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from the House of Joseph

Nativity of the Lord

December 25

By Father Peter Fegan, OP
Dean of Men & Lecturer, Discipleship Stage


Throughout Advent the Church sings a recurring antiphon, drawn from St. Jerome’s Vulgate translation of Isaiah 45:8—Rorate, caeli, desuper, et nubes pluant iustum; aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem — Drop down dew, you heavens, and let the clouds rain down the Just One. Let the earth open up, and bring forth a Savior.


But most modern translations of the Bible give us justice instead of the Just One and salvation in place of a Savior. This is hardly minor difference—it’s the difference between the abstract and the concrete. It’s the difference between “love” and the one who loves you, between “children” and your own son or daughter, between “marriage” and your spouse.  


The modern trannslations are more in keeping with the Hebrew; how Jerome came to his rendering, I’m sure scholars could tell us. But there’s something symbolic of Christian revelation built into this very story, and that is that Israel’s hopes were not only fulfilled but over-fulfilled in Christ. The People of God received everything they were promised, but so much more. God promised justice, but sent the Just One, salvation, and he gives us a Savior. The Word in Christ is made flesh, and where Israel looked for merely a Messiah, a human leader, they received their very Lord and God.


God’s ways sure aren’t our ways. For Christ does, indeed, descend from heaven as silent as dewfall, and lives among us without the slightest indication of his origin, until the appointed time. Whereas we can scarcely remain silent of our puny accomplishments, the Lord seeks no applause as he undertakes the enormous work of saving us. As the carols of the season tell us, he “abhors not the virgin’s womb,” while “mild, he lays his glory by.”


May we be humbled this Christmas by the humility of God himself. And may you and your loved ones be blessed abundantly in this sacred Christmas season.


Displaying a Nativity scene at the Josephinum is a treasured tradition that dates back to 1890, when a Christmas crib was crafted by students in the orphanage's industrial school and placed in the chapel at the Old Josephinum. The original figures have been carefully preserved as time has passed; each year the historic creche is set up in the lobby of the main building.

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