by St. Alphonsus Liguori
With Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur


The Eternal Word From Being His Own Has Made Himself Ours
Part 1

Parvulus natus est nobis, et Filius datus est nobis.
"A Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us."---Isaiah 11:6

Tell me, cruel Herod, why dost thou command so many innocent babes to be murdered and sacrificed to thy ambition of reigning? Art thou perchance afraid that the Messias lately born may rob thee of thy kingdom? "Why art thou so troubled, Herod?" asks St. Fulgentius. "This King Who is born came not to vanquish kings by fighting, but to subdue them by dying." This King, of Whom thou art in such terror, is not come to conquer the monarchs of the earth by force of arms, but He is come to reign in the hearts of men by suffering and dying for their love, "He came, therefore" (concludes St. Fulgentius), "not that He might combat alive, but that he might triumph slain." Our amiable Redeemer did not come to carry on war during His life, but to triumph over the love of men, when He should have laid down His life on the gibbet of the Cross, as He Himself said: When I shall be lifted up, I will draw all things to Myself. [John 12:52]

But let us leave Herod aside, O devout souls, and let us come to ourselves. Why, then, did the Son of God come upon earth? Was it to give Himself to us? Yes, Isaias assures us of it: A Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us. The love which this loving Saviour bears us, and the desire which He has to be loved by us, has induced Him to do this. Being His Own, He has become ours, Let us see it; but let us first ask light from the Most Holy Sacrament and from the Divine Mother.

The greatest privilege of God, nay, the whole of God, is to be His Own, that is, to exist of Himself, and to depend on no one. All creatures, however grand and excellent they may be, are nothing in reality, because whatsoever they have, they have from God, Who has created them and preserves them; and this in such a manner that if God were for a single moment to cease from preserving them, they would instantly lose their being and return to nothing, God, on the contrary, because He exists of Himself, cannot fail; nor can there be anyone to destroy Him, or to diminish His greatness, His power, or His happiness, But St. Paul says that the Eternal Father has given the Son to us: He delivered Him up for us all. [Rom. 28:32] And that the Son has given Himself for us: Christ also hath loved us and hath delivered Himself for us. [Eph. 5:2] Has God, then, in giving Himself for us, made Himself ours? Yes, replies St. Bernard: "He is born, Who belonged to Himself;" He who wholly appertained to Himself chose to be born for us and to become ours; love triumphs over God. This God, over Whom none besides can rule, has, so to speak, yielded Himself captive to love; love has gained the victory over Him, and from being His Own has reduced Him into our possession: God so loved the world, as to give His Only-begotten Son. [John 3:16] God has so loved men, says Jesus Christ, that He has even given them His Only-begotten Son. And the Son Himself, also through love, was pleased to give Himself to men to be loved by them.

In divers ways had God already striven to win the hearts of men, at one time with benefits, at another with threats, and again with, promises; but He had still fallen short of His aim. His infinite love, says St. Augustine, made Him devise the plan of giving Himself entirely to us by the Incarnation of the Word, in order thus to oblige us to love Him with our whole hearts. "Then love found out the plan of delivering up itself."  He could have sent an Angel, a seraph, to redeem man; but, aware that man, had he been redeemed by a seraph, would have had to divide his heart, by partly loving his Creator and partly his redeemer, God, Who would possess the entire heart and the entire love of man, "wished therefore to be" (says a pious author) "both our Creator and Redeemer;" as He was our Creator, so He would likewise become our Redeemer.
And behold Him already arrived from Heaven in a stable; as a Child, born for us and given to us: A Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us. This was precisely what the Angel signified when addressing the shepherds: Today is born to you a Saviour. [Luke 2:11] As much as to say: O ye men, go to the cave of Bethlehem; there adore the Infant, Which you will find laid on the straw, in a manger, and shivering with cold; know that He is your God, Who would not consent to send anyone else to save you, but would come Himself, that He might gain for Himself all your love.
Yes, it was with the purpose of making Himself loved that the Eternal Word came upon earth to converse among men: He conversed with men. [Bar. 3:38] If a king speaks a confidential word to one of his vassals, if he smiles upon him, or presents him with a flower, oh, how honored and happy does that vassal consider himself! How much more so, should the king seek his friendship; should he request his company every day at table; should he desire him to take up his residence in his own palace, and to abide always near him! Ah! my Great King, my beloved Jesus, as before the Redemption Thou couldst not assume man into Heaven, whose gates remained closed by sin, Thou camest down upon earth to converse with men as their brothers, and to give Thyself wholly to them, from the excess of the love Thou bearest them! He loved us and delivered Himself up for us." Yes, exclaims St. Augustine, this most loving and most merciful God, through His love to man, chose to give him not only His goods, but even His very self. "The most merciful God, through His love of man, poured out upon Him not only His goods, but His whole self."

Well, then, the affection which this sovereign Lord entertains towards us miserable worms is so immense that it induced Him to give Himself wholly to us, being born for us, living for us, and even offering up His life and all His Blood for us, in order to prepare us a bath of salvation, and to wash us from all our sins: He hath loved us and washed us in His Own Blood. [Apoc. 1:5] But, Lord (remonstrates the Abbot Guerric), this appears an extreme prodigality of Thyself, coming from the great anxiety Thou hast to be loved by mankind. "O God! if we may dare say so, prodigal of Himself through desire of man!" "And is it not so?" he continues: "how otherwise can we style this God than prodigal of Himself Who, in order to recover lost man, not only gives whatever He has, but even His Own self?"

St. Augustine says that God, in order to captivate the love of men, has cast several darts of love into their hearts: "God knows how to take aim at love; He draws the arrow that He may make a lever." What are these arrows? They are all the creatures that we see around us; for God has created them all for man, that man might love Him; hence the same Saint says, "Heaven and earth and all things tell me to love Thee." It seemed to the Saint that the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the plains, the seas, and the rivers spoke to him and said, Augustine, love God, because God has created us for thee, that thou mightest love Him. When St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi held in her hand a beautiful fruit or flower, she declared that that fruit or flower was as a dart to her heart, which wounded her with the love of God; thinking as she did how from all eternity God had designed to create that flower that she might discover His love, and love Him in return. St. Teresa, moreover, said that all the fair things which we see,---the lakes, the rivers, the flowers, the fruits, the birds,---all upbraid us with our ingratitude to God, for all are tokens of the love God bears us. It is related likewise of a pious hermit, that, walking in the country, and beholding the herbs and the flowers, he fancied they reproached him with his ingratitude; so that, as he went along, he struck them gently with his staff, saying to them: Hush, be silent, I understand you, no more! You upbraid me with my ingratitude, because God has created you in such beauty for my sake, that I might love Him, and I love Him not; oh, be silent, I hear you, enough, enough! And thus the good man pursued his way, giving vent to the ardors of love which he felt consuming his heart for God at the sight of those fair creatures. Thus, then, all these creatures were so many darts of love to the heart of man; but God was not satisfied with these darts only; they were not enough to gain Him the love of men: He hath made Me as a chosen arrow; in His quiver He hath hidden Me. [Isaiah 49:2] On this passage Cardinal Hugo remarks, that as the sportsman keeps in reserve the best arrow for the last shot, in order to secure his prey; so did God among all his gifts keep Jesus in reserve till the fullness of time should come, and then He sent Him as a last dart to wound with love the hearts of men: "The choicest arrow is reserved; so Christ was reserved in the bosom of the Father, until the fullness of time should come, and He was sent to wound the hearts of the faithful." Jesus, then, was the choice and reserved arrow, at the discharge of which, according as David had long ago foretold, entire nations should fall vanquished: Thy arrows are sharp; under Thee shall people fall. [Ps. 49:6] Oh, how many stricken hearts do I behold burning with love before the manger of Bethlehem! How many at the foot of the Cross in Calvary! How many before the Holy Presence of the Blessed Sacrament on our altars!

St. Peter Chrysologus says that our Redeemer took many various forms to attract the love of man: "For our sake He showed Himself under different forms, Who remains in the one form of His majesty." That God, Who is unchangeable, would appear now as a Child in a stable, now as a boy in a workshop, now as a criminal on a scaffold, and now as bread upon the altar. In these varying guises Jesus chose to exhibit Himself to us; but whatever character He assumed, it was always the character of a lover. Ah, my Lord, tell me, is there anything else left for Thee to devise in order to make Thyself loved? Make known His inventions, cried out Isaias. [12:4] Go, O redeemed souls, said the prophet, go and publish everywhere the loving devices of this loving God, which He has thought out and executed to make Himself loved by man; for after lavishing so many of His gifts upon them, He was pleased to bestow Himself, and to bestow Himself in so many ways: "If thou desirest a cure for thy wound" (says St. Ambrose), "He is a Physician;" if thou art infirm and wouldst be healed, behold Jesus, Who heals thee by His Blood: "If thou be parched up with fever, He is a fountain;" if the impure flames of worldly affections trouble thee, behold the fountain to fresh thee with His consolations. "Dost thou fear death, He is life; dost thou long for Heaven, He is the way; in fine, if thou dost not wish to die, He is the life; if thou wishest Heaven, He is the way."

And not only has Jesus Christ given Himself to all men in general, but He wished, moreover, to give Himself to each one in particular. This was what caused St. Paul to say, He loved me and delivered Himself for me. [Gal. 2:20] St. John Chrysostom says that God has the same love for each one of us as he has for all men together. So that, my dear brother, it there had been no others in the world beside yourself, the Redeemer would have come for the sake of you alone, and would have given His Blood and His life for you. And who can ever express or conceive (says St. Laurence Justinian) the love which God bears to each man? "Nor is it possible to express with what affection God is moved towards each one." This led St. Bernard to say also, in speaking of Jesus Christ, "Given wholly to me, and spent wholly for my interests." This caused St. John Chrysostom also to say, "He gave Himself entirely to us, He reserved nothing for Himself." He gave us His Blood, His life, Himself in the Blessed Sacrament; there remains nothing more to give us. In fine, says St. Thomas, after God has bestowed Himself on us, what else remains for Him to give us? "God had no room to extend Himself further." Wherefore after the work of the redemption, God has nothing more to give us, nothing more that He can do for the love of man.


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