Bernard was known far and wide as a standout preacher, and quotes like this show why. He muses on our Lord’s nativity, evoking a sense of quiet expectation for Christ’s coming that I love. When he comments on the abundance of things temporal crowding out things eternal toward the end of this quote, we can picture in our heads hordes of Black Friday shoppers trampling each other to get at the deals, mall shopping lots packed with cars, stores swarming with people — and churches that offer God’s holy Word and His most precious Body and Blood half-full, if that, on Sunday mornings. Bernard is really talking about our times as well, not just when Christ was born. His use of the Wisdom of Sirach is moving, too. Even though it’s not Scripture, it’s still moving. That particular verse has survived as a liturgical text. While I was in the Seminary Chorus we sang a song for one of the Christmas concerts that had that verse as its text. I remembered how beautiful it was and I was always intrigued by it. Now I know where it came from.
May Jesus, the Child conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, bless your hearts with hope and joy this Advent season.
Bernard of Clairvaux, on the time and timing of Christ’s coming in the flesh at the first Christmas:
Truly was it then towards the evening, and the day now far spent; the sun of justice was low, and its splendor and warmth had almost vanished from the earth. And the light of the knowledge of divine things was low, and, iniquity abounding, the fervor of charity had grown cold. No angel then appeared, no prophet spoke; they were silent, as though overcome by despondency, because of the hardness and obstinacy of men. Then said I, said the Son, behold I come (Ps xxxxix.8).
And so while all things were in silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thy Almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven (Wisd, xviii.14). Of the same mystery the Apostle [Paul] speaks, saying, but when the fulness of time was come, God sent His Son (Gal iv.4). For the fulness and abundance of things temporal had induced forgetfulness and scarcity of things eternal. In fitting time did Eternity come, when the things of time had begun alone to prevail. For, passing over other proofs, so universal was peace among the nations that at the order of one man a census was taken of the whole world.
St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor, The Advent of Our Lord and Its Six Circumstances, 9