THE GROWTH OF JESUS
“And Jesus increased in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.”
1. We cannot in a short meditation hope to fathom the meaning of this simple sentence. It has given rise to endless opinions among the Fathers of the Church, theologians, and even the contemplative saints have given it various interpretations. But there are certain fundamental truths which all accept, and upon these it is possible to build enough material to supply a saint’s meditations all his life. Our Lord was God and man. As God He did not and could not grow in any way; in this nature His knowledge, His wisdom, His grace were the same from all eternity; He was as God full and complete even when He lay helpless in the manger. But as man He could and did grow; as man He was limited, even as are all men; we watch the Child’s body being fed and increasing in the natural way, the Boy’s body “waxing strong,” the body of the full-grown man, first resisting cruel treatment, and finally being beaten by torture and dying like any other.
2. And as His body grew, so did such knowledge and such mental experience grow as depended primarily upon the body. With us men, placed and circumscribed as we are, all our knowledge depends in some way upon the body; as the philosophers say: “There is nothing in the intellect which is not first in the senses.” Our eyes, our ears, our sense of touch, etc., are the means by which we grow in understanding; we learn the facts of this life, we draw from them their essence, and with this essence we arrive at our conclusions. So was it with the Holy Child. As a Child He “lived and learned.” St. Paul tells us that “He learned obedience from the things that He suffered”; and we may add that He learned many other things as well. He learned above all what human life was as we human beings learn it. And as He learned so He showed this growth in His life; as it were He kept His Divine understanding in check, while He lived as a true Man among men. And His Mother watched the growth, and marvelled at, and recorded it.
3. “Jesus increased in wisdom.” Wisdom includes many things; it includes depth of insight, breadth of understanding, sagacity of judgment, prudence of counsel. We learn in the hope that learning will make us wise; we pass through experiences of many kinds, and every experience will, if we will let it, make us wiser. In this sense did our Lord increase. “Jesus increased in age.” Age has different stages. The virtues of the Child are not those of the youth; those of the youth are not the virtues of the full-grown man. So did our Lord increase. As a Child He was a child, and acted as a child; as a Boy, he acted as a boy; among men He was a Man, “all things to all men” “in all things like to man,” so that throughout His career his fellow Nazarenes had noticed nothing strange, unnatural, not even as it seemed supernatural, about Him. “Jesus increased in grace with God and men.” In grace with God because at each step in life He “did the work His Father gave Him to do”; in grace with men, if only for the simple reason that the perfect saint is the perfect man. “He hath done all things well,” was the verdict of the crowd early in His public life.
Summary Meditation Points:
- Our Lord could not “increase” in any way as God; but He did “increase” as Man.
- He grew in body, He grew in mind, He showed that growth in His life.
- He grew in wisdom, and age, and grace, as all men grow.
Art: Bust of Jesus Christ representing Jesus as a youth, to commemorate 2000 years since His birth, Carmen Jiménez, 1999, Manuel Ruiz-Garrido, own work, 1999, CC-SA, Wikimedia Commons. Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J., www.stmaryscadoganstreet.co.uk, all rights reserved, used with permission.