Monday, December 29, 2008

The Fifth Day of Christmas

MEDITATION V: Jesus lying on the Straw.

Jesus is born in the stable at Bethlehem. His poor Mother has neither wool nor down to make a bed for the tender Infant. What does she do, then? She gathers together a small handful of straw into the manger, and puts it there for him to lie on: And she laid Him in the manger (Luke 2:7). But, O my God, how hard and painful is this bed for an infant just born; the limbs of a babe are so delicate, and especially the limbs of Jesus, which were formed by the Holy Spirit with a special delicacy, in order that they might be the more sensible to suffering: A body you have fitted to me (Heb. 10:5).

Wherefore the hardness of such a bed must have caused him excessive pain,—pain and shame; for what child, even of the lowest of the people, is ever laid on straw as soon as he is born? Straw is only a fit bed for beasts; and yet the Son of God had none other on earth than a bed of miserable straw. St. Francis of Assisi heard one day as he sat at table these words of the Gospel: And laid Him in the manger; and exclaimed, "What? my Lord was laid on the straw, and shall I continue to sit?" And thus he arose from his seat, threw himself on the ground, and there finished his scanty meal, mingling it with tears of tenderness as he contemplated the sufferings that the Infant Jesus endured while he lay on the straw.

But why did Mary, who had so earnestly desired the birth of this Son—why did she, who loved him so much, allow him to lie and suffer on this hard bed, instead of keeping him in her arms? This is a mystery, says St. Thomas of Villanova: "Nor would she have laid him in such a place, unless there had been some great mystery in it." This great mystery has been explained by many in different ways, but the most pleasing explanation to me is that of St. Peter Damian: Jesus wished as soon as he was born to be placed on the straw, in order to teach us the mortification of our senses: "He laid down the law of martyrdom." The world had been lost by sensual pleasures; through them had Adam and multitudes of his descendants till then been lost. The Eternal Word came from heaven to teach us the love of suffering; and he began as a child to teach it to us by choosing for himself the most acute sufferings that an infant can endure. It was, therefore, he himself who inspired his Mother to cease from holding him in her tender arms, and to replace him on the hard bed, that he might feel the more cold of the cave and the pricking of this rough straw.

Affections and Prayers.

O Lover of souls, O my loving Redeemer is not, then, the sorrowful Passion that awaits you, and the bitter death that is prepared for you on the cross, sufficient, but you must, even from the beginning of your life, even from your infancy, begin to suffer? Yes, because even as an infant you would begin to be my Redeemer, and to satisfy the divine justice for my sins. You chose a bed of straw to deliver me from the fire of hell, into which I have so many times deserved to be cast. You cried and mourned on this bed of straw to obtain for me pardon from your Father. Oh, how your tears afflict and yet console me! They afflict me from compassion at seeing you, an innocent babe, suffering so much for sins not your own; but they console me, because your sufferings assure me of my salvation, and of your immense love for me. But, my Jesus, 1 will not leave you alone to cry and to suffer. I myself will also weep; for I alone deserve to shed tears on account of the offences I have committed against you. I, who have deserved hell, will not refuse any suffering whatever, so that I may regain your favor, O my Savior. Forgive me, I beseech you; receive me once more into your friendship, make me love you, and then chastise me as you will. Deliver me from eternal punishment, and then treat me as it shall please you. I do not seek for pleasures in this life; he does not deserve pleasure who has had the temerity to offend you, O infinite Goodness. I am content to suffer all the crosses you shall send me; but, my Jesus, I will love you still.

O Mary, who sympathized by your sufferings with the sufferings of Jesus, obtain for me the grace to suffer all my trials with patience. Woe to me if, after so many sins, I do not suffer something in this life! And blessed shall I be if I have the happiness to accompany you in your sufferings, O my sorrowful Mother, and you, O my Jesus, always afflicted and crucified for love of me.

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