DISCOURSES FOR ADVENT
Taken from THE INCARNATION, BIRTH AND INFANCY OF JESUS CHRIST
by St. Alphonsus Liguori
THE REDEMPTORIST FATHERS
With Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur
The Eternal Word From Being His Own Has Made Himself Ours
So that every man should say, with St. Bernard, "I owe myself for myself; what can I return the Lord for Himself?" I belong to God, and to God I must give back myself, for having created me and given me my being; but after I have given myself, what return shall I make to God for having given Himself to me? We have, however, no need to disturb ourselves any longer; it is enough if we give our love to God, and God is satisfied. The kings of the earth glory in the possession of kingdoms and of wealth, Jesus Christ rests content with the sovereignty of our hearts; this He considers His principality; and this principality He sought to obtain by dying on the Cross: And the government is upon His shoulder. [Isaiah 9:6] By these words, "the government is upon His shoulder," several interpreters, with St. Basil, St. Cyril, St. Augustine, and others, understand the Cross which our Redeemer carried on His shoulders. This heavenly King, says Cornelius à Lapide, is a very different master from the devil: the devil burdens the backs of his subjects with heavy loads; Jesus, on the contrary, takes on His Own shoulders the burdens of His kingdom, embracing the Cross, on which He will die, in order to gain the mastery of our hearts: "The devil lays burdens on the shoulders of his subjects, Christ will bear the weight of His government on His shoulders; for He will carry the sceptre of His kingdom---that is, the Cross---on His Own shoulders, and will reign from the tree." It is the remark of Tertullian that while earthly monarchs bear the sceptre and crown as symbols of royalty, Jesus Christ bore the Cross, which was the throne which He mounted to rule over our love: "Every king bears the symbol of his power on his shoulder, and a diadem on his head, or a sceptre in his hand. The King Jesus Christ alone bore His power on His shoulder, namely, the Cross, that from it He might rule."
Hence, Origen says, if it be that Jesus Christ has given Himself to each one, what great thing will a man do if he give himself wholly to Jesus Christ? "If Christ gave Himself, will man do much in giving himself to God, Who was the first to give Himself to man?" Let us, then, with a good will give our heart and our love to this God, Who, in order to gain it, has had to give His Blood, His life, and His whole self: If thou didst know the gift of God, and Who He is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink. [John 4:10] Oh, if thou didst but know (said Jesus to the Samaritan woman) the grace which thou receivest from God, and Who it is that asks of thee to drink! Oh, did the soul but understand what a favor it is when God requests us to love Him in those words: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. [Matt. 22:57] Should a subject hear his prince command him to love him, the bare mention of such a request would be enough to captivate him. And does not a God captivate us when He requires our heart? saying: My son, give Me thy heart. [Prov. 23:26]
But this heart He will not have divided, He will have it whole and entire; He wishes us to love Him with our whole heart: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, otherwise He is not content. For this end He has given us all His Blood, His whole life, His whole Self, in order that we may give our entire selves to Him, and be wholly His. And let us understand that then we shall give our whole heart to God when we shall give Him our will entirely, not wishing anything henceforward but what God wishes,---and He certainly only wishes our welfare and our happiness: To this end Christ died and rose again, that He might be the Lord both of the dead and of the living. Therefore whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. [Rom. 14:8] Jesus was pleased to die for us; more than this He could not have done to win all our love, and to be the sole Lord of our heart: so that from this day forward we are bound to make known to Heaven and to earth, in life and in death, that we are no longer our own, but that we belong solely and entirely to God.
Oh, how God longs to see, and how dearly He loves a heart that is wholly His! Oh, what delicate and loving caresses does God show, what good things, what delights, what glory does God prepare in Paradise for a heart that is wholly His! The Venerable Father John Leonard of Lettera, a Dominican, one day beheld Jesus Christ under the appearance of a hunter, and traversing the forest of this earth with an arrow in His hand. The servant of God asked Him what He was thus engaged about. Jesus answered that He was hunting after hearts. Who knows, I say, whether in this Novena the Infant Redeemer will have the success to hit and to make a prize of some hearts which He has been hunting after for a long time, and hitherto has been unable to wound and to capture! Devout souls, if Jesus gain us, we shall also gain Jesus. The advantage of such an exchange is all on our side. "Teresa" (said the Lord one day to this Saint), "up to this time you have not been all Mine; now that you are all Mine, be assured that I am all yours." St. Augustine calls love "a bond which binds the lover with the loved one." God has every wish to clasp us and unite us to Himself; but it is also necessary for us to strive and unite ourselves to God. If we wish God to give Himself entirely to us, it is likewise necessary for us to give ourselves entirely to Him.
Affections and Prayers
Oh I happy me, if, from this day forward, I shall be able always to say with the sacred spouse, My Beloved to me and I to Him. [Cant. 2:16] My God, my Beloved has given Himself all to me; it is but reasonable for me to give myself all to my God, and to say What have I in Heaven? and besides Thee what do I desire upon earth? [Ps. 72:25]
Oh, my beloved Infant, my dear Redeemer, since Thou hast come down from Heaven to give Thyself to me, what else shall I go about seeking in Heaven or on earth besides Thee, Who art my sovereign Good, my only treasure, the Paradise of souls? Be Thou, then, the sole Lord of my heart, do Thou possess it wholly. May my heart obey Thee alone, and seek to please Thee alone! May my soul love Thee alone, and mayest Thou alone be its portion! Let others strive after and enjoy (if enjoyment can ever be found out of Thee) the goods and fortunes of this world; Thee alone do I desire, who art my fortune, my riches, my peace, my hope in this life and in eternity. Behold, then, my heart; I give it wholly to Thee; it is no longer mine own, but Thine. In the same manner as at Thy entrance into the world Thou didst offer to the Eternal Father, and present to Him Thine entire will, as David has taught: In the head of the book it is written of Me, that I should do Thy will; O my God, I have desired it; [Ps. 39:8] so do I on this day offer to Thee, Thy Saviour, my entire will. At one time it was rebellious against Thee, and with it I offended Thee; but for all the wicked consent by which I have miserably forfeited Thy friendship I am now heartily sorry, and I consecrate my entire will to Thee. Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do! [Acts 9:6] tell me what Thou desirest of me, for I am willing to do all. Dispose of me and of my affairs as Thou wilt, for I accept of all, and in everything I resign myself to Thee. I know well that Thou willest what is best for me, and therefore I abandon my soul fully into Thy hands: Into Thy hands I commend my spirit. For pity's sake, help it and preserve it! and grant that it may be always and entirely Thine Own, since Thou bast redeemed it with the last drop of Thy Blood: Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth. [Ps. 30:6]
O happy thou, most holy Virgin Mary thou wert wholly and always God's Own,---all fair, all pure, and without spot: Thou art all beautiful, and there is no stain in thee. [Cant. 4:7] Thou alone, among all souls, wert styled by thy Spouse His dove, His perfect one: One is My dove, My perfect one. [Cant. 6:8] Thou art the garden closed against every imperfection and fault, and all laden with the flowers and fruits of virtue. Ah, my Queen and my Mother, thou who art so lovely in the eyes of thy God, take pity on my soul, which has become so deformed by sin. But if for the past I have not belonged to God, now I wish to be His, and His entirely. I wish to spend the remainder of my life solely in loving my Redeemer, Who hast loved me so much; suffice it to say, Who hast given His entire Self to me, O my hope, procure me strength to be grateful and faithful to Him till death! Amen. This is my hope, so may it be!
VIEW THE IMAGE OF THE CHRIST CHILD, PLAIN