In last nights post about tonight’s discussion group topic, I asked the question:
How can men surrender to the mystery of Christ’s condescension without surrendering their dignity, responsibility and strength as men, husbands and fathers?
This morning Pope St. Gregory the Great indirectly answered my question in the second reading from the Office of Readings:
For unless the new man, by being made in the likeness of sinful flesh, had taken on himself the nature of our first parents, unless he had stooped to be one in substance with his mother while sharing the Father’s substance and, being alone free from sin, united our nature to his, the whole human race would still be held captive under the dominion of Satan. The Conqueror’s victory would have profited us nothing if the battle had been fought outside our human condition. But through this wonderful blending the mystery of new birth shone upon us, so that through the same Spirit by whom Christ was conceived and brought forth we too might be born again in a spiritual birth; and in consequence the evangelist declares the faithful to have been born not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
St. Gregory speaks about the Redeeming power of Christ, his victory of Satan, sin and death in terms of His having shared “our human condition.” As the battle takes place in the valley of human misery, so victory begins in a stable where His own received Him not (Jn 1:11).
A true leader, a father, for example, shares the condition of those whom he leads. We exhort our superiors to “lead by example.” Our Lord criticizes the pharisees because they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them (Mt 23:4), and so He tells his apostles: All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not (3).
I am reminded of the story of how St. Louis, King of France, landed in Damietta with his men, refusing a safer passage away from the fighting:
When the King heard say that the Banner of Saint Denis was ashore he came hurrying across his vessel at a great pace, and despite the Legate who was with him, he would not be stayed, but sprang into the sea, up to his armpits in water, and waded, with his shield round his neck, and his helmet on his head, and his spear in his hand, to join his followers on the beach. When he got to land and discerned the Saracens, he asked: What people those were? and they told him: They were Saracens; and he tucked his spear under his arm, put his shield In front of him, and would have rushed upon them, if his paladins who were about him would have allowed it.
Prior to the landing the King had exhorted them all:
Friends and followers, we are unconquerable if we are undivided. The divine will has brought us hither; let us land, be the enemy’s forces what it may. It is not I that am King of France, not I that am Holy Church: it is you yourselves, united, that are Church and King…. In us Christ shall triumph, giving glory, honour, and blessing not to us, but to His own Holy Name.’
In the condensation of Christmas the King rallies with the men on the ground and gives them His Name and His power to conquer.
See also the story of Lt. Michael P. Murphy, USN, Medal of Honor Recipient.