Johannes Tauler OP describes the Nativity as a kind of three births. A trinity that, for Tauler, symbolically reflects the Divine Trinity and finds expression in each individual person who makes herself available to the interior movements of the Holy Spirit. The first is the paternal birth, of God begetting His only Son “within the Divine essence.” The second birth is of Maternal fruitfulness and purity. The third is “effected when God is born within a just soul every day and every hour truly and spiritually, by grace and out of love.” These “three births,” captured within the nativity, bestow upon mankind:
- A paternal outpouring of love that holds nothing back. As Tauler poetically describes in his Christmas sermon, “And so He turns inward, comprehending Himself, and He flows outward in the generation of His Image (that is His Son), which He has known and comprehended. And again, He returns to Himself in perfect self-delight. And this delight streams forth as ineffable love, and that ineffable love is the Holy Spirit. Thus, God turns inward, goes outward, and returns to Himself again.”
- The maternal reflection and interiorization of the Father’s Grace. This manifestation finds perfection in the soul of Mary, as Augustine describes; “Mary was more blessed because God was born spiritually in her soul than because He was born from her in the flesh.” Her soul was virginal and pure, and this is the state that may bring about God’s birth within each of our souls. It is a purity concerned primarily with internal movement, bearing within itself invisible fruit—this is the construction of the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit within one’s heart.
- Finally, the Nativity, delivered in the silence of our being, where in our humility we make the room necessary to receive our guest, purifies the three faculties of our spirit, as Tauler explains, “memory, understanding, and free will. With their aid the soul is able to grasp God and to partake of Him.” In this process the soul is cleansing itself of the temporal things that the fall of Adam has inclined in our hearts to pursue. This is a necessary reversal, and it is one that Augustine implores in us to, “Pour out that you may be filled to go out of yourself, so that you may enter.” As Tauler asks, “does God leave anything empty, so contrary is this to His nature and to His ordinance.”
As an historical event, the Nativity arose from the Thundering Silence of a humble manger in Bethlehem. An event that, in time and space, midwifed more than a decade of peace. As Saint Bede the Venerable demonstrates from Luke 2:1, “But there could be no greater sign of peace than for the whole world to be brought together under one taxing, while its ruler Augustus reigned with so great peace for twelve years, about the time of our Lord’s nativity, that war having been quelled throughout the whole world, there seemed to be a literal fulfillment of the Prophet’s prediction, They shall beat their swords into ploughshares.” May the silence in which the Logos was made flesh penetrate our hearts, planting itself in the fertile soil of our souls, and may it usher in an era of peace so eloquently described by the prophet Isaiah:
He shall judge between the nations, and set terms for many peoples. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.