God’s eternal plan of loving goodness: to reveal and give Himself to us in Christ
Repeatedly the Church, based on Scripture and Tradition, teaches us that the Infant Jesus that lay in a manger was the the full revelation and full gift of God to man. This was God’s immutable decree: to manifest Himself and His love through the Incarnation of the Word and, in partaking of our human nature, to enable us to partake of His divine nature (cfr. 2 Pt 1:4; 2 Cor 8:9; Col 2:9-10; etc.). We are called to be sons in the Son, children of God in the Child of Bethlehem, and it is for this reason that “when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a Woman, born under the Law, that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal 4:4-5). The Incarnation, first and foremost, was willed to communicate and receive the greatest possible glory of God ad extra; but in this decree stands our filial adoption. Sin or no sin, we are predestined before the creation of the world to be His adopted sons in Christ Jesus (cfr. Eph 1:4). In fact, this is even the motive of Our Lord’s work of Redemption – He redeems us “that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal 4:5). So even apart from any consideraton of the fall the Church teaches that our filial adoption in Christ was central to God’s eternal design. We see this clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the very first paragraphs on the Creed, the Profession of our Faith:
CCC 50-52 Through an utterly free decision, God has revealed himself and given himself to man. This he does by revealing the mystery, his plan of loving goodness, formed from all eternity in Christ, for the benefit of all men. God has fully revealed this plan by sending us his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. “It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature” (Dei Verbum 2; cf. Eph 1:9; 2:18; 2 Pt 1:4). God, who “dwells in unapproachable light”, wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son. By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity.
Note that there is no mention here of Adam’s sin, of man’s need for Redemption, of the Cross. Why? Because the Incarnation is the centerpiece of God’s loving designs and this centerpiece is not brought about by sin – it stands on its own. For this reason St. Francis of Assisi “had a reverence for the birthday of the Lord greater than for any other solemnity of the Lord” (Compilatio Assisiensis). He called Christ’s Birthday “the feast of feasts, because on this day God, become a little Babe, hung from human breasts” (Celano, Memoriale 199, 1; Fontes 616 f).
A very blessed and merry Christmas to all of you!
fr. maximilian mary dean