Fr. Frederick W. Faber is a spiritual writer who is little-known these days. His style is old-fashioned, but the substance is usually very sound. I found out about him by buying two of his books a thrift store years ago. His book Bethlahem (1860) is now instantly available to us all via the wonders of Google Books. One of my favorite passages talks about the response of the world to appearance of Jesus. He asks us first to imagine the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem:
The twilight deepens. Mary and Joseph descend the hill. They find the cave, a stable-cave, a sort of grotto … a poor couple from Nazareth have sought refuge with the ox and ass in the stable. What is about to happen there? It must be differently described, according to the points of view from which we consider it. Angels would say that some of God’s eternal decrees were on the eve of being accomplished in the most divine and beautiful of ways, and that the invisible King was about to come forth and take visible possession of a kingdom, not narrower than a universe, with such pomp as the spiritual and godlike angels most affect. The magistrate in Bethlehem would say, that, at the time of the census, a pauper child had been added to the population by a houseless couple who had come from Nazareth, noting perhaps that the couple were of good family but fallen into poverty. This would be the way in which the world would register the advent of its Maker. It is a consistent world, only an unteachable one. It has learnt nothing by experience. It registers Him in the same manner this very day.
Fr. Faber then goes around the world and imagines what state it is in on the night of Christ’s birth. I like best his depiction of the Roman Empire, which reminds me of our own times:
Let us go forth upon the slopes, and watch the night darkening, and think of the great earth that lies both near and far away from this new and obscure sanctuary, which God is about to hallow with such an authentic consecration. Much of earth is occupied with Roman business. Couriers are hastening to and fro upon the highways of the empire. The affairs of the vast colonies are giving employment and concern to many statesmen and governors. The great city of Rome itself is the centre of an intellectual and practical activity, which makes itself felt at the furthest extremities of the empire. Upon some minds, and especially those of a more philosophical cast, the growth of moral corruption, and other grave social questions, are weighing heavily. There are lawyers also intent upon their pleadings. Huge armies, which are republics of themselves, are fast rising to be the lawless masters of the world. But nowhere in the vast world of Roman politics does there seem a trace of the Cave of Bethlehem. No prophetic shadows are cast visibly on the scene. All things wear a look of stability. The system, ponderous as it is, works like a well-constructed machine. No one is suspecting anything. It would not be easy for the world to be making less reference to God than it was making then. No one was on the look-out for a divine interference, unless it were that here and there some truth-stammering oracle perturbed a narrow circle, whose superstition was the thing likest religion of all things in the heathen world. In the palace of the Csesars, who suspected that unborn Caesar in His Cave?
“No one was on the look-out for a divine interference … .”
Least of all as a baby, in a poor place, in a poor and conquered country.
God’s love invaded the world, stealthily at first. Two thousand years later we still celebrate it.
Merry Christmas to all Chicagoboyz, and to our readers.
God bless everyone who cannot be home for Christmas, especially our men and women in uniform around the world.