O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church: and, because she cannot continue in safety without thy succour; preserve her evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
A reading from the sermons of Robert Isaac Wilberforce
In the fullness of time, the Second Person in the Ever-Blessed Trinity took man’s nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, of her substance, that as he had at first made man out of the dust of the earth, so he might re-make him out of the fallen elements of his frail humanity. Thus did he himself become the new Adam, the second man, the pattern and type of mortality, the first-begotten from the dead, the first-born of every creature, that in bringing many sons to glory, the Captain of their salvation might be made perfect through sufferings.
Thus was the Eternal Son exhibited in the flesh as the model and centre of man’s nature, even as prophecy had declared in ancient days that when he stooped to mingle with creation, he should be the beginning of God’s works. For we must not fancy of him as a mere common man, as a single grain out of the garner of mortality, seeing that in him not this individual or that but manhood itself was taken into God. Thus as he was by right the representative of Godhead, and shared in its whole glorious nature, as he was the brightness of his Father’s glory and the express image of his person, so did he by choice become the representative of mankind, ‘for the first man is of the earth, earthy, the second man is the Lord from heaven’ (1 Cor 15:47).
Now from this brief statement it follows at once why Our Lord’s miracles, when in the flesh, were a real fulfilment of that which had been spoken in ancient days concerning his nature. For their characteristic is, that in them human sympathy was perfectly divested of human weakness. They show such absolute lordship over the powers of nature, as might have sufficed to empty the whole ocean of material suffering. He who fed thousands, why could he not banish all want? He who healed men by his thought, why could not he avert every sickness? Doubtless he would have done so, but that the stopping these outlets of natural calamity would only have increased the more intense malignity of moral woe. There will be no more pain where is no more sin. To natural sympathy, then, Our Lord gave its proper weight: he could shed a tear near the grave of Bethany, and show pity at the gates of Nain; – these concessions he made to the sinless affections of our common nature; but they interfered not with those other qualities, which personal union with Deity communicated to his man’s soul. For justice also and holiness are attributes of God, to them we may adapt the words of our greatest English writer, and say that their ‘seat is the bosom of God, their voice the harmony of the world, that all things in heaven and earth do them homage’. These, then, must find their expressions in the acts of him, who knew what was in man; and what so wonderful as that their entire possession should have interfered not one whit with the perfection of sympathy for human sorrows? […]
Are men in pain or grief, in fear or loneliness; does the thought of sin overpower, or he dread of death confound them – here then is one, who to all the attributes of a God, unites all the compassion of a brother.