Meditations for the Octave of Christmas – Dec. 25
The Birth of Jesus.
The birth of Jesus Christ caused a universal joy to the whole world. He was the Redeemer who had been desired and sighed after for so many years; and therefore he was called the desired of the nations, and the desire of the eternal hills. Behold him already come, and born in a little cave. Let us consider that this day the angel announces to us also the same great joy that he announced to the shepherds: 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.1
What rejoicing is there in a country when the first-born son is born to a king! But surely we ought to keep still greater festival when we see the Son of God born and come down from heaven to visit us, urged to this by the bowels of his mercy: Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us.2 We were lost; and behold him who came to save us: He came down from heaven for our salvation.3 Behold the shepherd who came to save his sheep from death by giving his life for their sake: I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep.4 Behold the Lamb of God, who came to sacrifice himself, to obtain for us the divine favor, and to become our deliverer, our life, our light, and even our food in the most Holy Sacrament!
St. Maximus says that for this reason, amongst others, Christ chose to be laid in the manger where the animals were fed, to make us understand that he has become man also to make himself our food: “In the manger, where the food of animals is placed, he allowed his limbs to be laid, thereby showing that his own body would be the eternal food of men.”5 Besides this, he is born every day in the Sacrament by means of the priests and the words of consecration; the altar is the crib, and there we go to feed ourselves on his flesh. Some one might desire to have the Holy Infant in his arms, as the aged Simeon had; but faith teaches us that, when we receive Communion, the same Jesus who was in the manger of Bethlehem is not only in our arms, but in our breasts. He was born for this purpose, to give himself entirely to us: A child is born to us, a son is given to us.6
Affections and Prayers.
I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost; seek Thy servant.7 O Lord, I am that sheep which, by following after my own pleasures and caprices, have miserably lost myself; but Thou, who art at once the shepherd and divine Lamb, art he who camest down from heaven to save me by sacrificing Thyself as a victim on the cross in satisfaction for my sins. Behold, the Lamb of God; behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world.8 If, therefore, I desire to amend my life, what need I fear? why should I not confide entirely in Thee, O my Saviour, who wert born on purpose to save me? Behold, God is my Saviour; I will put my trust in him, and will not fear.9 What greater proof couldst Thou give me of Thy mercy, O my dearest Redeemer, to inspire me with confidence, than to give me Thyself? O my dear Infant, how grieved am I that I have offended Thee! I have made Thee weep in the stable of Bethlehem. But since Thou art come to seek me, I throw myself at Thy feet; and although I behold Thee afflicted and humbled, lying upon straw in the manger, I acknowledge Thee for my supreme king and sovereign. I feel that Thy tender infant-cries invite me to love Thee, and demand my heart. Behold it, my Jesus; I present it to-day at Thy feet; change it and inflame it, O Thou who didst come into the world to inflame the hearts of men with Thy holy love. I feel as if I heard Thee say to me in Thy manger, Love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart.10 And I will answer, Ah, my Jesus, if I do not love Thee, who art my Lord and my God, whom shall I love? Thou callest Thyself mine, because Thou wert born in order to give Thyself entirely to me; and shall I refuse to be Thine? No, my beloved Lord, 1 give myself entirely to Thee; and I love Thee with my whole heart. I love Thee, I love Thee, I love Thee, O sovereign Good, the one only love of my soul. I beseech Thee accept me this day, and permit me not evermore to cease to love Thee. O Mary, my Queen, I pray thee, through that consolation which them didst enjoy the first time thou didst behold thy new-born Son and didst give him thy first kiss, beseech him to accept me for his servant, and to enchain me forever to himself by the gift of his holy love.