By Jacques- Benigne Bossuet
The whole human race allowed itself to be corrupted. In the words of Saint Paul: “In past generations [God] allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16). Each people wished to have its own god and to make it according to its fancy. The true God, who had made all things, became the “unknown god” (Acts 17:23) who, although “not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27) by his works and his gifts, was far removed from our thoughts. A very great evil was triumphing and soon would have become universal. To prevent it, God raised up Abraham, in whom he wished to make a new people and to reunite the peoples of the world in God.
That is the sense of these words: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and in you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Gen. 12:1-3). Here then are two things: first, “I will make of you a great nation,” which will be the Hebrew people. But my benediction will not end here: I will bless, I will sanctify through you, all the families of the earth, who, participating in your grace as in your faith, will all together be one people that has returned to its Creator after so many centuries.
God alone, his own interpreter, has explained the words: “By you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves,” by these, “to your offspring” (Gen. 12:7). That is to say, as the apostle Saint Paul explains both learnedly and devoutly, “and to your offspring” in the singular. There would have to be one fruit, one seed, one son to come forth from Abraham, in whom and by whom would be poured out over all the nations of the earth the benediction promised to them in Abraham. This fruit, this blessed seed, this son of Abraham, was the Christ. This was the very sacred seed promised to the woman at the beginning of our misery, by whom the head of the serpent would be crushed and his empire destroyed.
The same promise was repeated to Isaac and to Jacob. That is why in later days God wished to be known as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exod. 3:6). Yet God sanctifies all the peoples of the earth, not only the Jews who are of the flesh of these patriarchs, but also all the faithful who are the spiritual children of Abraham, who “follow the example of his faith,” as Saint Paul puts it (cf. Rom. 4:12). All of this was accomplished only by Jesus Christ, by whom alone the true God, hitherto forgotten by all the peoples of the world, was preached to the Gentiles. Thus were they brought back to him after so many centuries.
This is why all of the prophets point to the calling of the Gentiles as the definitive sign of the Christ, who would come to sanctify all the peoples. And here is that promise made to Abraham, who was thus the founder of our salvation in Christ.
Let us then enter into this divine alliance made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and let us be true children of the promise. Let us understand the whole power of these words: to be children of the promise is to be the children promised to Abraham. God promised us to this patriarch. If he promised us, then he also gave us. If he promised us, he also made us, for, as the apostle Saint Paul said, “He has the power to accomplish what he has promised” — not to predict, but to accomplish. We are, then, the race that he has made in a particular manner: children of the promise, children of grace, children of the benediction, a new and special people that God has created to serve him.
We are not merely to bear his name, but to be a true people, agreeable to God, zealous in good works, and, as children of mercy, chosen and beloved, loving God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves, and extending our love to all nations and all peoples, as to those who are, like us, heirs to his promise. These are the riches hidden in these few words: “In you and in one of your race all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
The Prophecy of David
“Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming!” (Mark 11:10). “Hosanna to the son of David!” through whom life and salvation have come to us (Matt. 21:9). The psalms of David are the gospel of Jesus Christ in song, in transports of affection, in thanksgiving, and in holy desires. “This is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). This is where the psalms begin. The first shows the happiness of the one who keeps the law of God, and then, in the second, Jesus Christ appears. All the powers of the world conspire against him, and God, who laughs at them from on high, addresses his word to Jesus Christ himself, declaring him to be the son that he has begotten from all eternity (Ps. 2:7). From the beginning, this is the argument of all the psalms.
David saw him in the bosom of his father, “from the womb of the morning,” that is, before all time, and he saw that he would be his son and at the same time his lord (Ps. 110). David saw that he was a sovereign king, reigning by his beauty, by his graciousness, by his mildness, and by his justice, piercing the heart of his enemies by his just vengeance and the heart of his friends by a holy love. David adored him upon his eternal throne, like a God, whom “your God has anointed” with a holy ointment (Ps. 44), as the father and the protector of the poor, whose name will be honorable before him, as the powerful author of the blessing of the Gentiles (Ps. 70), as the preacher of a new law on the holy mountain of Zion (Ps. 2).
David saw all of the miracles of Christ’s life and all of the circumstances of his death; he meditated upon the mystery of it, whole and entire (Ps. 22, 69). In his mind he condemned the disciple who would sell Christ, and he saw his apostolate pass into other hands (Ps. 109).
Christ’s pierced hands and feet, his body violently thrown down and crucified, were the dear objects of his tenderness (Ps. 22:16). By his faith, David threw himself into the arms of Christ, stretched out to a people who had rejected him. He tasted the gall and vinegar that Christ was given in his thirst (Ps. 69:21). David saw everything, even the lots cast for his garments that were divided among them (Ps. 22:18). He was touched by the very least circumstances of Christ’s death and was unable to forget any of them. He rejoiced in spirit to see Christ, after his death, “proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn” (Ps. 22:31), in the great Church, where all the peoples of the world shall be united and where the poor, with the rich, shall be seated at his table. And David followed Christ when he “didst ascend the high mount, leading captives in [his] train” (Ps. 68:18). He adored him, seated at the right hand of the Lord (Ps. 110:5), where Christ was to take his place.
O Jesus, the rare delight, the unique hope, and the love of our father David! This is the reason David was “a man after the Lord’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). His tenderness for this dear son, who is the Son of God as well as his own, has gained him the heart of the eternal Father. If he thought so much about the suffering Jesus throughout his life, how much more did he think of him when he became his image in suffering himself. If he was mild to those who offended him; if he was mute, making no reply or defense; if, far from returning evil for evil, he repaid the imprecations of his enemies with prayer; if this good king offered himself to be the victim for his people, who had been laid low by the angel: he saw the example for all these deeds in Jesus. Should we be astonished that he was so humble and so patient in his flight before Absalom? The obedient son consoled him for the transports and the fury of his own ungrateful and rebellious son.
O Jesus, I come with David to unite myself to your wounds, to pay homage to you at the throne of your glory, to submit myself to your power. I rejoice, Son of David, for all your greatness. No, you have not known corruption (Ps. 16:10), for you are the Holy One of the Lord (Mark 1:24; cf. Luke 1:35). “Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). You “shall reign for ever and ever” and “your kingdom will have no end” (Rev. 11:15; cf. Luke 1:33).
Editor’s note: This article is from adapted from a chapter in Bp. Bossuet’s Meditations for Advent, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.