Dearly beloved in Christ,
As we prepare for the feast of the Nativity of our Divine Savior Jesus Christ, our Holy Mother the Catholic Church inspires us in the Sacred Liturgy of Advent with passages from the Old Testament, which foretold the Coming of the Messias, especially from the Prophet Isaias.
When we study the Old Testament prophecies about the Messias, we find the beautiful harmony between the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, we find the promises of God foretold; in the New Testament, we find God’s promises fulfilled.
In order to prepare ourselves worthily for Christmas, let us consider some of the prophecies of the Old Testament to see there their fulfillment in our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.
Hundreds of years before the coming of Christ, the Prophet Isaias spoke of the conception and birth of the Messias:
“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son: and His Name shall be called Emmanuel (God with us)” Isa. 7:14).
These words of Isaias were repeated almost exactly by the Angel Gabriel when he announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary:
“Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son...” (Luke 1:30-31).
There can be no mistake about this Son spoken of by Isaias; the Messias to be born was “Almighty God, the Father of the World to come, the Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).
This prophecy once more harmonizes wonderfully with the Angel Gabriel’s words to the Virgin Mary:
“And thou shalt call His Name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32).
The prophecy of Isaias also harmonizes with the opening verses of the Gospel of St. John, in which the Evangelist very forcefully begins with these divine truths:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... and the Word was made flesh...” (John 1:1,14).
From these Scriptural passages of both the Old and New Testaments we find clearly manifested the doctrines of the Divinity of Christ, His Incarnation, and the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
During this season of Advent, as we prepare for the feast of Christmas, the doctrine of the Incarnation should be the special focus of our consideration and meditation. By the Incarnation we mean that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, assumed our human nature — that is, a body and soul like ours (as St. Paul wrote, “He was like unto us in all things except sin”). He is one Divine Person with two natures — the Divine and the human. Therefore, Mary, as the Mother of Jesus Christ, has the right to the title of Mother of God.
These considerations should help us to better appreciate the meaning of Christmas, that God so loved the world, that God so loved us, as to send His only-begotten Son.
The many references to and prefigurements of the Messias found in the Old Testament only confirm how much God the Father loved mankind and proved it by frequently renewing His promise to send the Messias. The very first promise God made of the Messias was in the Garden of Eden after our first parents had committed the original sin:
“I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Gen. 3:15).
The prophet Micheas foretold the place of the Messias’ birth:
“Thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall come forth unto me He that is to be the Ruler in Israel: and His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity” (Mich. 5:2).
The prophet Isaias foretold the coming of the Magi to adore the newborn Messias and even identified the gifts they were to offer:
“Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee... And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising.... The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Madian and Epha. All they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense and showing forth praise to the Lord” (Isa. 60:1-6).
This prophecy is also supported by a passage from the Psalms:
“The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts” (Ps. 71:10).
We read in the prophet Jeremias that at the time of the birth of the Messias many children were to be put to death, which was fulfilled by King Herod’s slaughter of the Holy Innocents:
“A voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning and weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not” (Jer. 31:15).
Rachel here represents the Jewish people. She died in Bethlehem and was buried there (Gen. 35:19).
From the prophet Osee we learn that it was foretold of the Messias’ departure into Egypt, and His return again from thence (Osee 11:11).
There were so many detailed prophecies made about the Messias which were perfectly fulfilled by Jesus Christ that it would be extremely difficult to adequately list them all. Nevertheless, the following prophecies are some of the more noteworthy ones.
The Messias was to be a great worker of miracles. Some of these miracles were that “the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped... the lame man leap as the hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free” (Isa. 35:5-6).
The Messias was to enter into Jerusalem riding on an ass (Zach. 9:9). He was to be sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zach. 11:12-13). He was to be betrayed by one who ate at the same table with Him (Ps. 40:10). His disciples were to forsake Him at the time of His Passion (Zach. 13:7). He was to be mocked (Ps. 21:7), beaten, spit upon (Isa. 50:6), scourged (Ps. 72:14), crowned with thorns (Cant. 3:11), and given gall and vinegar to drink (Ps. 68:22). For His garments, lots were to be cast (Ps. 21:19). His hands and feet were to be pierced with nails (Ps. 21:17). He was to die between two evil-doers (Isa. 53:9). He was to be patient as a lamb in His sufferings (Isa. 53:7), and was to pray for His enemies (Isa. 53:12). He was to die willingly and for our sins (Isa. 53:4-7).
He was to make His grave with the rich (Isa. 53:9), and it was to be glorious (Is. 11:10). His body was not to undergo corruption (Ps. 40:10). He was to return to heaven (Ps. 67:34), and was to sit at the right hand of God (Ps. 109:1). His doctrine was to spread from Jerusalem and from Mount Sion over the whole world (Joel 2:28; Isa. 2:3). In every place throughout the world, a “clean oblation” (Holy Mass) was to be offered to Him (Mal. 1:11).
As wonderfully detailed as these prophecies of the Messias are, it is indeed terrible to consider the truth of the words of St. John:
“In Him was life and the life was the light of men... He was in the world and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:4, 10-11).
On that first Christmas night, when Jesus was born in the poverty and obscurity of a stable, His first adorers were only simple shepherds. When the Magi came from the East and inquired of the “newborn King of the Jews,” we read in the Gospel of St. Matthew that King Herod and all of Jerusalem were in great wonder. They did not even know that the Messias was born! The Magi, Gentiles from the East, cooperated with the grace of God and came to know of the Messias, while most of the Israelites, the Chosen People of God, especially those from the holy city of Jerusalem, knew nothing of His birth.
And St. John continues:
“But as many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in His Name” (John 1:12).
During this Advent, let us meditate on the passages of the Old and New Testaments which our Holy Mother the Catholic Church presents to us, so that on this Christmas we may be strengthened in our love and faith in our Divine Savior Jesus Christ and thus be “the sons of God... that believe in His Name.”
May all of you, faithful Catholics, have a blessed and grace-filled Christmas!
In Christo Jesu et Maria Immaculata,
Most Rev. Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI