His name will be Emmanuel: God with us (cf. Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23).
If we understand the significance of this name Emmanuel, we will find it includes the notion of Savior. For what is a Savior unless one who takes away sin, just as the angel said? Yet with sins having been taken away and there no longer being any separation between God and us, what remains other than our perfect union with God?
We are, then, perfectly and eternally saved, and we recognize in Jesus, the one who saves us, a true Emmanuel. He is the Savior because in him God is with us. He is God united to our nature. Having been reconciled with God, we are lifted up by grace to be one in spirit with him.
This is the work done by the one who is both what God is and what we are: God and man together. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19). Thus God is with them because they no longer have their sins.
This would be nothing, however, were God not also, at the same time, to prevent them from committing new sins. In the style of Scripture, to say that God is with you means that God protects you. God helps you, and with so powerful an assistance that your enemies will not prevail against you. “They will fight against you,” says the prophet, “but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you” (Jer. 1:19). Be with us, O Emmanuel, so that, after the pardon of our sins, when their pernicious attractions and temptations return, we will remain victorious.
Is this the extent of the grace of our Emmanuel? No. Here is a higher one, the final one of all: he will be with us in eternity, when God will be “everything to every one” (1 Cor. 15:28). He will be with us, to purify us from our sins; with us, to lead us to the life entirely free from sin.
Here, says Saint Augustine, are three degrees through which we pass in order to gain the salvation we are promised in the name of Jesus and the perfect grace of divine union through our Emmanuel: happy, not only when we will no longer falter under the yoke of our sins, but when we will be free of the temptations that imperil our deliverance!
“O Jesus! O Emmanuel! O Savior! O God with us! O victor over sin! O mediator of divine union! With faith I await this blessed day on which you will receive the name of Jesus, the day on which you will be my Emmanuel, always with me, who live amid so many temptations and perils. Protect me with your grace, unite me to yourself, and may all that is in me be subject to your will.”
This article is adapted from a chapter in Meditations for Advent by Jacques-Benigne Bossuet which is available from Sophia Institute Press.
Art for this post on Advent: Cover used with permission; Image of wise men: Photography used with permission of Armagh Planetarium.
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