“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  (Matthew 13:44)

While there is a logical correspondence between the worth of a treasure and the glory of a kingdom, this obvious harmony is at once upset by the opposition between the smallness of anything that can be hid in a hole in the ground and the grandness of the Kingdom of the heavens. The image strains to compress a magnificent horizon into a very small compass—with powerful results: the sense of incalculable vastness contained within a very restricted ambit. We may say, in fact, that the Parable of the Hidden Treasure is a metonymy for the Incarnation itself: the greatest of treasures—the Father’s Beloved—became Emmanuel and was hidden by the Holy Spirit within the good earth of the Virgin’s womb.

Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, Chapters 1–25, vol. 2 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996–2012), page 294.

Near the end of book 13 of De Trinitate (“On the Trinity”), Augustine lists some of the main things that we can learn from the incarnation of the Word:

  • The high place the human race holds within God’s creation, in that human nature should be joined to the nature of God in a single person;
  • It makes us aware of the grace of God toward us, given without any previous merits on our part.
  • It shows us that our greatest infirmity, pride, is cured by the humility of God.
  • It teaches us how far we had actually drawn away from God before Christ’s coming: something that can cause us the wholesome pain of remorse when we return to God through such a mediator.
  • It reveals to us the true dimensions of the obedience we owe to God and shows that the reward of obedience is the resurrection of the dead.

 

Brian E. Daley, “Incarnation,” ed. Allan D. Fitzgerald, Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), Page 446.

And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment; 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well.”  (Matthew 9:20–21).

Like Moses on Sinai, she will think herself highly blessed if she can just approach the Holy One from behind, getting a glimpse of his back. “Moses covered his face, for he was afraid to gaze on God” (Exodus 3:6). In her adoring humility the woman does indeed reenact in the presence of Jesus—Emmanuel moving among his people—the awesome joy experienced by Moses when God pronounced his name from the fire: “YHWH—I Am Who Am.”

Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, Chapters 1–25, vol. 1 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996–2012), page 461–462.

On the subject of Jesus as “translator” of God, Fray Luis de León, the Spanish Dominican who was also a great writer, has left us an unforgettable formulation in his treatise on The Names of Christ. He says that the sacred Name of God in the Old Testament, יהוה, the unpronounceable tetragrammaton, is found again in the Hebrew name of Jesus, יהושׁע, with the addition of the radicals from the verb “to save” and the vowels necessary to pronounce the divine Name. In this way, while the proper Name of God is so holy, mysterious, and pure that it cannot be pronounced by a human mouth, the addition of Christ’s divine will to save mankind “translates”, that is, transfers, the sanctity of God to our level as creatures and at last makes it possible for us, too, to pronounce God’s true Name, which cannot be any other than JESUS, and thus be saved. All else that we subsequently come to know about God rests on this primary revelation: He is the One who saves us in Jesus.

Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, Chapters 1–25, vol. 1 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996–2012), Page 71.

 

My Notes:  The name of Jesus in Hebrew (Jeshua) is a contraction of Yahweh-Shua with a full meaning of “I Am Who Am Saves”.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” (Matthew 1:22-23)

 

This is why, in Christ, the distance between the prophet and the Lord disappears, because he who has come is Emmanuel, “God-with-us”. All prophecy is a preparation for the coming of God to man in the flesh. Whatever might have been the moral reforms and changes of heart to which the prophets exhorted the Jews, their goal was not the ethical improvement of the world and the pacification of society for their own sakes, but the building of an appropriate tabernacle on earth as dwelling-place for God. Here again, the center of the universe is the womb of the Virgin, where there already dwells the Holy One sent by the Father. The deepest vocation of the world and of society is to become the divine vessel that the Virgin already is. She is the archetype of redeemed creation.

Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, Chapters 1–25, vol. 1 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996–2012), page 70.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; (Matthew 1:18)

 

This Child is the fruit of the coming together of God and woman, not of man and woman. The horizontality of history and of human generation is abrogated, at least subordinated, to the vertical descent of God to dwell with man. Christ is Emmanuel.

Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, Chapters 1–25, vol. 1 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996–2012), Page 64.

A comparison of the very beginning of the text with its very end may serve to detail the overarching unity of Matthew’s Gospel and its fundamental message. At 1:23 Matthew inserts a quotation from the prophecy of Isaiah (7:14): “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel (a name which means ‘God with us’).” If we then turn to the last sentence in Matthew, we read: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (28:20). Now, these are words that only an incarnate God can speak with truth, and we suddenly realize that everything between these two quotations—the promise and its everlasting fulfillment—is meant by Matthew to represent an unfolding of what it means for “God to be with us” in the person of Jesus.

Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, Chapters 1–25, vol. 2 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996–2012), Page 42.

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