Nativity: a meditation

From The Prince of Peace by Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J., 1916

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Lk 2:7)

It is characteristic of the Gospels that the greatest events are told in the fewest words and with the utmost simplicity. The institution of the Blessed Sacrament, the Crucifixion, and the bestowing of the power of Absolution are all told in a sentence; the story of the birth of our Lord is no exception to the rule. Indeed, but for St. Luke, we might not have heard of it at all. But perhaps we have enough. We know, first, that “there was no room for them in the inn”. Nor, apparently, was there much room for them in all Bethlehem. Nor, later, was there room for them in all Palestine. Nor, since then, has there seemed to be much room for him in the whole world. Nor today is there much room for him in the lives and hearts of most people. But I should not point a finger at others—is there much room for him in mine?

Still a shelter of some kind was found, though we should notice that St. Luke does not mention it. If we had no more than his description to go upon, we should almost be compelled to conclude that our Lord was born in the gutter by the roadside: literally the birth of a pauper and an outcast. The mention of the manger leads us to conclude that there was a shelter of some sort overhead; but not all mangers are indoors, especially in the East. Still let us accept the firm tradition, for the sake of our pitiful human nature if for nothing else; when our King first came into this world, at least he was given a stable cave in which he could be born; at least he was treated as well as our cattle, if not as well as ourselves.

And now that he is born, lying helpless and apparently unnoticed before us like any other infant, let us kneel beside him, with Mary and Joseph and the maid, and the countless saints who from that time until today have found in the mere sight of this Child enough to satisfy all their strongest cravings. Let us watch him and his first adorers, in company with St. Gertrude, St. Bridget, and St. Theresa. Let us take him into our arms and nurse him, as St. Bonaventure recommends us, as St. Anthony of Padua was privileged to do, and St. Stanislaus Kostka, and so many more saints of weary life and labor. Let us give him back to Our Lady, and learn from her a lesson on the way her child should be treated. Let us hear these words ringing round the stable, for our own greater consolation: “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12).

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