Taken from Our Savior and His Love for Us
by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.
THE synthesis of the revelation relating to the Word made flesh is to be found in the Prologue of St. John ‘s Gospel. It is concerned with the three births of the Word which are celebrated each year by the three Masses on Christmas day: His eternal birth, His temporal birth according to the flesh at Bethlehem, and His spiritual birth in the souls of men.
These words unequivocally affirm the distinction between the Word [the Son of God] and the Father, and also the Divinity of the Word, consubstantial with the Father.
The distinction between these two Divine persons is unmistakable from the declaration that “the Word was with God.” No one is with himself or in himself. And if there were any doubt whether the expression “the Word” designates a person, this doubt would be removed by verse 18 at the end of the Prologue: “No man hath seen God at any time: the only-begotten Son Who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” The entire Prologue makes it clear that the only-begotten Son is the Word of God made flesh. The expression “Who is in the bosom of the Father” explains the words of the first verse, “the Word was with God.”
It is evident also that the only-begotten Son is not the name of a Divine attribute but the name of a person, as is the name “Father.”
On the other hand, we cannot say: God is not His intelligence, His wisdom, His love. For He is indeed His intelligence, He is wisdom itself, love itself. These essential attributes are absolutely identified with His essence. Yet the Father is not the Son. There is between them a polarity of relationship that does not exist between, each of them and the Divine essence.
However, the Prologue makes it perfectly clear that the Word is consubstantial with the Father, since it says: “The Word was God.” In the Greek “the Word” is clearly the subject of this proposition, as well as of the preceding and following ones. And it is certain that the word “God” is used there in the same full sense as in the preceding proposition, “the Word was with God,” and as in the following one, “the same was in the beginning with God.”
Moreover, the following verses show that the Word, together with the Father, is the Creator, the author of natural and supernatural life: “All things were made by Him: and without Him was made nothing that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
These last words refer especially to the supernatural light needed for believing the truths of faith essential to salvation.
The first and last verses of this Prologue thus show us the profound meaning of the words of Psalm 2:7: “The Lord hath said to Me: Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,” and of Psalm 109:1-3: “The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at My right hand: . . . in the brightness of the Saints: from the womb before the day star I begot Thee.” We can also grasp a little better what the Holy Ghost wished to express when He inspired the author of the Book of Wisdom: “[Wisdom] is a vapor of the power of God, and a certain pure emanation of the glory of the almighty God: . . . for she is the brightness of eternal light: and the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty, and the image of His goodness.” [Wis. 7:25 f.]
This prologue, in verse 14, speaks with equal clearness of the temporal birth of the Word: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us [and we saw His glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father], full of grace and truth.”
This temporal birth according to the flesh was announced by the prophet Micheas: “And thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel: and His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity . . . for now shall He be magnified even to the ends of the earth.” [Mich. 5:2-4.]
It is the fulfillment of Isaias’ prophecy: “For a child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace
. . . And there shall be no end of peace.” [Is. 9:6 ff.]
Finally, this prologue speaks to us of the spiritual birth of the Word, living in the Church which is His mystical body, in souls of good will: “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in His name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of
God.” [John 1:11 ff.]
He gave them power to be sons of God by adoption, as He is the Son of God by nature. Our sonship is an image of His, as verse 16 makes clear: “And of His fullness we all have received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
Jesus Himself has said: “If anyone love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him.” [Ibid., 14:23.] He also said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever.” [Ibid., 14:15 ff.]
The Word, the Son of God, together with the Father and the Holy Ghost, dwells in every soul in the state of grace on earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven. That is, He dwells in the souls of all the just. However, His sacred humanity does not dwell within the souls of the just, but it exerts a continual influence on them, for it is the instrument always united to Divinity that communicates to us all the Sacramental and extra-sacramental graces that Jesus merited for us during His life on earth and particularly on the cross. [Cf. St. Thomas, IIIa, q. 43, a. 2; q. 48, a. 6; q. 62, a. 4.] Therefore we can speak of a spiritual birth of the Word in men’s souls, or of a silent coming of the Word into souls, as He came into the souls of the shepherds at Bethlehem. It is this silent coming that is honored by one of the three Christmas Masses. In this sense also St. Paul writes: “For in Christ Jesus, by the Gospel, I have begotten you,” [1 Cor. 4:15.] in order to incorporate you into Him, so that you may be in Him and He in you.
We can never thank God enough for the realization of the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation. Often, when we enter a church, we ask for a spiritual or temporal grace for ourselves or for those we love, and sometimes we thank God for this or that particular blessing. Let us not fail to thank Him for the gift of gifts, the blessing which since the fall of man is the source of all other blessings, namely, the coming of the Savior. As St. Paul says to the Colossians: “All whatever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him” [Col. 3:17.] for all the blessings that have come to us and that continue to come to us daily through His Son. “To Him in glory forever and ever.”
The purpose of these pages is to invite souls to the contemplation of the mystery of Christ, Who has deigned to become our spiritual food in the Eucharist. It would be difficult to express this contemplation more beautifully than in the words of the great doxology, the Gloria, which is sometimes recited mechanically at Mass, but which delights the souls of contemplatives by the fullness of its meaning. The Liber Pontificalis [Ed. Duchesne, 1, 129.] says that Pope Telesphorus at the beginning of the second century [A.D. 128-139] commanded that this Gloria in excelsis be recited on the day of Christ’s Nativity. When God inspired its author He knew that this song of praise would be sung at Mass through the centuries and would be the joy of the greatest believers.
Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace to men of good will.
We praise Thee. We bless Thee. We adore Thee. We glorify Thee. We give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory. O Lord God, Heavenly King, God the Father almighty.
O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father. Thou who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou who takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Thou who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us. For Thou only art holy. Thou only art the Lord. Thou only, O Jesus Christ, art most high,
The Holy Ghost
With the Holy Ghost, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Let us often contemplate in this Gloria the immense love that God has for us. God speaks. We must answer Him. Let us bear in mind, as St. John of the Cross recommends, that in the evening of our lives we shall be judged by love.