The Incarnation

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Moved by love and wishing to reconcile the human race to yourself, you gave us your only-begotten Son. He became our mediator and our justice by taking on all our injustice and sin out of obedience to your will, eternal Father, just as you willed that he take on our human nature. What an immeasurably profound love! Your Son went down from the heights of his divinity to the depths of our humanity. Can anyone’s heart remain closed and hardened after this?

We image your divinity, but you image our humanity in that union of the two which you have worked in a man. You have veiled the Godhead in a cloud, in the clay of our humanity. Only your love could so dignify the flesh of Adam. And so by reason of this immeasurable love I beg, with all the strength of my soul, that you freely extend your mercy to all your lowly creatures.

-St. Catherine of Siena

The Incarnation of the Lord, the central point of all human history, has been the source of countless songs, poems, art and meditations throughout the history of the Church.  We can never plumb the depths of this mystery, that God, moved by love for fallen man, would take on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, to redeem us.  As Fulton Sheen famously said, Jesus Christ was the only man born to die.  The Incarnation is also the beginning of His Passion, so this mystery, like so many, holds joy tinged with sorrow that leads to the Resurrection.  This is the mystery of Christ’s earthly life, and it is also the mystery of our lives, that whether we are rejoicing or bearing the cross, we can be assured that it’s purpose is for our sanctification and salvation.

The Annunciation usually falls within Lent, a welcome reprieve, and this year it falls on the day before Laetare Sunday, another moment to relax our Lenten discipline a bit before we enter into the final weeks of our Lenten journey towards Calvary and Our Lord’s Passion.  The sorrow and the joy, rather than contradicting each other, actually serve to deepen and sweeten each other. By God’s grace we can grow to understand this more and more, adding a depth and authenticity to our lives and our relationships, both with God and each other.  When we can learn to endure suffering, rather than run from it, to not just endure it but grow from it, become more Christ-like and docile to His Will, then we can, like Our Lord and the saints, eventually come to find some joy in it – not some kind of masochistic dysfunction, which is how the world characterizes the Catholic understanding of suffering, but a peace and joy that comes from being conformed to God’s Will, that comes from bearing a part of the Cross with Our Lord.  Like the saints and martyrs, we can then experience the Resurrection, even in the midst of the Crucifixion.

[Well, we didn’t intend to talk about suffering and the cross on such a joyful day, but we hope you can enjoy the beautiful song at the top of the page anyway.  It’s by The Medieval Baebes.]

Revealing the Hidden God

John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_AnnunciationToday we recall a moment so incredible, so unique in the history of the world, so all-changing that we genuflect when we speak the words.

And the Word was made flesh.  And dwelt among us.

The invisible Word of God took on human flesh, though He was still hidden from our eyes, microscopically small in the womb of Our Lady.  The Son of God began His work of redemption, our redemption, without anyone, except a poor Virgin, knowing He was here among us.  This has to be one of the most painted moments in all of history, depicted by artists in every age.  And since Our Lord took His human body from only one parent, Mary of Nazareth, they must have looked very similar.  Someone told us once that the artist William Bouguereau would use the same model’s face when painting Our Lady and Jesus, for this very reason.

Both Our Lady and her Divine Son have been imagined by artists for two thousand years.  But what did they really look like?  Is there any way to know?  Today on A Good Habit we will be talking about an ancient relic, which is not without controversy, which may tell us what Jesus actually looked like: The Shroud of Turin.  We will be joined by Jose Juan Garrigo, director of the Shroud Exposition which has been touring the US and is currently in San Antonio.  Please tune in to learn more about the history of the Shroud of Turin, and how science continues to unlock the mystery behind it.  And make time to visit the Shroud Expo while it’s here in town, it’s a great preparation for Holy Week.

Wedding Bells

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Every so often we go to the evening Mass at the Little Flower Basilica, and during Mass the ringing of the 6pm Angelus bells can be heard.  What’s striking is how much the sound is like the peal of wedding bells, so loud, so joyful.  The truth is, every time the Angelus bells ring it is calling to mind a wedding:  when heaven was wedded to earth in the womb of the Virgin Mary

The Word is joined to flesh;The Word is wedded to flesh, and the bridal chamber of this exalted marriage is your womb.  Let me repeat, the bridal chamber of this exalted marriage between the Word and the flesh is your womb, whence “He, the Bridegroom, goes forth from His bridal chamber”.

St. Augustine

Now, the bridal chamber of this Bridegroom was the womb of the Virgin Mother. That is why the Psalmist says, “He has set His tabernacle in the sun: and He is as a Bridegroom coming out of His bridal chamber” (Ps. 18:6). And it was as a Bridegroom in fact that He came forth from His bridal chamber, because to unite the Church to Himself, the Incarnate God went forth from the inviolate womb of the Virgin.

Pope St. Gregory the Great


The Incarnation is the defining moment of Christianity.  It sets us apart from every other religion, and shapes everything about our world view.  God Himself entered into time, into this created world, and in doing so, transformed and sanctified everything.  Because of the  Incarnation our joys and our sufferings are made fruitful, because we can unite them to the joys and sufferings Christ experienced during His earthly life.  God not only created the world and all that is in it, He wanted to dwell in it bodily, to be close to us, to redeem us.

When Pope Francis spoke to the priests of Rome on Holy Thursday, he urged them to be “shepherds with the odour of sheep,” taking their cue from Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who lived in the midst of His “sheep” before laying down His life for them.

Today’s feast of the Annunciation recalls the beginning of our salvation, the moment longed for by generations, when the promised Messiah would come to save His people.  God didn’t just force Himself on us, He wanted our cooperation.  He found it in Our Lady’s fiat, when, trusting in God’s message through the angel Gabriel, the humble Virgin of Nazareth uttered the words that tore heaven open and drew God to earth: Be it done unto me according to thy word.