Thursday, December 25, 2008

The First Day of Christmas

Meditation I: 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 Savior (Luke 2:10).

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 depth of his mercy: Through the depth of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us (Luke 1:78). We were lost; and behold him who came to save us: For our salvation he came down from heaven. 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 gives His life for his sheep (John 10:11). 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, among 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." 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 (Is. 9:6).

Affections and Prayers.

I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost; seek Thy servant (Ps. 118:176). O Lord, I am that sheep which, by following after my own pleasures and caprices, have miserably lost myself; but you, who are at once the shepherd and divine Lamb, are he who came down from heaven to save me by sacrificing yourself as a victim on the cross in satisfaction for my sins. Behold, the Lamb of God; behold him who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). If, therefore, I desire to amend my life, what need I fear? why should I not confide entirely in you, O my Savior, who were born on purpose to save me? Behold, God is my Savior; I will put my trust in him, and will not fear (Is. 12:2). What greater proof could you give me of your mercy, O my dearest Redeemer, to inspire me with confidence, than to give me yourself? O my dear Infant, how grieved am I that I have offended you! I have made you weep in the stable of Bethlehem. But since you have come to seek me, I throw myself at your feet; and although I behold you afflicted and humbled, lying upon straw in the manger, I acknowledge you for my supreme king and sovereign. I feel that your tender infant-cries invite me to love you, and demand my heart. Behold it, my Jesus; I present it today at your feet; change it and inflame it, O you who came into the world to inflame the hearts of men with your holy love. I feel as if I heard you say to me from the manger, Love the Lord your God with your whole heart (Matt. 12:37). And I will answer, Ah, my Jesus, if I do not love you who are my Lord and my God, whom shall I love? You call yourself mine, because you were born in order to give yourself entirely to me; and shall I refuse to be yours? No, my beloved Lord, 1 give myself entirely to you; and I love you with my whole heart. I love you, I love you, I love you, O sovereign Good, the one only love of my soul. I beseech you accept me this day, and permit me never to cease to love you.

O Mary, my Queen, through that consolation which you enjoyed the first time you beheld your new-born Son and gave him your first kiss, beseech him to accept me for his servant, and to chain me forever to himself by the gift of his holy love.

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