Monday, December 22, 2008

The Lehman Madonna

Andrea della Robbia (1435–1525)
Virgin and Child, ("the Lehman Madonna") 15th century (ca. 1470–75)
Glazed terracotta; 37 3/8 x 21 5/8 in. (94.9 x 54.9 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum, New York

"In the stable at Bethlehem, Heaven and Earth meet.

Heaven has come down to Earth.

For this reason, a light shines from the stable for all times; for this reason joy is enkindled there; for this reason song is born there.

At the end of our Christmas meditation I should like to quote a remarkable passage from Saint Augustine. Interpreting the invocation in the Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father who art in Heaven”, he asks: what is this – Heaven? And where is Heaven? Then comes a surprising response: “… who art in Heaven – that means: in the saints and in the just. Yes, the heavens are the highest bodies in the universe, but they are still bodies, which cannot exist except in a given location. Yet if we believe that God is located in the heavens, meaning in the highest parts of the world, then the birds would be more fortunate than we, since they would live closer to God. Yet it is not written: ‘The Lord is close to those who dwell on the heights or on the mountains’, but rather: ‘the Lord is close to the brokenhearted’ (Ps 34:18[33:19]), an expression which refers to humility. Just as the sinner is called ‘Earth’, so by contrast the just man can be called ‘Heaven’” (Sermo in monte II 5, 17).

Heaven does not belong to the geography of space, but to the geography of the heart.

And the heart of God, during the Holy Night, stooped down to the stable: the humility of God is Heaven.

And if we approach this humility, then we touch Heaven.

Then the Earth too is made new. With the humility of the shepherds, let us set out, during this Holy Night, towards the Child in the stable! Let us touch God’s humility, God’s heart! Then his joy will touch us and will make the world more radiant. "

From the Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter's Basilica on Tuesday, 25 December 2007