"But who can endure the day of his coming...?"
"But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire..." (Mal 3:2, from Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent).
I've been listening to Handel's Messiah during the past couple of weeks and one of the songs in the first part takes up this frightening verse. The Babe of Bethlehem is not a beautiful infant whom we can gaze at indifferently-"who can stand when he appears?" Rather, He is, in the words of St. Robert Southwell, a "Burning Babe," whose love is a fire. In Southwell's poem, Jesus says:
"My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood."
Benedict XVI likewise directs us to the "refining" that the Christ child seeks to bring about in us: "the Almighty becomes a child.... God challenges our way of being human. By knocking at our door, he challenges us and our freedom; he calls us to examine how we understand and live our lives." I pray that each of us at Chesterton Academy of The Holy Family may avail ourselves of the grace of Christmas and open our hearts to Christ child that he may "melt us into a bath" and "wash us in his blood."