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of the text, wherein is set forth the humble, lowly, and believing spirit and temper of the Blessed Virgin, “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”
And here it would seem suitable to the Festival to-day, first, to say a few words on the high and holy mystery of the Incarnation ; and, then to speak of those graces of purity, devotion, and chiefly of humility, which mark the temper and disposition of the Blessed Virgin, both here, and in her hymn of praise, which we repeat daily at Evening Prayer.
And first, of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ, as we know, was from everlasting, the Only, the Beloved, the Only-begotten Son of God, “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God ... of one substance with the Father.” God, even as the Father is God; Lord, even as the Father is Lord; uncreate, incomprehensible, eternal, even as the Father is uncreate, incomprehensible, eternal; and, when the fulness of the times was come, He, “ for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made
man,” as really and truly man, as He is really and truly God. Only He was not conceived by man, but by the Holy Ghost; and she who bare Him, His blessed mother, was at once a mother and a virgin ; and thus He was conceived and “made very man, of the substance of the Virgin Mary His mother, and that without spot of sin, to make us clean from all sin.” This is the mystery of His holy Incarnation, which we believe and profess; yea, it is the very rock upon which the Church is builded, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made for us the son of man.
For He was made the son of man, that in Him, and through Him, we may be made the sons of God; parts of His mystical body, the Church ; engrafted into Him at holy Baptism, and nourished by Him unto eternal life by the blessed sacrament of His Body and Blood. This is the mystery of His holy Incarnation ; 'this His wondrous condescension, by reason of which the Church daily lifts up her voice of praise in her hymn of Te Deum. “Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father. “When Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man, Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb."
And surely the thought of this “great 'mystery of godliness" must be our first and chief thought on this holy day. The infinite con. descension of the eternal Son of God, that He, "who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (yet) made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men : and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross ;" this will be our first and chief thought on this holy day : the Incarnation of the Son of God, and all that it speaks to us of the love and mercy of God, and of our own place in God's Church and household. He came to put away our sin, to renew our fallen nature, to sanctify it by union with the Godhead in His own Person; how should we not endeavour to keep it holy, to sanctify it by inward purity, to put away whatever would defile it, to consecrate it unto Him and unto His service by a holy and devout life ? Since our Lord hath taken unto Him our human nature, and hath made us parts of Himself in holy Baptism, we are no longer what we were, fallen and lost in Adam, but renewed and recreated in Christ; in place of our own natural weakness, we have within us His strength, the power and presence of His Spirit flowing from Him, the true Vine, as the vital sap, and pouring life and fruitfulness into every branch that abideth in Him. The Incarnation of our Lord is a great mystery, indeed one may say the mystery of our faith; yet is it also a great and solemn practical truth, such as may at once lift up our hearts to God in devout thankfulness, and cause us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, yet with a good and comfortable hope, that what of ourselves we could not do, that we can do by His power and His presence within us by His Spirit.
Thus, then, on this holy day our first thought will be on the Incarnation of our Lord, as on this day announced to the Blessed Virgin.
Next our thoughts will naturally pass on to her, who was chosen by God to be the mother of the Son of God incarnate. Great as was God's mercy and favour towards her; great and awful and unspeakable as was her privilegethat she, the daughter of Adam, and thus born in sin, should be so sanctified as to become the mother of the Lord, as that in her womb by a pure and spotless generation, the Son of God should be conceived and made man ;—yet was
mind of the Blessed Virgin lowly and humble
at the last, no less than at the first. The very greatness of God's favour towards her but humbled her the more. When at the first, "the angel came in unto her, and said unto her, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee,” we read, “and when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind, what manner of salutation this should be.” And when, as we have read, the angel made known to her God's purpose of especial grace and favour to her, her answer was that in the text, “ Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word.” Even when called to be the mother of our Lord in the flesh, she forgot not that she was by nature, and in herself, His handmaid; that He who humbled Himself to be made her Son, was yet her God and her Lord, her Creator. And the same spirit is shewn in her hymn of praise; the wonders which God had wrought in her do but humble her the more under a sense of His greatness and of her own lowly estate: it is not in herself, but in God her Saviour that her spirit rejoiceth. I will here read the verses in St. Luke's Gospel, which come next before her hymn of praise, and we shall thus see, how much there was in her state of privilege to move a soul less humble