That fire sent from heaven

The Annunciation (1435) by Fra Angelico

Fra Angelico, “The Annunciation” (1435)

Here is a relevant excerpt on the real meaning of Christmas from Bonaventure’s beautiful meditation on the life of Christ, The Tree of Life:

Finally, the fulness of time (Gal. 4:4) had come. Just as man was formed from the earth on the sixth day by the power and wisdom of the divine hand, so at the beginning of the sixth age*, the Archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin. When she gave her consent to him, the Holy Spirit came upon her like a divine fire inflaming her soul and sanctifying her flesh in perfect purity. But the power of the Most High overshadowed her (Luke 1:35) so that she could endure such fire. By the action of that power, instantly his body was formed, his soul created, and at once both were united to the divinity in the Person of the Son, so that the same Person was God and man, with the properties of each nature maintained.

Oh, if you could feel in some way
the quality and intensity of that fire sent from heaven,
the refreshing coolness that accompanied it,
the consolation it imparted;
if you could realize the great exaltation of the Virgin Mother,
the ennobling of the human race,
the condescension of the divine majesty;
if you could hear the Virgin singing with joy;
if you could go with your Lady
into the mountainous region;
if you could see the sweet embrace
of the Virgin and the woman who had been sterile
and hear the greeting
in which the tiny servant recognized the Lord,
the herald his Judge,
and the voice his Word,
then I am sure
you would sing in sweet tones
with the Blessed Virgin
that sacred hymn:
My soul magnifies the Lord . . . (Luke 1:46),
and with the tiny prophet
you would exalt, rejoice and adore
the marvelous virginal conception!

* Bonaventure: “God never ceased announcing, promising and prefiguring the coming of his Son in the five ages of history, through the patriarchs, judges, priests, kings and prophets, from Abel the Just to John the Baptist.”

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