The Journey to Bethlehem.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
The Journey to Bethlehem.
I. “In those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled.” (Luke ii. I.) The disposition of divine Providence was most wonderful. Christ might have been born where, and when, and in whatever circumstances He pleased, but He refused every convenience for Himself, in order to teach us that the spirit of poverty was His favorite virtue. He was born in the middle of winter, when His parents, in consequence of Caesar’s edict, were far from Nazareth, in order that He might deprive Himself of those small conveniences which their house might afford Him. “Oh the depth of the riches, of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God!” (Rom. xi. 33.) Reflect upon this, you who are constantly employed in seeking your own ease and conveniences, and learn what ought to be your practice. Speaking upon this, St. Bernard observes: “Either God is deceived or the world is in an error,” because their manners of acting are diametrically opposite. Examine which it is better to follow.
II. St. Joseph and the Virgin obeyed the edict, though the motive of the Emperor was not the best, and though their obedience was attended with inconvenience. View the holy travellers: they present an object worthy of the divine approbation and of the admiration of men, in consequence of their conformity to the will of God, their patience, and their modesty. Imagine the divine entertainment which the Virgin received from her Son; respect the holy travellers, and venerate that divine poverty which rendered them so pleasing to God.
III. When they arrived at Bethlehem, they went from one inn to another, but they could not find any entertainment. Good God! there was a place for every other kind of character; but there was no room to be found for the Son of God. “He came unto His own; and His own received Him not.” (John i. II.) Observe with what patience they support this trial, and retire into a stable. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests: but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” (Matt. viii. 20.) Pity, admire, adore. How often have you denied Him entertainment, when your heart was occupied with worldly vanities and earthly follies!
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
Virtues to practice: Conformity to the will of God, divine love.
Come, let us adore the King our Lord, who is to come!
Hymn from the Office of Lauds for Advent
The solemn voice of the Precursor is heard, explaining the obscurity of the ancient figures; let our slumbers cease; Jesus is rising on our horizon.
Let the sluggish soul now rise, and stay no more upon this earth; a new star is shining, which will take all sin away.
Lo! the Lamb is sent to forgive us freely our debt; let us unite in tears and prayers, that we may obtain pardon.
That when He comes the second time, filling the world with fear, He may not have to punish us for our sins, but may protect us in mercy.
Power, honour, praise, and glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Paraclete, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayers from the Office and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for Advent
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Almighty Lord and God, who hast brought us to the beginning of this day, let thy powerful grace so conduct us through it, that we may not fall into any sin, but that all our thoughts, words, and actions may be regulated according to the rules of thy heavenly justice, and tend to the observance of thy holy law. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
V. Incline unto my aid, O God.
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
Lord God, and King of heaven and earth, vouchsafe this day to rule and sanctify, to direct and govern our souls and bodies, our senses, words, and actions in conformity to Thy law, and strict obedience to Thy commands; that by the help of Thy grace, O Saviour of the world! we may be fenced and freed from all evils. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.
V. O Lord God of hosts, come and deliver us.
R. Show Thy face, and we shall be saved.
V. Show us, O Lord, thy mercy.
R. And grant us the Saviour, whom we expect from Thee.
V. The Lord shall rise upon thee, O Jerusalem!
R. And His glory shall be seen upon thee.
Bend Thine ear, O Lord, we beseech Thee, to our prayers, and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation; who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.
Novena for Advent
Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God! To hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.
(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30th) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)
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