The Nativity of Our Lord – Day of Life
“My Beloved to me, and I to Him, who feedeth among the lilies” [Cant. 2:16].
The joy of our Blessed Lady had been great during the nine months in which she bore her God in her sacred womb. We are now to contemplate another joy. She is to bring forth her Beloved, that she may know Him by sense and feast her eyes upon His celestial beauty. A s the day of her delivery approached, a heavenly messenger was sent to St. Joseph to acquaint him with the mystery of the Incarnation, and to teach him his duty towards the lowly Virgin and her Child. Prophecy declared that the Messiah should be born in Bethlehem, the house of the true Bread. “And thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel: and His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity.” The Blessed Virgin was sojourning at Nazareth, when the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus was made the instrument in fulfilling the designs of divine providence. An imperial decree was issued that the whole empire should be enrolled. “And all went to be enrolled, everyone to his own city.” St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin were both of the family of David, and they were obliged to go to Bethlehem, the city of David, there to register their names. So the very words of prophecy were fulfilled, and the birth of the Messiah and His descent were registered in the archives of the nation. Augustus only meant to enumerate his subjects, but among them was numbered his God. The holy family then began their wonderful journey. We can well imagine how full were the hearts of Joseph and Mary with heavenly consolation. All the hopes of the patriarchs and prophets were now to be realized. The true Bread of Life and Hope of Israel was with them, and they were to see what seers and kings had so long desired. They came to the city already crowded with the descendants of David, and there was no room for them in the inn. They sought refuge in a cave where the beasts of the field were sheltered, and there, at the high hour of night, the Holy Mother, by a painless birth and in an ecstasy of joy such as she had not before known, brought forth her Child. The Evangelist has told us something of the wonders of that night. The whole creation seemed instinct with new life and ready to acknowledge the Lord. Shepherds were watching upon the hills, and they saw the angels who kept vigil, and heard their song: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of Good will.” “Fear not, for behold we bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For this day is born to you a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.” They saw the joy of the heavenly host, which in countless numbers filled the skies, and they were filled with their faith, and caught something of their joy. “They came with haste to Bethlehem; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in a manger.” They paid Him their adorations, and “returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.” This is but a brief description of the rapture of the angels and the worship of the shepherds. But who can describe the transports which overwhelmed the soul of our Blessed Lady? She experienced a mother’s joy heightened to an intensity no one else can know, for the little Child was not only her own flesh and blood, He was also her God. Who shall tell of that first embrace in which her mother’s heart overflowed, in which with lowly praise she adored her Creator and loved Him with a love no saint or angel had ever given Him? She took His tiny hands in hers, the hands which held at that moment the weight of the world. She pressed Him to her bosom and listened for the beating of that divine heart filled with all the tenderness of God. She looked into His face, and saw the likeness of her own features lighted with all the radiance of deity. She gazed lovingly and adoringly into those eyes which in all their infant innocence were looking back her love, and she knew they were reading the secret of her heart and the wealth of affection treasured up in her bosom. Well might she say, “My Beloved to me and I to Him,” for now who should separate her from her Child? He was hers, and she was to nourish His infant life, to support His tender years, to be ever with Him. She looked around upon the stable which He had chosen for a birth place, and though she felt the indignity He received from an ungrateful world, yet to her that poor cave was brighter than the gilded palace of kings. It was the gate of Heaven; it was even heaven itself, for there was the great King and His Mother, St. Joseph, the purest of the patriarchs, and the angels who had ever veiled their faces before His throne. And Mary rejoiced not only in her own great privilege, but also in the effect of this wonderful nativity. She saw by faith the redemption of the world, and felt the power of that new life which was to be the regeneration of man. The light had come into the world and the way of Heaven was opened to all believers. God became the Son of man that we might become the sons of God. “To as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become the sons of God.” Because of His birth, we have been new-born in baptism, and because He lives, we have a spiritual life whose end is the vision of God. As often, therefore, as we think of the birth of Christ, our thoughts should go back to our own regeneration. The likeness of His spotless infancy was impressed upon us, and if we have lost that likeness, it is because our own hands have defaced the work of God. We shall never find peace until that likeness be restored to us with its meekness, guilelessness, and docility. Devotion to our Lord’s nativity will be one great means of effecting this restoration. Let us ask the holy Mother to obtain for us this grace. And we may be sure there is no sinner beyond this reach of her prayers. The way of life is opened, and no matter how far we have wandered, we can find a safe return. Let us pray the Blessed Virgin, by the joy she experienced when first she gazed upon her new-born Child, to gain for us a complete recovery from sin and a new birth unto holiness.