Mary at Bethlehem.
The mystery of Bethlehem is full of love and sweetness. Jesus there shows Himself more lovable than upon Calvary. Let us enter into the dispositions of the Most Blessed Virgin.
Let us unite with Mary in her expectation, during the hours that preceded the blessed moment of her Son’s birth. Like her let us redouble our love and fervor. Let us unite in her recollection, and from her dispositions draw this lesson, that we must serve Our Lord as He wishes us to serve Him, and not as we would ourselves. Mary knew by the Prophets all that her Son would have to suffer, and she disposed herself to serve Him as He willed, and to follow Him everywhere. Let us imitate her true love and devotedness. It would appear perfectly natural to Mary for Jesus to be born in a beautiful palace, or at least, as most children, in a certain degree of comfort. But no, He was born in a cave, in the hollow of a rock, into which, after being everywhere repulsed, Mary and Joseph were constrained to retire. St. Joseph’s sorrow must, indeed, have been great. It was upon him, the head of the family, that devolved the care of finding a shelter for his holy Spouse, and we may well imagine his pain and anxiety when, refused admittance everywhere, he was forced to lead Mary at the moment of accouchement into so poor a refuge: as for Mary, she was happy in the midst of rebuffs. She possessed Jesus in her bosom, and she knew that it was He who permitted that they should be rejected and despised, and who had led them to that stable in which He had resolved to be born.
Thus it was that God accomplishes His aid, and when he has vainly exhausted all ends. Man is disturbed, he seeks human means, God leads Him where He wills. God permits that we fruitlessly seek the help of men, in order that we may abandon ourselves to Him, and allow ourselves to be conducted like Mary and Joseph. It is in this state of abandonment that we feel most sensibly the goodness of God. He then takes care of us, and we confidently draw near to Him, like children around their Father. When success crowns our efforts, when Divine Providence has shown Himself more sensibly, our love is no longer the same, for we, perhaps, count too much on our own efforts, and not sufficiently on God. The Israelites received more favors in the desert than in the Promised Land, and God was nearer to them; and Jesus was more lovable in His crib at Bethlehem or in the poor house of Nazareth, than in His public life in the midst of all the wonders that He wrought.
And when Jesus was born—O let us comprehend, if we can, the adoration, the homage, the attentions of Mary. Let us adore Jesus in her arms, or sleeping on her breast. O what a beautiful ostensorium! It was wrought with skill by the Holy Spirit. What more beautiful than Mary even exteriorly? She is the lily, the lily of the valley, pure like it, and grown in an immaculate soil. Mary is the paradise of God! Let us see what flower flourishes therein—Jesus, the Flower of Jesse! And what harvest does it produce Jesus, the Wheat of the elect! And now let us enter into Mary’s soul, and contemplate its beauty, for there is in it a beauty capable of forming our eternal happiness when we know it well. Almighty God exhausted Himself, as it were, in embellishing Mary. Behold the ostensorium of the Word Incarnate! Behold the channel by which Jesus came to us!
Ah, yes! The Eucharist began at Bethlehem, and in the arms of Mary. It was she who brought to humanity the Bread for which it was famishing, and which alone can nourish it. It was she that took care of that Bread for us. Divine Sheep, she nourished the Lamb whose life-giving Flesh we feed upon. She nourished Him with her virginal milk, she nourished Him for the sacrifice, for she already foreknew His destiny. Yes, she knew, and soon she will know still better, that her Lamb as only for immolation. She accepted God’s will and, bearing Him in her own arms, she prepares for us the Victim of Calvary and of our altars. On the day of sacrifice, she will herself conduct her Divine Lamb to Jerusalem, to deliver Him up to Divine Justice for the world s salvation. Ah, Bethlehem already foretells Calvary! Truly, Mary had heard her Son’s first word: "Father, sacrifice and oblation Thou wouldst not. Behold I come!" and she united in His offering and anticipated immolation.
But Bethlehem has its joys, also, joys most sweet. The shepherds, those simple souls, come to adore the Infant God. Mary rejoiced at seeing their homage, and the willing offerings that they made to her Jesus.
Some days later, the Magi bring their tribute of adoration and their royal gifts, and Mary presents her Babe to their love, for they found Him in her arms.
O how often may we not share the happiness of the Magi! How happy is the loving soul when it has found Jesus with Mary, His Mother! They who know the Tabernacle in which He resides, they who receive Him into their soul, know that His conversation is full of divine sweetness, His consolation ravishing, His peace superabundant, and the familiarity of His love and His Heart ineffable.
To find Jesus in the arms of Mary, to unite one s self to the sentiments of Mary when she pressed Him to her heart—O delicious moment! Like the joy of Thabor, it passes all too quickly. It is a moment in which all else is forgotten, in which we no longer desire anything more, not even heaven, for we possess Him, we have Jesus and Mary!
Practice: Let us constantly ask Mary to give us Jesus.
Aspiration: Hail, Mary, holy mountain upon which the Eucharistic Lamb found rich pasturage!