On the Presence of the Holy Angels around the Crib 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 Presence of the Holy Angels around the Crib at Bethlehem.
Imagine, my soul, that the unspeakable privilege is granted you of entering the birthplace of the Redeemer on Christmas Day. In the hallowed grotto at Bethlehem a solemn silence prevails, as in a church when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. For in that grotto your Lord Himself deigns to repose; in that grotto the most holy of all the dwellers upon the earth, Mary and Joseph, are present; in that grotto a multitude of the heavenly host kneel in lowly adoration, visible only to the eye of faith, yet perhaps not unseen to Mary’s purity. As St. Bonaventure says: The angels descend from Heaven above to gaze upon the countenance of their divine Master, and pay homage to His blessed Mother. Who of all those celestial beings would have been content to rest in Heaven, without going to visit their Lord in His humility and self-abasement? Contemplate those angels to-day, and consider:
1st. The angels who prostrate themselves in adoration before the crib are pure spirits, whose office is that of perpetual adoration. The all-pure, all-holy Son of God has come down to a world that is full of uncleanness; He has come to dwell amongst men whose impure actions are countless as the sand on the seashore, and cry to Heaven for vengeance. And because mankind is thus immersed in sensuality and luxury, no one, with the exception of a few just persons, counts it worth his trouble to betake himself to the crib where the Redeemer is laid; instead of men, holy angels, resplendent with the brightness of heavenly glory, surround His lowly resting-place; and those angels St. Thomas declares to be by nature spirits of perfect purity and endowed with the gift of the most exalted holiness. Such are the spotless beings who kneel before the crib, absorbed in adoration of the Infant Jesus. O my soul, gaze with rapt attention at this beautiful, this entrancing scene, and consider well this truth: If you desire to worship worthily at the crib during the season of the Christmas festival, and throughout the whole year worthily to adore our Lord where He abides, not temporarily as in the manger at Bethlehem, but permanently in the sacred tabernacle, O then you must be pure, like these adoring angels; you must be an angel in human form. “Thou hast made him (man) a little less than the angels,” the Psalmist says. (Ps. viii. 6.) With the help of God’s grace it is possible for us to live in angelic purity and virginity; let the posture of our souls be, like that of the angels, one of unceasing adoration. Ask yourself seriously whether you fulfil this angelic vocation, and make special resolutions as to how you will in future conduct yourself in regard to holy purity and daily adoration.
2d. Consider, moreover, that the holy angels surround the crib for the purpose of protecting the Infant Jesus, for thus the Royal Prophet writes: “He hath given His angels charge over Thee; in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.” (Ps. xc. 11.) The angels watch over the slumbering Infant to protect Him, and in all His ways they attend on Him to defend Him. An angel appeared to Joseph, to save the Child from Herod’s murderous sword, bidding him: “Arise and take the Child and His Mother and fly into Egypt; and be there until I shall tell thee.” (St. Matt. ii. 13.) Who can doubt, moreover, that an escort of angels accompanied and protected the Holy Family on their flight? You too may, and ought to play the part of such an angel, my soul. Remember that whenever you have received Holy Communion, the Infant Jesus is present in your heart as He once was in the manger. Are you, like the angels, careful to safeguard this divine Child? Are you, like them, ever on the watch, lest some evil passion, some mortal sin, should seek, as Herod did, to destroy the life of that Child? Furthermore, if you are a Priest, do you not know that the souls confided to your charge are the brethren and sisters of Christ, and do you act as a Guardian Angel towards them, ever on the alert to prevent any Herod from taking away the life of the Infant Jesus in the hearts of the sheep and lambs of your flock? Let us to-day, standing beside the Redeemer’s crib, contemplating the holy angels, form a steadfast resolution to act the part of a Guardian Angel, not only in regard to our own soul but also towards our fellow Christians, and ask ourselves whether we cannot, perhaps this very day, find an opportunity of performing such a service in imitation of the angels.
3d. Consider that St. John was an angel in human shape. Meditate attentively upon the attractive virtue of virginity in which this disciple excelled, which procured for him the privilege of leaning on Jesus’ breast, and on account of which our Lord consigned His Virgin Mother to his charge. Consider how this disciple, like an adoring seraph, soared aloft as on eagles’ pinions in contemplation of the most profound mysteries of the Godhead, and in a holy ecstasy here on earth was allowed to behold the bliss of Heaven. Consider how this disciple, alone of all the twelve, remained faithful to the divine Saviour and did not abandon Him even when He was hanging upon the cross; and how, later on, he was a very angel in all respects to the flock committed to his care. Now if you ask what it was that made John lead on earth an angel’s life, reflect for a few moments, and the answer will suggest itself to you; it was his love, his love for our Lord. Wherefore drink, as the Church says, to-day of the love of John, grow and increase in that love, and then when the Christmas festival again comes round, you will not kneel before the lowly manger of your Redeemer in the character of a miserable sinner so much as heretofore; you will have acquired somewhat at least of the character of an angel.
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.
St. John, ora pro nobis.
Twelfth Night Prayer for the Second Day of Christmas.
O sweet Jesus, with Thy holy Mother I will embrace Thee; with the Magi I will adore Thee.
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