Descendit de caelis

A few months back, while going through some materials around the office, I came across a series of small books by a certain Fr. F.H. Drinkwater containing stories illustrating certain points in the Abbreviated Catechism of the Diocese of Birmingham (England). The stories themselves are charming and, on occasion, I may reprint one here (as near as I can tell the copyright on the books has expired).

This story, appropriate for the season, offers an excellent lesson on the meaning of the Incarnation:

There is a story of a young king in the olden days who really cared about his people, and was grieved to know how much they suffered from hunger and cold and pestilence. He did what he could by gifts of clothes and food, but his own resources were scanty, and the people were often too ignorant to do the best for themselves. When the king tried to teach them better ways of farming and building, he people made little response. ‘It’s no good telling the King ot troubles,’ they would say. ‘He could never understand what it is to work or to be hungry and cold.’

The young king felt discouraged and went to a wise old minister and asked his advice.

‘How can I win the confidence of my people?’ he said. ‘I want to show them how to put an end to some of their misfortunes, and help them to bear the others with courage. They do not know their king cares about them — tell me how I can make them understand.’

‘There would be only one way, I think, Your Majesty.’

‘Tell me, for God’s sake.’

‘If Your Majesty could go and live amongst them, not as king, but as one of themselves….’

That night a poorly-clad man left the palace; no one recognized the King and no one knew his secret but the old minister and two or three trusted servants. It was given out that the King had gone on a foreign journey. For months he lived in a poor hut, and lived and ate and worked as a peasant, tended the sick and helped the workers. His fellows soon got to love him and came to him for help and advice, and were very sorry when he said good-bye to them.

When he reappeared at the palace and once more went amongst the people in royal fashion, he was soon recognised by those who had known him as a labourer. the story spread, and thenceforward his people loved and trusted him because he had shown that he loved and cared for them.

To make us understand God’s love for us was the purpose of the Incarnation.

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)