgment (cf. Psalm 72:2), found its most perfect expression not in the signs and wonders that Jesus worked, but in his stretching out his hand, granting freedom and absolution to his people, as he hung upon the cross: “He stretched out his hands when he suffered in order to deliver from suffering those who believed in him" (St. Hippolytus of Rome, Traditio apostolica).
|An ancient icon of Holy Wisdom (center) -|
with Mary and St. John the Baptist -
the title of Christ celebrated on December 17.
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga was the eldest son and heir of one of the most powerful, influential, and, at times, corrupt families in sixteenth century Italy. A prince of the Holy Roman Empire, he walked away from wealth and power, his birthright, to enter the Society of Jesus. Far from the safety and privilege of the palaces of his youth, Aloysius died at the age of twenty-three after carrying to a hospital a plague victim he found lying on a Roman street.
Aloysius knew the importance of family and of family history. He would have recognized his own family story in the genealogy of Jesus—a mix of saints and sinners. The unlikely assortment of the good, bad, and indifferent that makes up Jesus’ family tree (proclaimed in today's Gospel) is also a perfect image of the Church. As Gail Godwin observed, “Matthew’s genealogy contained—and continues to contain—the flawed and inflicted and insulted, the cunning and the weak-willed and the misunderstood. His are an equal opportunity ministry for crooks and saints.” (from Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas). It is a powerful testament, as we enter these days of final preparation for Christmas, that God is using us, with our gifts, talents, flaws, failures, and like Aloysius, family histories, to bring him into the world today.
A Prayer for December 17 + O Sapientia
O Wisdom who came from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly.
Come, and teach us the way of prudence.