Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Octave of the Epiphany

MEDITATION VIII: The Loss of Jesus in the Temple.

St. Luke relates that Mary and Joseph went every year to Jerusalem on the Feast of the Pasch, and took the Infant Jesus with them. It was the custom, says the Venerable Bede, for the Jews to make this journey to the temple, or at least on their return home, the men separated from the women; and the children went at their pleasure, either with their fathers or their mothers. Our Redeemer, who was then twelve years old, remained during this solemnity for three days in Jerusalem. Mary thought he was with Joseph, and Joseph that he was with Mary: Thinking that He was in the company (Luke 2:44).

The Holy Child employed all these three days in honoring his eternal Father by fasts, vigils, and prayers, and in being present at the sacrifices, which were all figures of his own great sacrifice on the cross. If he took a little food, says St. Bernard, he must have procured it by begging; and if he took any repose, he could have had no other bed but the bare ground.

When Mary and Joseph arrived in the evening at their home, they did not find Jesus; wherefore, full of sorrow, they began to seek him amongst their relatives and friends. At last, returning to Jerusalem, the third day they found him in the Temple, disputing with the Doctors, who, full of astonishment, admired the questions and answers of this wonderful child. On seeing him, Mary said, Son, why have you done so to us? Behold your father and I have sought you sorrowing (Luke 2:48).

There is not upon earth a sorrow like to that which is felt by a soul that loves Jesus, when she fears that Jesus Christ has withdrawn himself from her through some fault of hers. This was the sorrow of Mary and Joseph, which afflicted them so much during these days, for they perhaps feared, through their humility, as says the devout Lanspergius, that they had rendered them selves unworthy of the care of such a treasure. Where fore, on seeing him, Mary said to him, in order to express to him this sorrow: Son, why have you done so to us? Behold your father and I have sought you sorrowing (Luke 2:48). And Jesus answered, Did you not know that I must be about my father’s business (Luke 2:49)?

Let us learn from this mystery two lessons; the first, that we must leave all our friends and relatives when the glory of God is in question. The second, that God easily makes himself found by those who seek him: The Lord is good to the soul that seeks him (Lam. 3:25).

Affections and Prayers.

O Mary, you weep because you lost your Son for a few days; he has withdrawn himself from your eyes, but not from your heart. Don’t you see that the pure love with which you love him keeps him constantly united and bound to you? You know well that he who loves God cannot but be loved by God, who says, I love those that love Me (Prov. 8:17); and with St. John, He that abides in charity abides in God, and God in him (I John 4:16). Why, then, do you fear? Why do you weep? Leave these tears to me, who have so often lost God through my own fault, by driving him away from my soul. O my Jesus, how could I offend you thus with my eyes open, when I knew that by sinning I should lose you? But you do not will that the heart that seeks you should despair, but rather that it should rejoice: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord (Ps. 104:3). If hitherto I have forsaken you, O my Love, 1 will now seek, and will seek none but you. And provided I possess your grace, I renounce all the goods and pleasures of this world. I renounce even my own life. You said that you love him who loves you; I love you, love me also. I esteem your love more than the dominion of the whole world. O my Jesus, I desire not to lose you any more; but I cannot trust to myself; I trust in you: In you, O Lord, have I put my trust; I shall not be confounded forever (Ps. 30:6). I beseech you, bind me to you, and permit me not to be separated from you again.

O Mary! through you I have found my God, whom I once had lost. Obtain for me also holy perseverance. I will also say to you, with St. Bonaventure, In you, O Lady, have I hoped; let me not be confounded forever.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Seventh Day in the Octave of the Epiphany

MEDITATION VII: The Same Subject continued.

St. Luke, speaking of the residence of the Infant Jesus in the house at Nazareth, writes: And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age, and grace with God and men (Luke 2:52). As Jesus grew in age, so did he increase in wisdom: not that he went on every year acquiring a greater knowledge of things, as is the case with us; for, from the first moment of his life, Jesus was full of all divine knowledge and wisdom: In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3); but it is said that he advanced, because every day as he advanced in age he manifested more and more his sublime wisdom.

Thus it is also said that he advanced in grace with God and men; with God, because all his divine actions, though they did not render him more holy or increase his merit, since Jesus was from the first full of sanctity and merit, of whose fulness we have received all graces: of his fulness we have all received (John 1:16); yet, nevertheless, these operations of the Redeemer were all sufficient in themselves to increase his grace and merit.

He advanced also in grace with men, increasing in beauty and amiability. Oh, how Jesus showed himself more and more amiable every day of his youth, showing more and more every day the claims he had upon men’s love! With what delight did the holy youth obey Mary and Joseph! With what recollection of mind did he work! With what moderation did he take his food! With what modesty did he speak! With what sweet ness and affability did he converse with all! With what devotion did he pray! In a word, every action, every word, every motion of Jesus, inflamed with love the hearts of all those who beheld him, and especially of Mary and of Joseph, who had the good fortune to see him always at their side. Oh, how these holy spouses remained always intent on contemplating and admiring all the operations, the words, and gestures of this Man-God!

Affections and Prayers.

Grow, my beloved Jesus, grow continually for me. Grow to teach me your virtues by your divine examples. Grow to consummate the great sacrifice on the cross, on which depends my eternal salvation! Grant also, my Savior, that I too may grow more in your love and grace. Miserable that I have been, I have hitherto only increased in ingratitude towards you who has loved me so much. O my Jesus, grant that in future it may be just the contrary with me. You know all my weakness, it is from you that I must receive light and strength. Make me know the claims which you have to my love. You are a God of infinite beauty and of infinite majesty, who did not refuse to come down upon this earth and become man for us, and for our sakes to lead an abject and painful life, and to end it by a most cruel death. And where can we ever find an object more amiable and more worthy of love than you? Fool that I was, in times past I refused to know you, and therefore I have lost you. I implore your pardon; I am heartily sorry, and I am determined to be entirely devoted to you in future. Assist me. Remind me constantly of the life of suffering and the bitter death you endured for the love of me. Give me life and give me strength. When the devil presents to me forbidden fruit, grant me strength to despise it, and let me not for some vile and momentary good risk losing you, O infinite Good. I love you, my Jesus, who died for me. I love you, infinite Goodness. I love you, O Beloved of my soul.

O Mary, you are rny hope. Through your intercession I hope to obtain grace to love my God from this time forth and forever, and never to love any but God.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Sixth Day in the Octave of the Epiphany

MEDITATION VI: The Dwelling of Jesus at Nazareth.
St. Joseph, on his return to Palestine, heard that Archelaus reigned in Judea instead of his father, Herod, wherefore he was afraid to go and live there; and being warned in a dream, he went to live in Nazareth, a city of Galilee, and there in a poor little cottage he fixed his dwelling. O blessed house of Nazareth, I salute and venerate you! There will come a time when you will be visited by the great ones of the earth: when the pilgrims find themselves inside your poor walls, they will never be satisfied with shedding tears of tenderness at the thought that within them the King of Paradise passed nearly all his life.

In this house, then, the Incarnate Word lived during the remainder of his infancy and youth. And how did he live? Poor and despised by men, performing the offices of a common working-boy, and obeying Joseph and Mary: and He was subject to them (Luke 2:51). O God, how touching it is to think that in this poor house the Son of God lives as a servant! Now he goes to fetch water; then he opens or shuts the shop; now he sweeps the room; now he collects the shavings for the fire; now he labors in assisting Joseph at his trade. O wonder! To see a God sweeping! A God serving as a boy! O thought that ought to make us all burn with holy love to our Redeemer, who has reduced himself to such humiliations in order to gain our love!

Let us adore all these servile actions of Jesus, which were all divine. Let us adore, above all, the hidden and neglected life that Jesus Christ led in the house of Nazareth! O proud men, how can you desire to make your selves seen and honored, when you behold your God, who spends thirty years of his life in poverty, hidden and unknown, to teach us the love of retirement and of an humble and a hidden life!

Affections and Prayers.

O my adorable Infant, I see you an humble servant-boy, working even in the sweat of your brow in this poor shop. I understand it all; you are serving and working for me. But since you employ your whole life for the love of me, so grant, my dear Savior, that I may employ all the rest of my life for your love. Look not at my past life: it has been a life of sorrow and tears both for me and for you, a life of disorder, a life of sins. Oh, permit me at least to keep you company during the remainder of my days, and to labor and suffer with you in the shop of Nazareth, and afterwards to die with you on Calvary, embracing that death which you have destined for me. My dear Jesus, my love, suffer me not to leave and forsake you again, as I have done in times past. You, my God, are suffering such poverty in a shop, hidden, unknown, and despised; and I, a vile worm, have gone about seeking honors and pleasures, and for the sake of these have separated myself from you, O sovereign Good! No, my Jesus, I love you; and because I love you, I will not remain any longer separated from you. I renounce all things, in order to unite myself to you, my hidden and despised Redeemer. Your grace gives me more happiness than have all the vanities and pleasures of the world, for which I have so miserably forsaken you. Eternal Father, for the merits of Jesus Christ, unite me to yourself by the gift of your holy love.

Most holy Virgin, how blessed were you, who, being the companion of your Son in his poor and hidden life, made yourself so like to your Jesus! O my Mother, grant that I also, at least during the short remainder of my life, may endeavor to become like to you and to my Redeemer.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fifth Day in the Octave of the Epiphany

MEDITATION V: The Return of Jesus from Egypt.

After the death of Herod, and an exile of seven years, according to the common opinion of the Doctors, during which time Jesus lived in Egypt, the angel again appeared to St. Joseph, and commanded him to take the Holy Child and his Mother and return to Palestine. St. Joseph, consoled by this command, communicates it to Mary. Before their departure, these holy spouses courteously informed the friends whom they had made in the country. Joseph then collects the few instruments of his trade, Mary her little bundle of clothes, and taking by the hand the divine Child, they set out on their journey homewards, leading him between them.

St. Bonaventure considers that this journey was more fatiguing to Jesus than was the flight into Egypt, because he was now become too large for Mary and Joseph to carry him much in their arms; but at the same time the Holy Child, at his age, was not able to make a long journey, so that Jesus was obliged through fatigue frequently to stop .and rest himself on the way. But Joseph and Mary, whether they walk or sit, always keep their eyes and thoughts fixed upon the beloved little Child, who was the object of all their love. Oh, with what recollection does that happy soul travel through this life who keeps before its eyes the love and the examples of Jesus Christ!

The holy pilgrims interrupt now and then the silence of this journey by some holy conversation; but with whom and of whom do they converse? They speak only with Jesus and of Jesus. He who has Jesus in his heart speaks only with Jesus or only speaks of him.

Consider again the pain that our little Savior must have endured during the nights of this journey, in which he had no longer the bosom of Mary for his bed, as in his flight, but the bare ground; and for his food he had no more milk, but a little hard bread, too hard for his tender age. He was probably also afflicted by thirst in this desert, in which the Jews had been in such want of water that a miracle was necessary to supply them with it. Let us contemplate and lovingly adore all these sufferings of the Child Jesus.

Affections and Prayers.

Beloved and adored Child, you return to your country; but to where, O God, to where do you return? You come to that place where your countrymen prepare for you insults during life, and then scourges, thorns, ignominy, and a cross at your death. But all was already present to your divine eyes, O my Jesus, and yet you come of your own will to meet that Passion which men prepare for you. But, my Redeemer, if you had not come to die for me, I could not go to love you in Paradise, but must have always remained far away from you. Your death has been my salvation. But how is it, Lord, that by despising your grace I have again condemned myself to hell, even after your death, by which you delivered me from it? I acknowledge that hell is but a slight punishment for me. But you have waited to pardon me. I thank you for it, O my Redeemer, and I repent, and detest all the offences I have committed against you. O Lord, I beseech you, deliver me from hell. Ah, if I were miserable enough to damn myself, how would my torments in hell be increased by the remorse caused by my having meditated during my life on the love that you have borne me! It would not be so much the fire of hell as your love, O my Jesus, that would be my hell. But you came into the world to kindle the fire of your holy love; I desire to burn with this fire, and not with that which would keep me forever separated from you. I repeat, therefore, O my Jesus, deliver me from hell, because in hell I cannot love you.

O Mary, my Mother, I hear it everywhere said and preached that those who love you and trust in you, provided they desire to amend their lives, will not go to hell. I love you, my Lady, and I trust in you; I will amend my life: O Mary, remember to deliver me from hell!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Fourth Day in the Octave of the Epiphany

MEDITATION IV: The Dwelling of Jesus in Egypt.

Jesus chose to dwell in Egypt during his infancy, that he might lead a more hard and abject life. According to St. Anselm and other writers, the holy family lived in Heliopolis. Let us with St. Bonaventure contemplate the life that Jesus led during the seven years that he remained in Egypt, as it was revealed to St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi.

The house they live in is very poor, because St. Joseph has but little wherewith to pay rent; their bed is poor, their food poor; their life, in short, is one of strict poverty, for they barely gain their livelihood day by day by the work of their hands, and they live in a country where they are unknown and despised, having there neither relatives nor friends.

This holy family does indeed live in great poverty, but oh, how well-ordered are the occupations of these three sojourners! The holy Infant speaks not with his tongue; but in his heart he speaks indeed and continually to his heavenly Father, applying all his sufferings, and every moment of his life, for our salvation. Neither does Mary speak; but at the sight of that dear Infant she meditates on the divine love, and the favor that God has conferred upon her by choosing her for his Mother. Joseph also works in silence; and at the sight of the divine Child his heart is inflamed, while he thanks him for having chosen him for the companion and guardian of his life.

In this house Mary weans Jesus: at first she fed him from her breast, now she feeds him with her hands. She holds him on her lap, takes from the porringer a little bread soaked in water, and then puts it into the sacred mouth of her Son. In this house Mary made her Infant his first little garment; and when the time was come, she took off his swaddling-clothes, and began to put on this vestment. In this house the Child Jesus began to walk and speak. Let us adore the first steps that the Incarnate Word began to take in this house, and the first words of eternal life that he began to utter. Here he began also to do the work of a little servant-boy, occupying himself in all the little services that a child can render.

Ah, weaning! Ah, little garment! Ah, first steps! Ah, lisping words! Ah, little services of the little Jesus. How do you not wound and inflame the hearts of those who love Jesus and meditate on you! Behold a God trembling and falling, a God lisping, a God become so weak that he can occupy himself in nothing but in little house hold affairs, and unable even to lift a bit of wood, if too heavy for the strength of a child! O holy faith, enlighten us, and make us love this good Lord, who for the love of us has submitted himself to so many miseries! It is said that on the entrance of Jesus into Egypt all the idols of the country fell down; oh, let us pray to God that he will make us love Jesus from our hearts, since in that soul where the love of Jesus enters, all the idols of earthly affections are overthrown.

Affections and Prayers.

O Holy Infant, who lives in this country of barbarians poor, unknown, and despised, I acknowledge you for my God and Savior, and I thank you for all the humiliations and sufferings you endured in Egypt for the love of me. By your manner of life there you teach me to live as a pilgrim on this earth, giving me to understand that this is not my country; but that Paradise, which you have purchased for me by your death is my home. Ah, my Jesus, I have been ungrateful to you because I have thought but little of what you have done and suffered for me. When I think that you, the Son of God, led a life of such tribulation upon this earth, so poor and neglected, how is it possible that I should go about seeking the amusements and good things of the earth? Take me, my dear Redeemer, for your companion. Admit me to live always united with you on this earth, in order that united with you in heaven, I may love you there, and be your companion throughout eternity. Give me light, increase my faith. What goods, what pleasures, what dignities, what honors—all is vanity and folly. The only real riches, the only real good, is to possess you, who are the infinite Good. Blessed he who loves you! I love you, O my Jesus, and I seek none other but you. I desire you, and you desire me. If I had a thousand kingdoms, I would renounce them all to please you, "my God and my All." If in times past I have sought after the vanities and pleasures of this world, I now detest them, and am sorry that I have done so. My beloved Savior, from this day forward you shall be my only delight, my only love, my only treasure.

Most holy Mary, pray to Jesus for me. Beseech him to make me rich in his love alone, and I desire nothing else.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Third Day in the Octave of the Epiphany

MEDITATION III: The Flight of Jesus into Egypt.

The angel appeared to St. Joseph in a dream, and in formed him that Herod was seeking the Infant Jesus to destroy his life; wherefore he said, Arise, and take the Child and His Mother, and fly into Egypt (Matt. 2:13). Behold, then, how Jesus is no sooner born than he is persecuted unto death. Herod is a figure of those miserable sinners who, as soon as they see Jesus Christ born again in their souls by the pardon of sin, persecute him to death by returning to their sins: They seek the Child to destroy Him.

Joseph immediately obeys the command of the angel without delay, and gives notice of it to his holy spouse. He then takes the few tools that he can carry, in order to make use of them in his trade, and to be able in Egypt to support his poor family. Mary at the same time puts together a little bundle of clothes for the use of the holy Child; and then she goes into her cell, kneels down first before her Infant Son, kisses his feet, and then with tears of tenderness says to him, O my Son and my God, hardly are you born and come into the world to save men, when these men seek you to put you to death. She then takes him; and the two holy spouses, shedding tears as they go, shut the door, and the same night set out on their journey.

Let us consider the occupations of these holy pilgrims during their journey. All their conversation is upon their dear Jesus alone, on his patience and his love; and thus they console themselves in the midst of the trials and inconveniences of so long a journey. Oh, how sweet it is to suffer at the sight of Jesus suffering! O my soul, says St. Bonaventure, do thou also keep company with these three poor holy exiles; and have compassion with them in the long, wearisome, and painful journey which they are making. And beseech Mary that she will give you her divine Son to carry in your heart.

Consider how much they must have suffered, especially in those nights which they had to pass in the desert of Egypt. The bare earth serves them for a bed in the cold open air. The Infant weeps, Mary and Joseph shed tears of compassion. O holy faith! who would not weep at seeing the Son of God become an infant, poor and forsaken, flying across a desert in order to escape death?

Affections and Prayers.

My dear Jesus, you are the King of Heaven, but now I behold you as an infant wandering over the earth. Tell me whom are you in search of ? I pity you when I see you so poor and humbled, but I pity you more when I see you treated with such ingratitude by those same men whom you came to save. You weep; but I also weep, because I have been one of those who in times past have despised and persecuted you. But now I value your grace more than all the kingdoms of the world. Forgive me, O my Jesus all the evil I have committed against you, and permit me to carry you always in my heart during the journey of my life to eternity, even as Mary carried you in her arms during the flight into Egypt. My beloved Redeemer, I have many times driven you out of my soul, but now I hope that you have again taken possession of it. I beseech you, bind it to yourself with the sweet chains of you love. I will never again drive you from me. But I fear lest I should again abandon you, as I have done in past times. O my Lord, let me die rather than treat you with fresh and still more horrible ingratitude. I love you, O infinite Goodness; and I will always repeat to you, I love you, I love you, I love you; and so I hope to die saying, God of my heart, and the God that is my portion forever (Ps. 72:26). O my Jesus! you are so good, so worthy of being loved. Make yourself loved; make yourself loved by all the sinners who persecute you. Give them light, make them know the love you have borne them and the love that you deservest since you go wandering ahout the earth as a poor Infant, weeping and trembling with cold, and seeking souls to love you!

O Mary, most holy Virgin, O dearest Mother and companion of the sufferings of Jesus, help me always to carry and preserve in my heart your Son, in life and in death!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Seccond Day in the Octave of the Epiphany

MEDITATION II: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

The time having now come when, according to the law, Mary had to go to the Temple for her purification, and to present Jesus to the divine Father, behold she sets out in company with Joseph. Joseph carries the two turtle-doves that they are to offer to God, and Mary carries her dear Infant: she takes the Lamb of God to offer him to the Almighty, in token of the great sacrifice that this Son should one day accomplish on the cross.

Consider the holy Virgin entering the Temple; she makes an oblation of her Son on the part of the whole human race, and says: Behold, O Eternal Father, your beloved only-begotten One, who is your Son and mine also; I offer him to you as a victim to your divine justice, in order to appease your wrath against sinners. Accept him, O God of mercy! have pity on our miseries; for the love of this immaculate Lamb receive men into your grace.

The offering of Mary is joined to that of Jesus. Be hold me (says also the holy Infant), behold me, O My Father; to you do I consecrate my whole life; you have sent me into the world to save it by my blood; behold my blood and my whole self. I offer myself entirely to you for the salvation of the world. He delivered Himself . . . an oblation and a sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:2).

No sacrifice was ever so acceptable to God as this which his dear Son then made to him; who had become, even from his infancy, a victim and priest. If all men and angels had offered their lives, their oblation could not have been so dear to God as was this of Jesus Christ, because in this offering alone the Eternal Father received infinite honor and infinite satisfaction.

If Jesus offers his life to his Father for the love of us, it is just that we should offer him our life and our entire being. This is what he desires, as he signified to the blessed Angela of Foligno, saying to her, "I have offered myself for you, in order that you should offer yourself to me."

Affections and Prayers.

Eternal Father, I, a miserable sinner, who have deserved a thousand hells, present myself this day before you, O God of infinite majesty, and I offer you my poor heart. But, O God, what a heart is it that I offer you? A heart that has never known how to love you, but has, on the contrary, so often offended you and so often betrayed you; but now I offer it to you full of penitence, and resolved to love you at all costs and to obey you in all things. Pardon me, and draw me entirely to your love. I do not deserve to be heard; but your infant Son, who offers himself to you in the Temple as a sacrifice for my salvation, merits for me this grace. I offer you this your Son and his sacrifice, and in this I place all my hopes. I thank you, O my Father, for having sent him upon the earth to sacrifice himself for me. And I bless you, O Incarnate Word, Lamb of God, who offered yourself to die for my soul. I love you, my dear Redeemer, and you alone will I love; for I find none but you that has offered and sacrificed his life to save me. It makes me shed tears to think how grateful I have been to others and how ungrateful to you alone; but you do not will not my death, but that I should be converted and live. Yes, my Jesus, I turn to you, and repent with my whole heart of having offended you, and of having offended my God, who has thus sacrificed himself for me. Give me life, and that life shall consist in loving you, the sovereign Good. Make me love you, I ask nothing more.

Mary, my Mother, you offered at that time your Son in the Temple even for me. Offer him again for me, and beseech the Eternal Father, for the love of Jesus, to accept me for his own. And you also, my Queen, accept me for your perpetual servant. If I am your servant, I shall also be the servant of your Son.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


MEDITATION I: The Adoration of the Magi.

Jesus is born poor in a stable; the angels of heaven in deed acknowledge him, but men abandon and forsake him on earth. Only a few shepherds come and pay him homage. But our Redeemer was desirous of communicating to us the grace of his redemption, and begins therefore to manifest himself to the Gentiles, who knew him least. Therefore he sends a star to enlighten the holy Magi, in order that they may come and acknowledge and adore their Savior. This was the first and sovereign grace bestowed upon us, our vocation to the faith; which was succeeded by our vocation to grace, of which men were deprived.

Behold the wise men, who immediately, without delay, set off upon their journey. The star accompanies them as far as the cavern where the holy Infant lies: on their arrival they enter; and what do they find? They found the child with Mary (Matt. 2:11). They find a poor maiden and a poor Infant wrapped in poor swaddling-clothes, without any one to attend on him or assist him. But, lo! on entering into the little shed these holy pilgrims feel a joy which they had never felt before; they feel their hearts chained to the dear little Infant which they behold. The straw, the poverty, the cries of their little Savior. Oh, what darts of love! Oh, what blessed flames are they to their enlightened hearts! The Infant looks upon them with a joyful countenance, and this is the mark of affection with which he accepts them amongst the first-fruits of his redemption.

The holy kings then look at Mary, who does not speak—she remains silent; but with her blessed countenance that breathes the sweetness of paradise she welcomes them, and thanks them for having been the first to come and acknowledge her son (as indeed he is) for their Sovereign Lord. See also how, out of reverence, they adore him in silence, and acknowledge him for their God, kissing his feet, and offering him their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Let us also with the holy Magi adore our little King Jesus, and let us offer him all our hearts.

Affections and Prayers.

O amiable Infant, though I see you in this cavern lying on straw poor and despised, yet faith teaches me that you are my God, who came down from heaven for my salvation. I acknowledge you, then, for my sovereign Lord and Savior; but, alas, I have nothing, to offer you. I have no gold of love, be cause I have loved creatures; I have loved my own caprices, but I have not loved you, O amiable infinite One! I have not the incense of prayer, because I have lived in a miserable state of forgetfulness of you. I have no myrrh of mortification, for I have often displeased your infinite goodness that I might not be deprived of my miserable pleasures. What then shall I offer you? I offer you my heart, filthy and poor as it is; accept it, and change it. You came into the world for this purpose, to wash the hearts of men from their sins by your blood, and thus change them from sinners into saints. Give me, therefore, I pray, this gold, this incense, and this myrrh. Give me the gold of your holy love; give me the spirit of holy prayer, give me the desire and strength to mortify myself in everything that displeases you. I am resolved to obey you and to love you; but you know my weakness; oh, give me the grace to be faithful to you!
Most holy Virgin, with great affection you welcomed and consoled the holy Magi; welcome and console me also, who come to visit your Son and to offer myself to him. O my Mother, I have great confidence in your intercession! Recommend me to Jesus. To you I intrust my soul and my will; bind it forever to the love of Jesus!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

MEDITATION XII: The Abasement of Jesus.

The eternal Word descends on earth to save man; and whence does he descend? His going out is from the end of heaven (Ps. 18:7). He descends from the bosom of his divine Father, where from eternity he was begotten in the brightness of the saints. And where does he descend? He descends into the womb of a virgin, a child of Adam, which in comparison with the bosom of God is an object of horror; wherefore the Church sings, "You did not abhor the Virgin’s womb." Yes, because the Word, being in the bosom of the Father, is God like the Father—is immense, omnipotent, most blessed and supreme Lord, and equal in everything to the Father. But in the womb of Mary he is a creature, small, weak, afflicted, a servant inferior to the Father, Taking the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7).

It is related as a great prodigy of humility in St. Alexis that, although he was the son of a Roman gentleman, he chose to live as a servant in his father’s house. But how is the humility of this saint to be compared with the humility of Jesus Christ? Between the son and the servant of the father of St. Alexis there was, it is true, some difference; but between God and the servant of God there is an infinite difference. Besides, this Son of God having become the servant of his Father in obedience to him, made himself also the servant of his creatures; that is to say, of Mary and Joseph: And he was subject to them (Luke 2:51). Moreover, he made himself even a servant of Pilate, who condemned him to death, and he was obedient to him, and accepted it; he became a servant to the executioners, who scourged him, crowned him with thorns, and crucified him: and he humbly obeyed them all, and yielded himself into their hands.

O God! and shall we, after this, refuse to submit our selves to the service of so loving a Savior, who, to save us, has subjected himself to so painful and degrading a slavery? And rather than be the servants of this so great and so loving a Lord, shall we be content to be slaves of the devil, who does not love his servants, but hates them and treats them like a tyrant, making them miserable and wretched in this world and in the next? But if we have been guilty of this great folly, why do we not quickly give up this unhappy servitude? Courage, then, since we have been delivered by Jesus Christ from the slavery of hell; let us now embrace and bind around us with love those sweet chains, which will render us servants and lovers of Jesus Christ, and hereafter obtain for us the crown of the eternal kingdom amongst the blessed in Paradise.

Affections and Prayers.

My beloved Jesus, you are the Sovereign of heaven and earth; but for the love of me you made yourself a servant even of the executioners who tore your flesh, pierced your head, and finally left you nailed on the cross to die of sorrow. I adore you as my God and Lord, and I am ashamed to appear before you when I remember how often, for the sake of some miserable pleasure, I have broken your holy bonds, and have told you to your face that I would not serve you. Ah, you may justly reproach me: You have burst my bands, and you said: I will not serve (Jer. 2:20). But still, O my Savior, your merits and your goodness, which cannot despise a heart that repents and humbles itself, give me courage to hope for pardon: A contrite and humble heart, O God, you will not despise (Is. 50:19). I confess, my Jesus, that I have offended you greatly; I confess that I deserve a thousand hells for the sins that I have committed against you; chasten me as you see fit, but do not deprive me of your grace and love. I repent above every other evil for having despised you. I love you with my whole heart. I propose from this day forth to desire to serve you and love you alone. Bind me by your merits with the chains of your holy love, and never suffer that I see myself released from them again. I love you above everything, O my Deliverer, and I would prefer being your servant to being master of the whole world. And of what avail would all the world be to him who lives deprived of your grace? My sweetest Jesus, permit me not to separate myself from you, permit me not to separate myself from you. This grace I ask of you, and I intend always to ask it; and I beg of you to grant me this day the grace to repeat continually to the end of my life this prayer: My Jesus, grant that I may never again separate myself from your love.

I ask this favor of you also, O Mary, my Mother: help me by your intercession, that I may never separate myself again from my God.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

MEDITATION XI: The Poverty of the Infant Jesus.

O God! who would not feel compassion if he saw a little prince, the son of a monarch, born in such poverty as to be left to lie in a damp, cold cavern, not having bed, servants, fire, or clothes sufficient to warm him? Ah, my Jesus, you are the Son of the Lord of heaven and earth, and yet you lie in this cold grotto without other cradle than a manger, with nothing but straw for you bed, and miserable rags to cover you. The angels stand round you and sing your praises, but they do not relieve your poverty. My dear Redeemer, the poorer you are, the more amiable you render yourself in our eyes, because you have embraced so great a poverty for this end, to make us love you more. If you had been born in a palace, if you had a cradle of gold, if you had been assisted by the first princes of the earth, you would have acquired more respect from men, but less love; but this stable where you sleep, these miserable rags that cover you, this straw that serves as your bed, this manger that is you only cradle, oh, how do they attract our souls to love you, because you have made yourself poor in order to become more dear to us! "The viler he was for me," says St. Bernard, "the dearer he is to me." You have made yourself poor to enrich us with you riches; that is, with grace and glory: He became poor, that through His poverty you might be rich (II Cor. 8:9).

The poverty of Jesus Christ was for us great riches, inasmuch as it moves us to acquire the treasures of heaven and to despise those of earth. Ah, my Jesus! your poverty has induced so many saints to leave all—riches, honors, and kingdoms—in order to become poor with you! Oh, detach me also, my Savior, from all affection to earthly goods, so that I may be made worthy to acquire your holy love, and thus to possess you, the infinite Good!

Affections and Prayers.

Oh that I also could say to you, O holy Infant, with your dear St. Francis, "My God and my All!" and with David, What have I in heaven? and besides Thee, what do I desire upon earth? . . . God of my heart, and the God that is my portion forever (Ps. 72:25); so that from this day forth I might desire no other riches but those of you love, and that my heart might be no more under the dominion of the vanities of the world, but that you alone, my love, might be its only Lord. But I even now wish to begin to say it: God of my heart, and the God that is my portion forever (Ps. 72:25). Miserable that I was, I have hitherto only sought after worldly goods, and have found nothing but thorns and gall. I feel more satisfaction at finding myself at your feet, to thank you and love you, than I have ever experienced from all my sins. One fear alone afflicts me—the fear that you have not yet forgiven me; but your promises of forgiveness to the penitent, the thought that you made yourself poor for the love of me, that you are still calling me to love you; the tears, the blood you shed for me, the sorrows, the ignominy, the bitter death you endured for me, all console me/and make me hope certainly for pardon. And supposing you had not forgiven me, what shall I then do? Do you desire that I should repent? I repent with my whole heart of having offended you, O my Jesus! Do you desire that I should love you? I love you more than myself. Do you desire that I should give up everything? Behold, I give up all and give myself to you; and I know that you accept me, otherwise I should not have sorrow, nor love, nor the desire to give myself to you. I give myself then to you, and you have already accepted me. I love you, and you also love me. Do not permit that this love between us should evermore be interrupted.

O my Mother Mary! obtain for me the grace that I may always love Jesus, and that I may always be loved by him!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Tenth Day of Christmas

MEDITATION X: The Occupations of the Infant Jesus in the Stable of Bethlehem.

There are two principal occupations of a solitary,—to pray, and to do penance. Behold the Infant Jesus in the little grotto of Bethlehem giving us the example. He, in the crib which he chose for his oratory upon earth, never ceases to pray, and to pray continually, to the Eternal Father. There he constantly makes acts of adoration, of love, and of prayer.

Before this time the divine Majesty had been, it is true, adored by men and by angels; but God had not received from all these creatures that honor which the Infant Jesus gave him by adoring him in the stable where he was born. Let us, therefore, constantly unite our adorations to those of Jesus Christ when he was upon this earth.

Oh, how beautiful and perfect were the acts of love which the Incarnate Word made to his Father in his prayer! God had given to man the commandment to love him with all his heart and all his strength; but this precept had never been perfectly fulfilled by any man. The first to accomplish it among women was Mary, and among men the first was Jesus Christ, who fulfilled it in a degree infinitely superior to Mary. The love of the seraphim may be said to be cold in comparison with the love of this Holy Infant. Let us learn from him to love the Lord our God as he ought to be loved; and let us beseech him to communicate to us a spark of that pure love with which he loved the divine Father in the stable of Bethlehem.

Oh, how beautiful, perfect, and dear to God were the prayers of the Infant Jesus! At every moment he prayed to his Father, and his prayers were all for us and for each one of us in particular. All the graces that each one of us has received from the Lord, and our being called to the true faith, our having had time given us for repentance, the lights, the sorrow for sins, the pardon of them, the holy desires, the victory over temptations, and all the other good acts that we have made, or shall make, of confidence, of humility, of love, of thanks giving, of offering, of resignation,—all these Jesus has obtained for us, and all has been the effect of the prayers of Jesus. Oh, how much do we owe him, and how much ought we not to thank him and to love him!

Affections and Prayers.

My dear Redeemer, how much do I owe you! If you had not prayed for me, in what a state of ruin should I find myself! I thank you, O my Jesus; your prayers have obtained for me the pardon of my sins, and I hope that they will also obtain for me perseverance unto death. You have prayed for me, and I bless you with my whole heart for it; but I beseech you not to leave off praying. I know that you continue even in heaven to be our advocate: We have an advocate, Jesus Christ (I John 2:1); and I know that you continue to pray for us: Who also makes intercession for us (Rom. 8:34). Continue therefore to pray; but pray, O my Jesus, more particularly for me, who am more in need of your prayers. I hope God has already pardoned me through your merits; but as I have already so often fallen, I may therefore fall again. Hell does not cease, and will not cease, to tempt me, in order to make me again lose your friendship. Ah, my Jesus, you are my hope; it is you that must give me fortitude to resist; from you I seek it, and of you I hope for it! But I will not content myself only with the grace not to fall again; I desire also the grace to love you exceedingly. My death approaches. If I were to die now, I should indeed hope to be saved; but I should love you but little in paradise, because I have hitherto loved you so little. I will love you much in the days that remain to me, that I may love you still more in eternity.

O Mary, my Mother! do you also pray, and beseech Jesus for me; your prayers are all-powerful with your Son, who loves you so much. You so much desire that he should be loved, beseech him to give me a great love for his goodness, and let this love be constant and eternal.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Ninth Day of Christmas

MEDITATION IX: The Solitude of Jesus in the Stable.

Jesus chose at his birth the stable of Bethlehem for his hermitage and oratory; and for this purpose he so disposed events as to be born out of the city in a solitary cave, in order to recommend to us the love of solitude and of silence. Jesus remains in silence in the manger; Mary and Joseph adore and contemplate him in silence. It was revealed to Sister Margaret of the Blessed Sacrament, a discalced Carmelite, who was called the Spouse of the Infant Jesus, that all that passed in the cave of Bethlehem, even the visit of the shepherds and the adoration of the holy Magi, took place in silence, and without a word.

Silence in other infants is impotence; but in Jesus Christ it was virtue. The Infant Jesus does not speak; but oh, how much his silence says! Oh, blessed is he that converses with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, in this holy solitude of the manger. The shepherds, though admitted there but for a very short time, came out from the stable all inflamed with love to God; for they did nothing but praise and bless him: They returned, glorifying and praising God (Luke 2:20). Oh, happy the soul that shuts it self up in the solitude of Bethlehem to contemplate the divine mercy, and the love that God has borne, and still bears, to men! I will lead her into the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart (Hosea 2:14). There the divine Infant will speak, not to the ear, but to. the heart, inviting the soul to love a God who hath loved her so much. When we see there the poverty of this wandering little hermit, who remains in that cold cave, without fire, with a manger for a crib, and a little straw for a bed; when we hear the cries, and behold the tears of this innocent Child, and consider that he is our God,—how is it possible to think of anything but of loving him! Oh, what a sweet hermitage for a soul that has faith in the stable of Bethlehem!

Let us also imitate Mary and Joseph, who, burning with love, remain contemplating the great Son of God clothed in flesh, and made subject to earthly miseries,—Wisdom become an infant that cannot speak,—the Great One become little,—the Supreme One become so abased,—the Rich One become so poor,—the Omnipotent so weak. In short, let us meditate on the divine majesty shrouded beneath the form of a little Infant, despised and forsaken by the world, and who does and suffers everything in order to make himself loved by men, and let us beseech him to admit us into this sacred retreat;—there stop, there remain, and never leave it again. "O solitude," says St. Jerome, "in which God speaks and converses familiarly with his servants;" O beautiful solitude, in which God speaks and converses with his chosen souls, not as a sovereign, but as a friend, as a brother, as a spouse! Oh, what a paradise it is to converse alone with the Infant Jesus in the little grotto of Bethlehem!

Affections and Prayers.

My dearest Savior, you are the King of Heaven, the King of kings, the Son of God; and how is it, then, that I see you in this cave, forsaken by all? I see no one assisting you but Joseph and your holy Mother. I desire to unite myself also to them in keeping you company. Do not reject me. I do not deserve it; but I feel that you invite me by your sweet voice, speaking to my heart. Yes, I come, O my beloved Infant! I will leave all things to pass my whole life alone with you, my dear little hermit, the only love of my soul. Fool that I was, I have hitherto forsaken you and left you alone, O my Jesus, while I was seeking miserable and poisonous pleasures from creatures; but now, enlightened by your grace, I desire nothing but to live in solitude with you, who wills to live in solitude on this earth: Who will give me wings like a dove, and I will fly and be at rest (Ps. 54:7)? Ah, who will enable me to fly from this world, where I have so often found my ruin,—to fly, and to come and remain always with you, who are the joy of paradise and the true lover of my soul? Oh, bind me, I beg you, to your feet, so that I may no longer be separated from you, but may find my happiness in continually keeping company with you! Ah, by the merits of your solitude in the cave of Bethlehem, give me a constant interior recollection, so that my soul may become a solitary little cell, where I may attend to nothing but to conversing with you; where I may take counsel with you in all my thoughts and all my actions; where I may dedicate to you all my affections; where I may always love you, and sigh to leave the prison of this body to come and love you face to face in heaven. I love you, O infinite Goodness, and I hope always to love you, in time and in eternity.

O Mary, you who can do all things, pray to him to enchain me with his love, and not to permit me ever again to lose his grace.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Eighth Day of Christmas

MEDITATION VIII: The Name of Jesus.

The name of Jesus is a divine name, announced to Mary on the part of God by St. Gabriel: and you shall call his name Jesus (Luke 1:31). For that reason it was called a name above all names (Phil. 2:9). And it was also called a name in which alone salvation is found: whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

This great name is likened by the Holy Spirit unto oil: Your name is as oil poured out (Cant. 1:2). For this reason, says St. Bernard, that as oil is light, food, and medicine; so the name of Jesus is light to the mind, food to the heart, and medicine to the soul.

It is light to the mind. By this name the world was converted from the darkness of idolatry to the light of faith. We who have been born in these regions, where before the coming of Christ all our ancestors were Gentiles, should all have been in the same condition had not the Messiah come to enlighten us. How thankful ought we not, then, to be to Jesus Christ for the gift of faith! And what would have become of us if we had been born in Asia, in Africa, in America, or in the midst of heretics and schismatics? He who believes not is lost: He that believes not shall be condemned (Mark 16:16). And thus probably we also should have been lost.

The name of Jesus is also food that nourishes our hearts; yes, because this name reminds us of what Jesus has done to save us. Hence this name consoles us in tribulation, gives us strength to walk along the way of salvation, supplies us with courage in difficulties, and inflames us to love our Redeemer, when we remember what he has suffered for our salvation.

Lastly, this name is medicine to the soul, because it renders it strong against the temptations of our enemies. The devils tremble and fly at the invocation of this holy name, according to the words of the Apostle: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth (Phil. 2:10). He who in temptation calls upon Jesus shall not fall; and he who constantly invokes him shall not fall, and shall be saved: Praising, I will call upon the Lord; and I shall be saved from my enemies (Ps. 17:4). And who was ever lost, who when he was tempted invoked Jesus? He alone is lost who does not invoke his aid, or who, while the temptation continues, ceases to invoke him.

Affections and Prayers.

Oh, that I had always called upon you, my Jesus; for then I should never have been conquered by the devil! I have miserably lost your grace, because in temptation I have neglected to call you to my assistance. But now I hope for all things through your holy name: I can do all things in him who comforts me (Phil. 4:13). Write, therefore, O my Savior, write upon my poor heart your most powerful name of Jesus, so that, by having it always in my heart by loving you, 1 may have it always on my lips by invoking you, in all the temptations that hell prepares for me, in order to induce me to become again its slave, and to separate myself from you. In your name I shall find every good. If I am afflicted, it will console me when I think how much more afflicted you have been than I am, and all for the love of me; if I am disheartened on account of my sins, it will give me courage when I remember that you came into the world to save sinners; if I am tempted, your holy name will give me strength, when I consider that you can help me more than hell can cast me down; finally, if I feel cold in your love, it will give me fervor, by reminding me of the love that you bear me. I love you, my Jesus! You are, and I trust you will always be, my only Love. To you I give all my heart, O my Jesus! You alone will I love! You will I invoke as often as I possibly can. I will die with your name upon my lips; a name of hope, a name of salvation, a name of love.

O Mary, if you love me, this is the grace I beg of you to obtain for me, the grace constantly to invoke your name and that of your Son; obtain for me that these most sweet names may be the breath of my soul, and that I may always repeat them during my life, in order to repeat them at my death with my last breath.

Jesus and Mary, help me; Jesus and Mary, I love you; Jesus and Mary, 1 recommend my soul to you.