At the heart of the spirituality of Father George Preca is his ardent devotion to the incarnation of the Son of God. In his choice, he went to the very essence of Christianity
A little background
Father Preca had read the life of Sister Mary of the Passion who died at the age of forty-six at Barra near Naples. Her biography was written by the Barnabite Luigi M. Fontana. This book left a deep impression upon the mind and heart of the Founder. According to this life, this Sister was living a troubled life and Jesus Christ appeared to her and marked on her the words "Verbum Dei caro factum est". These words, which remind us of the prologue of the Gospel of Saint John, impressed the Founder's heart so much that they gradually became the distinctive sign of the Society of Christian Doctrine. In fact at first he wanted that everybody wears the badge as a profession of faith in the humanity of Jesus Christ.
The December Pages
These gospel words are rich of theological meaning. Jesus Christ is truly divine and truly human. Fr Preca dedicated the December Pages to the Incarnation. He simply named them The Verbum Caro . In these Pages he seems like a Doctor of the Church explaining the event and implication of the Incarnation. Therin we find dogmatic, moral, spiritual and didactic elements, blended together to instruct the reader to meditate on the Incarnation. In his introduction to this treatise he again mentions the story of the Venerable Sister Mary of the Passion. Yet he mentions another story, from the revelations of St Gertrude in which she affirms that once Jesus Christ said to her: "I, the incarnate God, from the right hand of the Father, with whom him I reign together with the Holy Spirit, bow out of reverence to those who adore the words Verbum Dei caro factum est."
These Pages of the Verbum caro are full of citations from Sacred Scripture, and the Church Fathers. They show us how devoted Fr Preca was to the words "Verbum Dei" and how clear was his mind about their meaning. In fact he writes: "When Arius at the beginning of the IV century began to divulge false doctrines, all the bishops and faithful protested and defended Christ's Divinity. The consensus was so strong that the basis of its strength must date to apostolic times" (6th December).
Fr Preca at the end of every Page composed a short prayer which says: "We confess together that the Son of God was made flesh". Perhaps this word reminds me of another Greek word 'Sarx" which means flesh and is used in the prologue of the Gospel of St John.
For the Founder the mystery of Incarnation was not fact like those we read in the newspapers but the spiritual implications. These are shown to us by the Founder in the School of Bethlehem , which is a short novena for Christmas.
The first day of the novena is dedicated entirely to the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, while in the second day Fr Preca expounds the truth of the humanity of Christ. So in the first two day, he expounds the dogmatic notions of the Incarnation. But the novena proceeds not with dogmatic truths but mainly about spiritual values which are taught to us by the Incarnation.
The third day is devoted to poverty. In fact Fr. Preca teaches us in a simple manner that the incarnated Christ "gives a lesson to mankind to appreciate poverty that is the real cause of so many spiritual benefits". He also states emphatically that his "palace is the cave of animals and his decorated bed is the manger".
This novena shows us that Christ's Incarnation was so loved by Fr Preca that he meditated it continuously. For him this event changed the destiny of mankind and all spiritual benefits are derived from it.
The fourth day is dedicated to obedience. In the incarnation he sees a double obedience: Jesus was born at Bethlehem as predicted by the prophets because Joseph and Mary obeyed the civil law of Caesar to be enrolled in his native town. He sees also the obedience of Christ: "God sent to the world his only begotten Son to die and redeem all humanity, and his obedience clothed him with flesh according to human nature and placed him as a servant of his brothers".
The fifth day has two lessons. one on hell and the other on the malice of human nature. He introduces these lessons in this way: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, the true light, came in his world to enlighten mankind and to infuse in our souls peace". Fr Preca proceeds by saying that in all his actions and teaching, Jesus Christ manifests to us how deceitful human nature is. He was not a follower of the maxims of the world but rather he showed us how futile they are. These teachings are simple but the manner in which the Founder expounds them shows us how much he contemplated Jesus in the manager and what Incarnation means to all people.
The sixth day is divided in two parts. one is about God's providence and the other about the dignity of the Christian. He says that God's providence is so great that he sent his only begotten Son to save us from eternal perdition and thus lead us in the way to know, love and serve God and thus we save our souls. "Man plunged into sin but God saved him, constituted him as his son, and a heir to his eternal glory. How great is the dignity of the Christian!"
The seventh day, which treats the faithfulness of God that sent his Son as promised in the Bible, has another lesson on the mercy of God. This Page is concluded thus, "Mercy caused the incarnation of the Divine Word".
Other spiritual values treated in the remaining days are forgiveness, humility, silence and patience. Fr Preca says that in the incarnation God sent his Son to save us from sin and thus it is a lesson of forgiveness. Christ came as a humble person and so we must be humble. Christ was born in silence, away from the noises of the world. "The first lesson that Christ gave to the world is silence and manifested how by silence the kingdom of God is made present in the hearts of people".
The last spiritual value taught by Fr Preca, in this novena is patience since by being born in a cave used for animals, Christ was prepared to suffer all kinds of hardship that human nature is not so willing to accept.
These citations from the writings of the Founder are a stimulus for us Members to love Jesus Christ. Our Founder was a pious priest, but his holiness was not built on sentiments but on dogmatic truths. We can attain this holiness by meditating on the person of Jesus Christ.
The spirituality of Fr Preca and all his actions in connection with the divulging of the Verbum Dei is a challenge especially where Christmas is celebrated only in a materialistic manner.
In this manner his idea of making a demonstration of baby Jesus stemmed from his spiritual convictions about the humanity of Christ.
May this Christmas of the Jubilee be a spiritual renewal in the mode and manner of our Founder
Angelo Xuereb sdc
Qala - Gozo
Preca Calling - Issue 48 (November 2000)