On the Adoration of the Shepherds at 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.
On the Adoration of the Shepherds at Bethlehem.
Go to-day in spirit with the shepherds of Bethlehem to the birthplace of the Redeemer; picture to yourself clearly these poor, uncouth peasants, first gazing at the divine Child with holy curiosity and amazement on the one hand, on the other with profound reverence and joy; then in voluntarily falling on their knees before Him in lowly worship. And when you have thoroughly impressed this touching scene on your mind, consider:
1st. The great faith of the shepherds. They see before them an infant, wrapped in swaddling-clothes, crying with the cold, weak and helpless as any other child. As far as externals go they see no great difference between Mary’s divine Child and one of their own little children. But what is not perceptible to the bodily eyes is discerned by the eye of faith. By means of this faith, kindled in their hearts by the words the angels spoke and by the light that shone around them, they are enabled to perceive that it is their God who is present in the manger, and they prostrate themselves before Him, adoring Him in all humility and holy awe. If, my soul, you only had the lively faith of those simple herdsmen of Bethlehem, you would feel very differently when you approach your God in the tabernacle where He abides as in the manger at Bethlehem: you would not be so cold, so dry, so easily distracted. Wherefore endeavor to-day to awaken within your heart a steadfast, childlike faith, and then your adoration will be more fervent, your devotion more ardent to the divine Child in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
2d. Consider how, as the shepherds gazed upon the divine Infant, their joy and delight increased every moment, their love, the warmth of their devotion was heightened each instant. See in imagination how Mary shows them the newly-born Infant; how kindly and piously she talks to them about Him and about the song which the angels sang. Contemplate and meditate upon this touching spectacle, for in the manner in which these simple, kindly peasants now spoke with affectionate familiarity to the sweet and gracious Infant, and then again regarded Him with holy awe and timid reverence, you have an example and a model of what your attitude of soul should be when you hold intercourse with the divine Child either in prayer or in Holy Communion. But alas! how much is wanting to you! Where is that happy combination of loving, humble familiarity and salutary fear, when you kneel before the crib? Reflect to-day upon the cause of this lack of fervor on your part, and the means of putting an end to it.
3d. St. Jerome, one of the Fathers of the Church, lived for thirty-eight years in the same cave in which the shepherds adored the Infant Jesus. Listen and ponder upon the way in which this saint understood how to combine familiarity and veneration, love and adoration in his intercourse with the divine Child: “As often (such are his words) as I look upon the spot where my Saviour was born, I hold sweet converse with Him in this fashion: Alas! my Jesus, I say, on what a hard bed Thou dost lie in the manger for my sake. What return can I make to Thee for this? Then I seem to hear the tender Infant answer: I desire nothing but that thou shouldst sing, Glory to God in the highest! And I reply: O my Beloved, I must give something to Thee, I will give Thee all that I possess. And He replies to me: Heaven is Mine and the earth is Mine. I have need of nothing; give thy money to the poor. I will accept it as if it were given to Me. Then I rejoin: That I will do right willingly, but I must also give something to Thee Thyself, or I shall die of grief. And the Child answers: If thou art so generously minded, I will tell thee what thou mayest give up to Me. Give up thy sins, give up thy evil conscience, and the prospect before thee of eternal perdition. Then I say: What wilt Thou do with them? The Child rejoins: I will take all upon My shoulders, for that is My glory and My triumph, that I bear and take away thy sins. Thereupon I, despite my advanced age, begin to weep, and say: Sweet Child, dearest Child, how Thy words touch my heart! Take all that is mine, and give me what is Thine; thus shall I be delivered from the burden of sin and made sure of attaining everlasting felicity.” There, my soul, you see in what wise a saint converses with the Child Jesus – how is it with you?
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.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
Holy Innocents, ora pro nobis.
Twelfth Night Prayer for the Third Day of Christmas.
O sweet Jesus, with Thy spouses let me love Thee; with Thy servants let me serve Thee; live for Thee, honor Thee, and follow Thee.
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