Dear Father Donald,
Thank you for your Holy Family greetings and for sharing your reflections on the vast starlit sky of revelation! Truly there is an abundance for Lectio Divina, references drawing one ever deeper into the mystery of God-made-man. I have delighted in your explanatory pointers below. Sacra Pagina only makes a purely factual statement respecting 'first-born son', but I am loving this passage, an invitation to ever increasing delight in the "subtle intimations" such as you present within the Nativity story:
"The contrast between the angelic panoply and the earthly reality is sharp; no wonder Mary "turned these events over" in her heart, seeking to understand them. Nothing very glorious is suggested by the circumstances of the Messiah's birth. But that is Luke's manner, to show how God's fidelity is worked out in human events even when appearances seem to deny his presence or power. The reader is correct, therefore, to see subtle intimations of a greater reality in this humble recital".
When I come away from contemplating the Nativity, leaving the warmth of the scene, I stand for a moment and shiver, finding myself 'back in the world'... this invitation has helped me by reminding me that it was into the 'world' that Christ was born! Then, perhaps with home-sickness eased and emotion cleansed, I begin to "turn these events over" in my heart.
Thus, so much am I enjoying your reflections.
With warmest greetings
. . . . . in Our Lord,
----- Original Message -----From: Donald . . . .Sent: Sunday, December 26, 2010 10:29 AMSubject: Dawn on the MassDear, William,Thank you for your own personal Nativity Crib.Three Masses and the abundance of Lectio Divina.I have to confess my slow explanation of the special explanations.
La Verdiere and Navarre as below.I keep the Blog in Draft for the moment.Holy Family good wishes for you and Edith.fr. DonaldChristmas Dawn Mass from the Glenstal Bible Missal.
The description of Jesus' actual birth (Luke 2:6-7) must be read in light of 2: 1-5.* Set in the vastness of imperial Rome and in the biblical context of the royal house of David, Jesus' birth is that of a poor man, a simple and humble event which contrasts with the political world about him. Consequently, Jesus' messianic royalty has nothing to do with wordly aspirations and ways of ruling (see 22:24-27)+.
* Luk 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.
Luk 2:2 This was the first enrollment, when Quirin'i-us was governor of Syria.
Luk 2:3 And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city.
Luk 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
Luk 2:5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
Luk 2:6 And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.
Luk 2:7 And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
+ Luk 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
Luk 22:25 And he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors.
Luk 22:26 But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
Luk 22:27 For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.
What is true of Jesus is also true of his disciples and the Church. Clearly affirmed in 22:24-27, this relationship is also inscribed in 2:7, which refers to Mary's 'first-born son' (prototokos). The designation 'first born son', prepares the reader for Jesus' presentation to the Lord as the first-born in 2:22-24 &. However, unlike the term 'only son' (monogenes, 7:12) &, it also leaves open the possibility and may actually imply that Mary had further children. This possibility may be excluded as a biological fact, but not as a theological statement. Mary would have further children, namely all who would come to be associated with her son after the passion-resurrection. In Lukan terms this is most clearly stated in the narrative of Paul's conversion: 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' (Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14). In Acts 1:14, Mary herself is expressly singled out in the community of those who continued to give historical expression to the life of her son. The designation 'first-born son' is thus a statement about Jesus' relationship to his future followers. (E. La Verdiere SSS, Luke, New Testament Message 5, p.31)
Luk 2:22 And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
Luk 2:23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord")
Luk 2:24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."
Luk 7:12 As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her.
Act 1:14 All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Navarre Bible Comemmentary Luke 2
7. "First-born son": it is usual for Sacred Scripture to refer to the first male child as "the first-born" whether or not there were other brothers (cf., for example, Exo_13:2 ; Exo_13:13 ; Num_15:8 ; Heb_1:6 ). The same practice is to be found in ordinary speech; take, for example, this inscription dating from approximately the same time as Christ was born, which was found near Tell-el-Jedvieh (in Egypt) in 1922, which states that a woman named Arsinoe died while giving birth to "her first-born son". Otherwise, as St. Jerome explains in his letter "Adversus Helvidium", 10, "if only He were first-born who was followed by other brothers, He would not deserve the rights of the first-born, which the Law lays down, until the other had been born"--which would be absurd, since the Law ordains that those first-born should be "ransomed" within a month of their birth ( Num_18:16 ).
However, Jesus Christ is first-born in a much deeper sense independent of natural or biological considerations--which St. Bede describes in these words, summarizing a long tradition of the Fathers of the Church: "Truly the Son of God, who was made manifest in the flesh, belongs to a more exalted order not only because He is the Only-begotten of the Father by virtue of the excellence of His divinity; He is also first-born of all creatures by virtue of His fraternity with men: concerning this [His primogeniture] it is said: `For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the first-born among many brethren' ( Rom_8:29 ). And concerning the former [His being the Only-begotten] it is said `we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father' ( Joh_1:14 ). Thus, He is only-begotten by the substance of the Godhead, and first-born through His assumption of humanity; first-born by grace, only-begotten by nature. This is why He is called brother and Lord; brother, because He is the first-born; Lord, because He is the Only-begotten" ("In Lucae Evangelium Expositio, in loc.").
Christian Tradition teaches, as a truth of faith, that Mary remained a virgin after Christ's birth, which is perfectly in keeping with Christ's status as her first-born. See, for example, these words of the Lateran Council of 649: "If anyone does not profess according to the holy Fathers that in the proper and true sense the holy, ever-Virgin, immaculate Mary is the Mother of God, since in this last age not with human seed but of the Holy Spirit she properly and truly conceived the divine Word, who was born of God the Father before all ages, and gave Him birth without any detriment to her virginity, which remained inviolate even after His birth: let such a one be condemned" (Canon 3).
8-20. At His birth Christ's divinity and His humanity are perfectly manifested: we see His weakness--the form of a servant ( Phi_2:7 )--and His divine power. Christian faith involves confessing that Jesus Christ is true God and true man.
The salvation which Christ brought us is offered to everyone, without distinction: "Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all" (Colossians 3:11). That is why, even at His birth, He chose to manifest Himself to different kinds of people--the shepherds, the Magi and Simeon and Anna. As St. Augustine comments: "The shepherds were Israelites; the Magi, Gentiles. The first lived near-by; the latter, far away. Yet both came to the cornerstone, Christ" ("Sermo De Nativitate Domini", 202).