When we reflect on such things, we shall simply no longer be able to divide history into ages of salvation and of iniquity. If we then extend our vision and look at what Christians (that is, those people we call 'redeemed') achieved in the world by way of iniquity and devastation, in our own century and the previous centuries, then we will be equally incapable of dividing the peoples of the world into those who are saved and those who are not. If we are honest, we will no longer be able to paint things black and white, dividing up both history and maps into zones of salvation and iniquity. History as a whole, and mankind as a whole, will appear to us rather as a mass of gray, in which time and again there appear flickers of that goodness which can never quite be extinguished, in which, time and again, men set out toward something better, but in which also, time and again, collapses occur into all the horrors of evil.
Yet when we reflect like this, it becomes plain that Advent is not (as might perhaps have been said in earlier ages) a sacred game of the liturgy, in which, so to speak, it leads us once more along the paths of the past, gives us once more a vivid picture of the way things once were, so that we may all the more joyfully and happily enjoy today's salvation. We should have to admit, rather, that Advent is not just a matter of remembrance and playing at what is past - Advent is our present, our reality: the Church is not just playing at something here; rather, she is referring us to something that also represents the reality of our Christian life. It is through the meaning of the season of Advent in the Church's year that she revives our awareness of this. She should make us face these facts, and make us admit the extend of being unredeemed, which is not something that lay over the world at one time, and perhaps somewhere still does, but is a fact in our own lives and in the midst of the Church.
Cardinal Ratzinger, What it Means to be a Christian (a book of Advent sermons)
Man's creaturely condition sets the standard for his activity in the world. However, creation sets in motion a story of love and freedom. This entails a risk: "As the arena of love [the world] is also the playground of freedom and also incurs the risk of evil." Man is created with freedom, which implies that he is capable of sinning. At the very heart of sin is the refusal to accept one's creatureliness, and the standards and limitations implicit in it...
[Those] who consider dependence on the highest love as slavery and who try to deny the truth about themselves, which is their creatureliness, do not free themselves; they destroy truth and love. They do not make themselves gods, which in fact they cannot do, but rather caricatures, pseudo-gods, slaves of their own abilities, which then drag them down...
Jesus' obedience, which is the standard for creatureliness, is the context for our freedom. Dependence on God, which creatureliness implies, is not an imposition, but the condition for true freedom and true joy.
- Msgr. Joseph Murphy, Christ Our Joy: The Theological Vision of Pope Benedict XVI
It is commonly in a somewhat cynical sense that men have said, "Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed." It was in a wholly happy and enthusiastic sense that Saint Francis said, "Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything." It was by this deliberate idea of starting from zero, from the dark nothingness of his own deserts, that he did come to enjoy them.
- G.K. Chesterton, St. Francis of Assisi as quoted in Advent and Christmas Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton
Many women, if they were expecting a child, would refuse to hurry over the hills on a visit of pure kindness. They would say they had a duty to themselves and to their unborn child which came before anything or anyone else.
The Mother of God considered no such thing. Elizabeth was going to have a child, too, and although Mary's own child was God, she could not forget Elizabeth's need - almost incredible to us, but characteristic of her.
She greeted her cousin Elizabeth, and at the sound of her voice, John quickened in his mother's womb and leapt for joy.
"I am come," said Christ, "that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly." Even before He was born His presence gave life.
With what piercing shoots of joy does this story of Christ unfold! First, the conception of a child in a child's heart, and then this first salutation, an infant leaping for joy in his mother's womb, knowing the hidden Christ and leaping into life.
How did Elizabeth herself know what had happened to Our Lady? What made her realise that this little cousin who was so familiar to her was the mother of her God?
She knew it by the child within herself, by the quickening into life which was a leap of joy.
If we practice this contemplation taught and shown to us by Our Lady, we will find that our experience is like hers.
If Christ is growing in us, if we are at peace, recollected, because we know that however insignificant our life seems to be, from it He is forming Himself; if we go with eager wills, "in haste," to wherever our circumstances compel us, because we believe that He desires to be in that place, we shall find that we are driven more and more to act on the impulse of His love.
-Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God
The Christian faith brings us exactly that consolation, that God is so great that he can become small. And that is actually for me the unexpected and previously inconceivable greatness of God, that he is able to bow down so low. That he himself really enters into a man, no longer merely disguises himself in him so that he can later put him aside and put on another garment, but that he becomes this man. It is just in this that we actually see the truly infinite nature of God, for this is more powerful, more inconceivable than anything else, and at the same time more saving.
- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald
This text from the Letter to the Philippians introduces us into the mystery of Christ's kenosis. To express this mystery the apostle uses first of all the words "emptied himself," which refers especially to the reality of the Incarnation. "The Word became flesh" (Jn 1:14). God the Son assumed human nature, humanity, and became true man, while remaining God! The truth about Christ as man must always be considered in relation to God the Son. This permanent reference itself is indicated by St. Paul's text. "He emptied himself" does not in any way mean that he ceased to be God; that would be absurd! It means rather, as the apostle perceptively expressed it, that "he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped," but "though he was in the form of God" (in forma Dei), as the true Son of God, he assumed a human nature deprived of glory, subject to suffering and death, in which he could live in obedience to the Father, even to the ultimate sacrifice.
Pope John Paul II, "Jesus Christ Emptied Himself", General Audience, Feb 17, 1988
A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end, has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded...
I mean that all the eyes of wonder and worship which had been turned outwards to the largest thing were now turned inward to the smallest...
It is true that the spiritual spiral henceforward works inwards instead of outwards, and in that sense is centripical and not centrifugal. The faith becomes, in more ways than one, a religion of little things.
- G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man