THE SHEPHERDS GLORIFIED AND PRAISED GOD FOR ALL THEY HEARD AND SAW. After these men had experienced the reality of the revelation revealed to them by the heavenly messenger, they were changed people. They realized they had been privileged to witness an event that was extraordinary and which had a spiritual content that they appreciated though they were far from being able to articulate its significance. The one thing they were capable of they did, however, and that was to express their gratitude and wonder at God's workings. And so they glorified and praised God for all they heard and saw. This was all that the Lord expected of them; he demanded no more than they were capable of. However little it seemed in their eyes it was quite enough for Him. Indeed, it was most pleasing to Him and justified them in His sight.
Their example is meant to encourage all of us who share the faith of these simple men in the newly born savior. We are privileged to know a great deal more about this child, notably that he is truly God as well as man. Yet we too are aware of our insignificance in this world and we ac-cept our lowly estate without complaint or apology. They knew they had been dignified by what they had been told and then were privileged to see with their own eyes. By our faith in the Lord Jesus, we inherit their witness as well as that of the prophets and patri-archs and wisdom teachers of the Old Testament, along with Mary and Joseph. Rupert of Deutz, the twelfth century Benedictine theologian, expressed this belief in a telling phrase:
All of Scripture was established, the law and the prophets, before God united into one the whole of Scripture, his entire Word in the womb of the Virgin. For the Virgin conceived in her mind before she gave birth by her body; she bore first through her mouth by prophesying, then by her womb in giving birth. Before blessed Zion brought forth his flesh, she gave birth through the mouth of the prophets to the one and same Christ, one and the same Word of God.
The faith of Mary, the Mother of God, was the fulfillment, in other words, of the prom-ises revealed to the patriarchs and prophets. Her faith then became the faith of the apos-tles and of countless numbers of men and women whobecame followers of the Lord Jesus. Among the first of these were counted these shepherds.
St. Luke gives us to understand that these rude men had been given an understanding of God's plan of salvation, in a rudimentary way. They became symbols of all those who would accept Christ as God's special envoy and are counted among those who enjoy God's favor. Later on in the Gospel the qualities that are found in the beneficiaries of such a surpassing grace are explicitlyenumerated and repeatedly recommended to us: the humble, the poor in spirit, the meek of heart who put their trust in God and not in the things of this world. A good deal of Jesus' preaching and example inculcated this fundamental lesson. The poor of spirit and the meek and humble of heart are those whom God chooses for his family. First among these is the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Mary became the Mother of God and, at the foot of the cross was made the Mother of the Church by fidelity, her faith and her humility. She revealed these dispositions in her canticle of thanksgiving shortly after conceiving the Word in her womb. My soul magni-fies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior. For he has looked upon the lowliness of his servant.
Mary has been elevated above all other creatures through becoming mother of the Word who is the Son of God. Her trust in God and her awareness of his transcendent greatness led to her profound humility of heart and made her acceptable and pleasing to Him. She above all others understood how greatly the Word of God emptied himself in taking flesh of her. It was this understanding of God's loving condescension that measured her own sense of nothingness. The very height of her privileges made her all the more aware that she owed her all to Him.
May our celebration of her chief honor today as Mother of God deepen our gratitude to our Lord for his Incarnation and birth in the flesh. As we offer this Eucharist for the salvation of all people for whom Christ shed his blood on Calvary, let us join our prayer with confidence to hers. For she is one of us, and is given to us as our mother that we might the more confidently approach the all pure God, as sharing somehow in her purity and faith. And may our lives prove worthy of the trust God shows us in giving us himself in this Eucharist, and in giving us the right to claim his mother as our own.a
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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