Following the Incarnate
Son of God
Darkness covered the earth, and He came as the Light that shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend Him. To those who received Him, He brought light and peace; peace with the Father in Heaven, peace with all those who, like them, are children of light and children of the Father in Heaven, peace also in the intimate depths of the heart: but no peace with the children of darkness. To them, the Prince of Peace does not bring peace but the sword. To them, He is the stumbling block against which they knock and on which they are broken.
This is the bitterly serious truth that ought not to be obscured by the poetic charm of the Child in the manger. The mystery of the Incarnation is closely linked to the mystery of iniquity. The night of sin appears all the more black and uncanny against the Light that is come down from heaven.
The Child in the manger stretches out His small hands, and His smile seems to say even now the same as later the lips of the Man: “Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened”. The poor shepherds have followed His call, when the radiance of the sky and the voice of the angel had announced the good tidings to them in the ﬁelds of Bethlehem, simply saying: “Let us go to Bethlehem” and setting out on their way.
The kings from the far-away East followed the marvelous star with the same simple faith; on them all the hands of the Child poured the dew of His grace, and they “rejoiced with exceeding great joy”.
These hands give and demand at the same time
You wise men, lay down your wisdom and become simple like children; you kings, give your crowns and your treasures and bow down humbly before the King of kings; do not hesitate to take upon yourselves the sufferings and hardships His service entails.
You children, who cannot yet give anything of your own free will, this Child’s hands will take away your tender life even before it has really begun. It cannot be used better than to be sacrificed for the Lord of Life.
These Child’s hands say “Follow me” just as later the lips of the Man will say it. Thus He spoke to the “disciple whom the Lord loved”, and who now belongs also to those around the Crib. St. John, the young man whose heart was as pure as a child’s, followed without asking where and whither. He left his father’s boat and followed the Lord on all His ways even to the summit of Golgotha.
St. Stephen, too, heard these words “Follow me”. He followed the Lord to do battle against the powers of darkness, the blindness of obstinate unbelief. He bore witness to Him with his words and with his blood; he followed Him also in His spirit of love which ﬁghts sin but loves the sinner, and intercedes for his murderer even in death.
Those kneeling around the crib are ﬁgures of light
Those kneeling around the crib are ﬁgures of light: the tender innocent children, the trustful shepherds, the humble kings, Stephen, the enthusiastic disciple, and John the apostle of love, all those who have followed the call of the Lord. They are opposed by the night of incomprehensible obstinacy and blindness: the scribes, who know indeed when and where the Saviour of the world is to be born, but who will not draw the conclusion: “Let us go to Bethlehem”. King Herod, who would kill the Lord of Life.
Ways part before the Child in the manger. He is the King of kings, the Lord of life and death. He speaks His “Follow me”, and if a man is not for Him, he is against Him. He speaks also to us, and asks us to choose between light and darkness.
Saint Edith Stein
The Mystery of Christmas: Incarnation and Humanity
Following the Incarnate Son of God (excerpt)
Stein, E 1931, The mystery of Christmas: incarnation and humanity, translated from the German by Rucker, J [see WorlCat entry here] Our sincere thanks to the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Saint Louis, Missouri for sharing their text with us