Meditations - Christmas Day
And it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the Governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass that when they were there, her days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped Him up in swaddling-clothes, and laid Him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds watching and keeping the night-watches over their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone roundabout them, and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them: Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: for this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the Infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good-will”.
The Gospel according to St Luke, ii:1–14.
And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: “Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed to us”. And they came with haste: and they found Mary and Joseph, and the Infant lying in the manger. And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this Child. And all that heard wondered: and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard, and seen, as it was told unto them.
The Gospel according to St Luke, ii:15–20.
Summary of the Morrow’s Meditation
We will meditate tomorrow on the mystery of the day, and we will consider Jesus Christ in the crib: firstly, as our Saviour; secondly, as our Master; thirdly, as the delight of our hearts. We will then make the resolution: firstly, to keep ourselves often in spirit, during this holy day, on our knees before the crib, between Mary and Joseph, as between two cherubims, in order there to render our homage to the new-born Child, and to dedicate ourselves forever to His service; secondly, to honour His sufferings by the cheerful endurance of all the discomforts of the season, His nakedness by our love of poverty, His humiliation by taking care to say or do nothing from self-love. Our spiritual nosegay shall be the words of St Bernard: “The more He humiliates Himself for me, the more I love Him”.
Meditation for the Morning
Let us transport ourselves in thought to Bethlehem, in the society of Mary, who seeks a shelter wherein to give birth to the Word Incarnate, and finds nothing but a stable (joh i:11).
Jesus at His Birth Shows Himself to be our Saviour.
During the space of four thousand years, the world had awaited the Saviour, the patriarchs and prophets had called for Him by their sighs and their tears; for if He had not come we should all of us have been lost. He descends at last to His crib, and there His first care is to save us by satisfying for our sins (luk ii:14). If, in His little cradle, He raises His little hands to heaven, it is in order to soften the justice of His Father; if He sheds tears, it is in order to wash away our stains, and extinguish the fire of divine anger; if He utters sobs, it is in order to call down the divine mercy upon us. His voice is heard. O admirable spectacle! Jesus is in the crib, satisfying for us, and God is in Jesus accepting these satisfactions in payment of our debts. Jesus is in the crib, poor and humiliated, and God is in Jesus accepting these humili- ations and this poverty in expiation of our pride and our love of riches. Jesus is in the crib, suffering, gentle, obedient, and God is in Jesus, accepting these sufferings, this gentleness, this obedience, in expiation of our pleasures, of our impatience, and of our rebellions (2co v:19). It is thus that from His first entrance into the world the Man-God hastens to suffer and to perform penance in our stead. O first tears that my Saviour shed over my sins, I adore and revere you; first cries that He made His Father listen to for me, as the prelude of that great cry by which He Was destined, at His death, to consummate His sacrifice and our redemption, may you resound in the very bottom of my soul, touch it, move it, and make me take my salvation more to heart!
Jesus at His Birth Shows Himself to be our Master.
The wisest philosophers of Athens and of Rome only stammer in comparison with this Divine Child, and their most erudite lessons become pale in presence of the crib. There Jesus preaches wisdom, not by words, but by deeds (St Bernard, On the Nativity). He who could have procured for Himself all the enjoyments of life feeds Himself with His tears, reposes upon a board, trembles with cold, and yields His delicate limbs, so sensible to impressions of suffering, especially at that age, to the severity of the season. It is thus that He teaches us not to humour our senses, not to seek our case, not to flatter our sensuality and our tastes, and not to be impatient at privations. He who, as master of heaven and earth, could have been born in the bosom of opulence is born in extreme poverty, during the difficulties of a journey, where those who are able to take the most precautions still need many things, in the midst of the night, in an abandoned stable. It is thus that He teaches us not to be so greedy after riches; to tear out of our heart the passion for amassing, the cause of so much injustice. Lastly, He, the King of glory, humbles Himself to the lowest degree of humiliation, and seems to find it difficult to discover a place low enough for Him to make His entrance into the world. He thus teaches us not to allow ourselves to be led astray by the desire to be hon- oured and esteemed, by the wish to make an appearance, and to accept scorn and contempt when they present themselves. O Jesus! how admirable are Thy lessons! Who, in presence of Thy crib, could wish for pleasure, riches, or glory?
Jesus at His Birth Shows Himself to be the Delight of our Heart.
“When I contemplate,” said St Bernard, “the Son of God in the bosom of His Father, I am seized with respect, and I tremble with astonishment in presence of His incomparable majesty; but when I see Him in the crib I cannot fear Him, I can only love Him” (St Bernard, On the Nativity). I love Him concealing the majesty which alarms, veiling the glory which dazzles, abasing the loftiness which astonishes, in order to allow only love which at tracts to appear, and the goodness which takes possession of us. It is a little new-born Child; who shall be afraid? (luk ii:10) We have only to draw near to Him and to love; to approach Him and to be touched. The tears of a little forsaken child, even if he were a stranger and un- known, would touch our hearts; how much more, then, ought we to be moved at the sight of this Child God, the tender victim which surfers and weeps in our stead, which stretches forth lovingly His little hands to ask us for our heart, and to say to us with His eyes, as He is unable to speak, “My son, give me thy heart” (pro xiii:26). Who is there that would dare, by his baseness and lukewarmness, to grieve this Divine Child, and draw from His innocent eyes fresh tears? Ah, rather let us go to the altar to receive Him with the utmost love; let us press Him to our breast, pray to Him to come and be born in us, and make of our heart His cradle. From the altar as from the crib we can say, “In His littleness how amiable He is!”; And yet in what manner have we loved Him up to the present? How do we love Him now? O my heart, love at last a God so amiable; breathe nothing now but love for the God of the crib, and may the great feast of Christmas inaugurate in thee a life full of love.
Resolutions and spiritual nosegay as above.