On the Poverty of the Redeemer’s Birthplace.
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 Poverty of the Redeemer’s Birthplace.
To-day we will contemplate the poverty in which the divine Child was born. Imagine that you see before you the dilapidated stable, affording little protection from wind and rain, the hard, uneasy manger, the absence of every convenience, every comfort in the surroundings. And when you have fully realized and impressed on your mind the extreme poverty of the Infant Jesus, consider:
1st. How the needy and destitute find a marvellous solace in the poverty that marked our Lord’s birth. Consider how, before Christ, the poor were throughout the whole world held in the utmost contempt, how no one paid any heed to them, how even among the chosen people of God, the Jews, poverty was considered as an evil and a disgrace, many even looking upon it as a chastisement from the hand of God, like the blindness which the disciples judged so harshly in the poor man who was born blind. Thus you will see that the light in which they were regarded could not fail to awaken in the breast of the poor a feeling that they were the step-children of our heavenly Father, and treated by Him as such; that they were outcasts, forsaken by God. And if so, how wonderful the consolation they received at the Saviour’s crib on Christmas Day, since they then saw that the only-begotten, well-beloved Son of God, in whom He was well pleased, shared their poverty, their want. My God, they could then say, like me, is poor and destitute; my God suffers hunger and thirst as I do; my God has, like me, no roof to shelter Him. What singular consolation for the poor lies in this one thought; what abundant matter for meditation is to be found in this one word: A God who is poor!
2d. Consider how poverty was honored at the Saviour’s crib. The visit of a royal personage is considered as a great honor for a house, even though that house be but a thatched cottage. Centuries after a father will with pride show his children the goblet – in itself valueless, but highly prized because some emperor of renown once drank out of it; or he will exhibit to them the wooden bench on which the royal personage sat to rest. But what is the highest earthly king, the most illustrious emperor, in comparison with the King of Heaven, the Lord of hosts exalted far above all earthly fame and distinction, who chose poverty for His closest, most inseparable companion? He was born in poverty, brought up in poverty; His Mother was poor, His dwelling was poor; He lived in poverty and died in poverty. How greatly is poverty thus dignified and honored! See how since our Lord’s birth amid such destitute surroundings poverty has been held as much in esteem as formerly it was despised; for since our Lord declared that what ye did unto the poor, ye did it unto Me, Christian people, both high and low, vie with each other in the service of the poor, and Christian kings and emperors do not disdain even to wash the feet of the poor for the sake of Jesus, who was poor.
3d. Consider how poverty was sanctified at our Lord’s birth. Everything is hallowed which is directly employed in divine service. The vestment which the Priest wears when as God’s representative he celebrates the holy sacrifice of the Mass is blest, the altar on which the Victim is immolated is blest, and so are the sacred vessels employed for the holy sacrifice. In the same manner poverty was sanctified at the birth of Christ; it was the vestment in which the divine Child was arrayed, it was the altar whereon He daily offered the oblation of His self-abnegation and renunciation. And, marvellous to relate, this poverty, which St. Francis so beautifully terms the faithful spouse of the Redeemer, who alone followed Him to the cross and in whose embrace He expired, this poverty, itself sanctified by Christ, has in turn been the means of sanctifying thousands of mankind. Pass in review the bright galaxy of saints and you will not meet with one who was not poor, at any rate in spirit; ask the saints what was the means of their sanctification, and a vast number of them will answer, it was poverty. Furthermore, my soul, consider this: The poor man who bears his hard lot with patience makes a virtue of necessity; but he who practises poverty, not because he is obliged, but of his own free will, attains a far higher degree of virtue. He imitates Jesus most perfectly, Jesus who though all the heavens were His, contented Himself with a stable for His birthplace; He who clothes the earth with verdure and the stars with light, gave Himself to be wrapped in poor swaddling-clothes; He who was the richest of all, voluntarily became the poorest of all. Oh do you not feel drawn, do you not feel animated by an eager desire this day to renew your vow of voluntary poverty at the Saviour’s crib, and will you not strive from hence forth to keep that vow with greater love, with more fidelity?
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.
Twelfth Night Prayer for the Fifth Day of Christmas.
O my God! another year is added to the number of those for which I am accountable to Thee. Well may I recount them all in the bitterness of my soul, for they have been filled with infidelities and ingratitude. Thou has granted them to me to know, to love, and to serve Thee, and every one of them brings to my recollection numberless omissions of these essential duties.
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