The Victory That Surmounts the World

A Blessed Christmas to all from everyone at The Catholic Thing.

Dominic Cassella

Brad Miner

Karen Popp

Hannah Russo

Robert Royal

This first joyful mystery speaks of the angel’s message to Mary, which is at the same time a summons and a question: “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call His name Jesus.”

And it speaks of the unconditional readiness of the purest of all women to be the one from whom the Son of God accepted our human form: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.”

No event was ever surrounded by greater tranquility. No deed was ever done more simply. But the decision that was made there reached from earth to Heaven.  The event is re-enacted, spiritually, in the life of every one of the faithful. Above all, it is re-enacted when man is touched for the first time by the person and the word of Christ – be it through another man, a book, or an inner experience – and he recognizes the truth and craves to embrace it.

The Lord, in His body and living might, enters into him at this moment. Now begins. . .the penetration and growth of Christ in man; the reshaping of man in Him. From here on, the summons is always repeated. Every hearing of Christ’s truth, every radiation of His image, every reminder of His commandments demands that we take Him deep into our hearts and put ourselves at His disposal willingly.

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The time after the angel’s Annunciation. . .was, for Mary, at once happy and distressing. No woman has ever borne such gladness within her. But neither was any woman ever imprisoned in such silence. For how could she speak of the event so that the listener would believe her? Not even he to whom she was espoused for life understood until an angel enlightened him in a dream.

Here began the serious part of resignation. For honor or dishonor, for life and death, she was in God’s hands. She left her home, and crossed the mountains to Elizabeth, that motherly woman to whom she was connected by old ties of trust. She, who was often afflicted, would know what had happened.

And she did know, for the spirit that had worked the mystery in Mary also filled Elizabeth, so that she knew the truth before Mary said a word: “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!”

The whole mystery is filled with the unspeakable intimacy in which Mary carried the life of the God-Man, giving Him hers and receiving of His.  In every Christian life there is a sacred domain of nascent growth in which dwells Christ – a domain in which we are more firmly rooted than we are in our own. There He works and grows, takes possession of our being, draws our strength toward Himself, penetrates our thoughts and volition, and sways our emotions and sentiments, so that the word of the Apostle comes true: “It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me.”

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It is the hour of the Holy Night. The divine Child Jesus comes forth into the outer world, becomes our brother, and takes upon Himself the lot of the Redeemer. “And it came to pass while they were there, that the days for her to be delivered were fulfilled. And she brought forth her firstborn son.”

These words are addressed to us all, and the glorification of that joyous happening will never be muted on this earth.  At the same hour something happened that concerned Mary alone: in her own personal being, in her spirit and heart, Christ moved into the open expanse of her perception and love; the attitude of expectation became a communion face-to-face.

Unutterable truth – she saw Him who was the manifestation of the living God! As her heart overflowed, a flaming flood rushed toward Him who came with the love of the Redeemer. Serving Him in His tender years, she served the Lord who had revealed Himself in human weakness.

This takes place spiritually in every Christian as often as that inner life which is divined by faith steps into the clarity of knowledge, into the distinctness of action, and into the decisiveness of testimony. In every one of us Christ is born as often as He penetrates, as essence and standard, into any deed or happening. One day this happens with particular significance: namely, on that day when it dawns on us, clear and strong, who Christ is, so that He becomes the governing reality of our inner lives.

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We live in time, and time is possessed by the delusion of permanence. All things crumble away but are formed anew, so that the world in itself seems imperishable. The living vanish, but out of those things that die, new life is born; so it seems that life, as a whole, continues on its way. The deeds of each man come to an end and his work falls to dust, but these are always started over again. So struggle and strain never cease.

When the Redeemer came and was rebuffed, all seemed veiled and indecipherable. But one day He will return to expose the delusion, and to bring light and fulfillment. Until that day comes, we must be faithful and wait for Him.  Our belief is contradicted on every side. That the Lord will put an end to everything and pronounce His final verdict seems like a children’s fairy tale. But to persevere in this belief is “the victory that surmounts the world”. . . .

So long as time endures here below there is no perfectly triumphant Kingdom of God, for the good man may be overthrown and the evil man may prevail – as happens again and again. Once time has become eternity, truth and reality will be one, as will also power and virtue. But God will be Lord of creation because He is the essence of holiness and justice.

All that contradicted Him will be broken before the judgment seat and cast into a void that no man can describe. Those who have stood the test before the throne, on the other hand, will breathe freely and be happy in God’s dominion, for in itself this is freedom and life. “Behold,” says the Lord, “I will make all things new.” There will be “a new Heaven” and “a new earth,” “and they shall see His face and His name shall be on their foreheads”; and “His servants shall serve Him.”

For this we wait. While we wait, we know by faith that Christ’s kingdom on earth is His Church, leading us to the perfect Kingdom of God in Heaven. The Church is the herald of the Kingdom to come. This Kingdom is already ours, even if only as a promise and a beginning. Insofar as we accept the holy message, insofar as we love God in the midst of coldness and disdain, insofar as we endure the contradiction of all things, we experience a partial fulfillment of the promise.

When God’s perfectly triumphant Kingdom does come, we will be not only subjects but co-rulers. That Kingdom will accomplish the liberation of all things in God. And “the glory of the children of God,” wherein we share in His supremacy, is the freedom we will find in Him.

– excerpted from The Rosary of Our Lady

 

*Image: The Nativity by Lorenzo Monaco (Piero di Giovanni), ca. 1406–10 [The MET, New York]

Servant of God Fr. Romano Guardini (1885 – 1968), author and academic, was one of the most important figures in Catholic intellectual life in the 20th-century. This essay is adapted from his most famous book, The Lord. He was a mentor to such prominent theologians as Hans Urs von Balthasar and Joseph Ratzinger.