Advent is my favourite time of year. It is a time to ponder what the Catechism calls an “…ancient expectancy of the Messiah…” (524) Each week is symbolic as we light a candle representing: Hope, Love (Faith), Joy, Peace. I have stumbled on this charming book written in 1866. You can’t help but feel the author’s exuberance waiting for the birth of the infant Jesus. With all the ‘busy-ness’ of the season, the shopping and the stress, I ask you to make a little room in your days during Advent to read Mary Francis Cusack’s lovely meditations. It has reminded me what this season is truly about. And keep in mind, it was written 150 years ago.
From “Meditations for Advent and Easter“, By Mary Francis Cusack. J.M. O’toole & Son, Dublin. 1866
A copy of this book is digitized and can be found at archive.org (1a801304.us.archive.org).
IN HONOUR OF THE INFANT HEART OF JESUS COMING TO REDEEM US.
A copy of this book is digitized and can be found at archive.org.
- ADVENT SUNDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, OUR COMING LIGHT.
- MONDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, OUR COMING KING.
- TUESDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, OUR COMING LAWGIVER.
- WEDNESDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, OUR COMING PRINCE.
- THURSDAY. HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, OUR COMING SAVIOUR.
- FRIDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, OUR COMING PURIFIER.
- SATURDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, THE MYSTIC DEW.
- SECOND SUNDAY. THE HEART OF JESUS, THE FLOWER OF THE ROOT OF JESSE.
- MONDAY.THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING TO DELIVER THE CAPTIVES.
- TUESDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS SENDING A MESSENGER TO PREPARE HIS WAY.
- WEDNESDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, THE LAMB OF GOD.
- THURSDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING ON A LIGHT CLOUD.
- FRIDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING AS OUR COMFORTER.
- SATURDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS THE JOY OF THE HUMBLE.
- THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING TO DELIVER US.
- MONDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS THE CORNER STONE.
- TUESDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING TO ENLIGHTEN US THROUGH MARY.
- EMBER WEDNESDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS SENDING HIS ANGEL TO ANNOUNCE HIS COMING.
- THURSDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS SENDING A MESSAGE TO MARY.
- FRIDAY. (December 17th.) THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING AS THE ETERNAL WISDOM, AND CHOSING HIS MOTHER TO MANIFEST ITS EXERCISE.
- SATURDAY. (18th December.) Feast of the Expectation. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS REJOICING IN HIS MOTHER’S ARDENT DESIRES OF HIS BIRTH.
- FOURTH SUNDAY. (December 19th.)
- DECEMBER 20th THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS THE KEY OF DAVID.
- THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING AS THE ORIENT FROM ON HIGH.
- DECEMBER 22nd. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING AS THE DESIRE OF NATIONS.
- DECEMBER 23rd. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING AS OUR KING AND LAWGIVER.
- CHRISTMAS EVE. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING TO SAVE US.
ADVENT SUNDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, OUR COMING LIGHT.
“Behold, the Lord cometh, and all His saints with Him; and in that day there shall be a great light.” All. Ant. at Lauds.
“And the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the Lord shall bind up the wound of His people, and shall heal the stroke of their wound.” (Is. xxx. 26.)
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the Heart of the Infant Jesus in the womb of Mary as a flame of clear and beautiful light coming to enlighten all nations. Represent also to yourself the terrible light of the second coming, which will be open and manifest to all.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may be so enlightened by the light of the first coming, that you may not be terrified by the light of the second coming.
1st Point — Look at the Heart of the Infant Jesus. It lies hidden in the womb of Mary, even as his blessed Humanity will be hidden hereafter in the tabernacle. Oh, what a holy, beautiful, peaceful light is the light of the Infant Heart of Jesus! How it longs to come forth and manifest itself to all, to console, to instruct, to illuminate! Are we, also, longing to receive this light? Are we praying with our whole hearts that it may come to us, and that we may be prepared to receive it? However great our spiritual enlightenment may be, we are still, in some measure, “sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.” But the light is coming; already we can see the dawn upon the mountain. When Mary was born, the first ray of light tinged the eastern sky; when Jesus was born, the light of this mystic moon was as the light of the true sun, because of her perfect union with Him; and the light of the sun was sevenfold, as the light of seven days. The light was sevenfold; that is, the light was perfect, for it was the light of God.
2nd Point — Let us beseech the Infant Jesus to enlighten us in that particular way in which we most need light. We are all “born blind” through the sin of our parents; and, unhappily, though we have obtained light in the waters of baptism, we too often, by our own fault, relapse into blindness more or less intense. Sometimes we do not wish to see the sin we should forsake, or the virtue we should practise, because it would cost us something to act upon this light; sometimes we profit so little by the light, that it is withdrawn from us, or it is not imparted in the fullness and brightness with which more faithful souls are favoured. There are souls in whom the light of God shines so brightly, that they cannot commit the shadow of an imperfection without perceiving it immediately; there are souls in whom that light shines so resplendently, that they see even the shadow of an imperfect motive in the best action they perform. Why should we not be thus favoured? It is not because the light is unwilling to come, but because we are unwilling to receive it.
3rd Point — What shall we do to obtain this great grace? Let us go to Mary. Let us devote our Advent to Mary. Let us consecrate every thought, word, and action to Mary during this holy season; and then, on the blessed Christmas morning, she will herself place her Infant in our arms; nay, rather, she will lay Him down to rest in our hearts; and He is so obedient to His sweet mother, that He will never stir from the heart wherein she places Him, unless she comes to take Him away. Surely we will not oblige her to do so. Advent should be a time of special devotion to Mary. Jesus again lies mystically in her womb. Again she pleads unweariedly for her people, as she pleaded in that blessed Advent when He took flesh of her flesh, and bone of her bone. Oh, let us kneel before her now as we would have knelt before her then, and implore her to intercede for us with Jesus, to obtain for us that He may indeed be our light, and that we may never be of the number of those who prefer darkness. Then, indeed, may we hope that the light of His second coming will be a light of glory to us, and not a light of condemnation.
MONDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, OUR COMING KING.
“Lift up thine eyes, O Jerusalem, and behold the mighty King.” Ant.at Magnificat.
“The Lord shall be king over all the earth.” (Zach.xiv. 9.)
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the Infant Jesus as a king coming now to deliver, and as a king coming hereafter to judge.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may be one of the faithful subjects of this King, so that you may not be punished hereafter with His enemies.
1st Point — Consider the throne of this Infant King. It is in the heart of Mary, the only human heart in which He was ever permitted to reign supremely. Oh, how we should love that heart, how we should honour it, grander and more magnificent than the ivory throne of Solomon, “overlaid with the finest gold” (3 Kings, x. 18); fairer and more beautiful than his litter of the wood of Libanus, with “its pillars of silver, its seat of gold, its going up of purple, and the midst covered with charity for the daughters of Jerusalem” (Cant. iii. 10); for there is no charity like the charity of the heart of Mary, and there our Infant Jesus rules! Oh, let us go and adore Him there! Let us fall prostrate before Him, “the Lord, the coming King. O let us adore.” Let us offer our homage to Him through the heart of Mary; let us kneel in spirit at the foot of this “ivory throne,” from whence none are repulsed. Here every petition will be received; here we shall find our best and surest advocate with the King.
2nd Point — But Jesus will not always remain on this fair throne of ivory. He seeks no litter of purple for His repose. Alas! has He not come to die on a couch covered with purple — the purple garment of His most precious blood? But when sweet Jesus comes forth from the heart of Mary, He will seek for other hearts wherein to reign. Shall we not offer Him ours? nay, rather, should we not implore Him to accept them? Oh, let us prepare our hearts to be His throne! He is coming forth from a heart which never gave Him a moment’s pain, from a heart where all was subject to His rule, from a heart which never caused Him to shed a tear of pain, or to breathe a sigh of anguish; and He is coming to hearts who will treat Him with coldness, with indifference — alas! O my God, that it should be true — to hearts who will treat Him with ingratitude, with cruelty, who will even dare to hate Him. O sweet Infant Jesus, how Thou must love us, when Thou wiliest to leave that gentle, tender heart for those cruel and wicked ones!
3rd Point — Consider the gentleness of this Infant King. He comes as the Prince of peace. Oh! surely we will endeavour to drive all His enemies far away. How could we bear that our young prince should be disturbed and molested! Surely, from very love of His infant gentleness, we will use every effort to prepare our hearts for His reign, and we shall take care that He rules undisturbed. There shall be no cruel Herod to drive Him away, to seek the young Child’s life. Alas! if unhappily we should be guilty of mortal sin, we would seek His life. But we will take care that no rumour of fear shall reach Him, that no imperfection, if possible, at least that no deliberate venial sin, shall disturb Him. Alas! if we do not permit Him to reign now in our hearts as the King of peace, He will reign hereafter as the King of vengeance. But if we are His faithful subjects now, oh, what joys and glories He will prepare for us when He calls us to heaven, His kingdom, for eternal ages!
TUESDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, OUR COMING LAWGIVER.
“He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall come forth from Sion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Is. ii. 3.) 1st Lesson at Matins.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the Infant Jesus as your lawgiver.
2nd Prelude — Pray earnestly that you may have grace to obey all His precepts.
1st Point — Consider the office and authority of a lawgiver. It implies a power to command, and a power to enforce the execution of commands. Our Infant Jesus comes now to fulfil the former of these functions; He will come a second time to compel the latter. Jesus comes now to give us laws, to explain them, and to exemplify in His own person how we should practise them. He tells us to be meek and lowly of heart; He explains to us the nature of this meekness and lowliness, and He practises the lesson He teaches, so that we can have no excuse if we refuse to obey the law. We cannot complain that we do not understand what has been fully explained; we cannot complain that we are not able to do what another has done. And thus has our dear Infant Jesus explained and practised every precept which He has given. What excuse, then, can we find for disobedience?
2nd Point — “He will teach us His ways.” We must not follow our own ways any longer. The ways of the Infant Jesus may be difficult to learn at first, but let us remember they are the ways of a God. Oh! let us cry out to Him with our whole hearts, “Teach me Thy ways.” His ways are not like our ways. Our ways are the ways of ignorance, the ways of sin, the ways of short-sighted mortals; the ways of the Infant Jesus are the ways of eternal wisdom, the ways of perfect holiness, the ways of an omniscient God. Let us weep before Him that we have so long followed our own ways, that we have been so fearfully bent on them, to our own destruction, had not His mercy saved us. But we must also “ walk in His paths.” All that He teaches us to do, He has already practised. The lawgivers of this world may coldly and sternly give laws which they never intend to keep themselves; they may write their laws in blood, in the blood of those whom they drive to sin and desperation by cruel enactments — but it is not so with Jesus. He is the first, the only lawgiver who keeps His own precepts before He asks others to keep them; and if His laws were written in blood, it is His own Blood, His own most precious Blood, which He has shed even while yet an Infant, to atone for the transgressions which He knew we would commit against the blessed, holy, peaceful laws He came to enact. Was there ever a lawgiver who died to atone for the sins which would be committed against His laws, who suffered death because justice must have its due, and preferred to suffer instead of the guilty?
3rd Point— O my Saviour, my sweet Infant Jesus, teach me. I will try to listen meekly, to obey faithfully. My sweet little Lawgiver, I cannot bear to think that Thou shouldst suffer because I will sin — because I will to sin. Oh, take my will from me — my wicked will — since it causes Thee so much suffering! I give Thee up my will: oh, give me Thine in exchange! I will listen for Thy lowest whisper. I will hear and obey Thy voice in the duties of my state, in the requirements of my holy Rule, in the slightest intimation of the wish of my Superior. O my sweet Infant Lawgiver, I will be so anxious to obey Thee, that I will consider even the slightest intimation of Thy will as a treasure, above all when it contradicts my own; and I will seek for Thy footsteps, and walk in Thy paths, the paths of lowly, unasking obedience, the paths which lead to Paradise, whither Thou wilt bring me, O my Infant Love; where there will be no law but love, and where love will never be grieved or disobeyed.
WEDNESDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, OUR COMING PRINCE.
“And the Lord said to me: This gate shall be shut: it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it: because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it, and it shall be shut for the Prince.” (Ezech. xliv. 2.) Response, 2nd Lesson at Matins.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the vision of Ezechiel, and behold Mary, the closed gate through whom none but the Prince may enter.
2nd Prelude — Pray that when Jesus enters into your heart, in the adorable Sacrament of His love, you may close its gate, and that none but the Prince may enter therein.
1st Point — Consider the magnificence of the types which prefigure the advent of Jesus, and the glories of Mary. What more majestic, what more sublime, than this type of the Eastern gate, which the Prince alone might enter, and which was shut for all others! Well might the holy Fathers of the Church love to linger on the grand prophetic page. Mary opens the gate of her womb, Jesus comes forth, and it is closed for ever — closed for the Prince, for the sanctuary of the All Holy may not be defiled by mortal touch. Let us approach that golden gate; let us kneel before it. The Prince is within, still mystically hidden in its embraces; but the gate, the golden gate, is always accessible, and we may speak through it to the Prince. O Infant Prince, alas! that when the golden door opens, and Thou goest forth from the shelter of that temple, it will be to suffer, to die!
2nd Point — But there is also a golden door by which Jesus enters into our hearts — a golden moment when our Infant Prince asks admittance. Shall we keep Him waiting? shall we refuse to admit Him? shall we make delays and excuses? We may have done so heretofore, but now we will do so no longer. O come, sweet Jesus, come! We will have one golden gate also, by which the Prince alone shall enter. If others must have places in our hearts, they must enter by side doors, which we shall watch carefully, and seldom open; but the gate, the golden entrance of our hearts, shall be open for the Prince alone. Oh, marvel of all marvels, that He should condescend to enter therein! Oh, grief of all griefs, that we should so neglect this royal guest, whom it should be our glory and our joy to entertain with the tenderest affection and the deepest reverence!
3rd Point — Let us take Mary for our model in receiving Jesus, and in entertaining Jesus. He predestinated us before all eternity to be His own, even as He predestinated Mary to be His mother. He prepared graces for us, even as He prepared graces for her. And as He prepared for her that grace of graces, to which none other might aspire; as He made that golden gate for Himself as an entrance to the sanctuary of her body, in which He dwelt; so has He prepared the golden gate of the most holy Sacrament, that He may thereby enter into us, and abide corporally with us, while millions are denied this unspeakable favour. Have we ever considered what we owe to God for His providence in permitting us to be of the number of His children, into whom He enters, with whom He unites Himself in the adorable Sacrament! Have we ever made the thanksgiving we ought to make for this stupendous favour! Oh! let us try to realize what this favour is, and then we shall be more likely to keep the golden door closed for the Prince, to let none other even approach it; for what can be worthy of sharing our love with God Himself? what sacrifice can be too great to offer in thanksgiving for the honour of the Prince’s presence?
THURSDAY. HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, OUR COMING SAVIOUR.
“But I will look towards the Lord, I will wait for God my Saviour: my God will hear me.” (Micheas, vii. 7.) Ant. at Magnificat.
1st Prelude — Behold the Infant Jesus coming forth from the womb of Mary as our Saviour.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may obtain the full benefit of the salvation He is about to accomplish. 1st Point — Consider the meaning of the word saviour, and what it implies. It implies danger from which deliverance is needed; it means the deliverer. The danger is sin; the danger is eternal ruin; and so great is the danger, that only a God can be the deliverer. Oh, how that Lord has loved His creatures! Their danger did not lessen His security; their ruin could not shake His stability; and yet He cannot rest in His security, or repose in His stability, without coming Himself to save and to give rest to His creatures. Well may we “look towards” the Lord. If we were perishing in a torrent, with what eagerness would we not look towards a deliverer who appeared on the bank of the river, hastening to our assistance! With what hope, with what love we should gaze upon him! and if we knew that he could certainly save us, with what faith we would expect him!
2nd Point — In Advent we should unite ourselves with the whole Church in expecting our Deliverer. We should offer up ceaseless acts of faith in His power, of confidence in His love, and of hope in His goodness. Perhaps our deliverance will be proportioned to our earnestness in preparing for it. Above all, we should unite ourselves with Mary. Her spotless purity, her burning love, her perfect faith, her ceaseless tears and intercedings, brought the Messiah from heaven, whom her nation had so long desired. Then let us offer our desires of deliverance in union with hers. Let us unite ourselves to her faith, her hope, and her charity in expecting Jesus. Let us beseech Him to accept her sublime acts of virtue in atonement for our coldness, and for her sake to “come and deliver us.” He can refuse nothing to her prayers whose love won Him from heaven to earth. If we desire to obtain special favours and graces at Christmas, let us be devout to Mary; let us ask all through her in Advent. She is the tabernacle before which we should pray, and none ever knelt before her in vain.
3rd Point — Let us endeavour to ascertain the special danger from which we should ask individually to be delivered. In the order of grace, as in the order of nature, there is some special disease to which we are predisposed, and which will prove our ruin, if we do not watch its symptoms and check its progress. How carefully and anxiously we watch the disease by which we think ourselves endangered! how we guard against all that might excite it or increase it! and then, if the least danger is apprehended, how quickly we consult the physician, how implicitly we abide by his directions! Would to God we were one-half as anxious about the constitutional malady of our souls. But let us begin now; let us consult our spiritual physicians, employ the remedies they prescribe, and occupy ourselves during this Advent in imploring our coming Saviour to deliver us from this malady, whose danger He knows better than we can.
FRIDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, OUR COMING PURIFIER.
“And one of the Seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs off the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: Behold, this hath touched thy lips, and thy iniquities shall be taken away, and thy sin cleansed.” (Is. vi 6, 7.) 2nd Lesson at Matins.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the subject of Isaias’ vision: he “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated, and His train filled the temple.” The Seraphim attend Him, and cry one to the other: “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of His glory.”
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may be so purified as to adore this God of hosts worthily.
1st Point — Consider the Infant Jesus as our Purifier. He comes that He may touch our lips, not with a live coal from the altar of sacrifice, but with Himself, the Victim of sacrifice. Even as the Seraphim adored trembling, and uttering in this marvelous vision the Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, which never ceases before the eternal throne, so did they tremble and adore uttering the same canticle of adoration as they knelt before Mary, when Jesus sat upon the royal throne of her royal womb.And yet we can dare to approach that majesty without fear and without adoration. Advent should be for us a special time of purification. We should purify ourselves to receive our newborn King at Christmas; we should purify ourselves to prepare for the coming of that King, no longer as an Infant and a purifier, but as a judge and a dispenser of justice. Oh, let us seek to have our lips now so purified by the Sacrifice of the Altar, that they may be worthy of the eternal entrance of our coming Bridegroom!
2nd Point — Consider the words of this lesson: “They cried one to another, Holy, holy, holy.” Thus, also, should we cry to each other, by our words and our example, Holy, holy, holy. Our God is holy; we must be holy. Our God is holy; we axe His children; children must he like their father. Our God who is coming to us is a holy God; He cannot love iniquity; He will turn away from us if He finds we are not in earnest in endeavouring to deliver ourselves from sin — from that sin from which He is coming at such a cost to release us. We must give each other good examples — examples of fervour, examples of charity, examples of devotion — crying out one to another, “The Holy One is coming; let us prepare to meet Him.”
3rd Point — We need two kinds of purification. When the Seraph touched the lips of the Prophet, he said: “Thy iniquities shall be taken away, and thy sin shall be cleansed.” Our Infant Jesus is coming to touch our lips with the kiss of peace, that He may impart this twofold purification. First, He will cleanse all our past sins, that is, He will “take away our iniquities and we must prepare for this by a good confession, a fervent contrition, and worthy penance. Oh, how earnestly and specially we ought to prepare for our Christmas confession! Jesus is coming to take away our sins; it is but little He asks us to do to obtain so great a grace. Secondly, He will purify us by cleansing us from our daily imperfections and faults, and for this we must prepare by commencing now to observe our resolutions with great fidelity, so that our sweet Jesus may find only such imperfections as are almost inevitable to human frailty.
SATURDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, THE MYSTIC DEW.
“Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened, and bud forth a saviour.” (Is. xlv. 8.)
1st Prelude — Consider your Infant Jesus coming down from heaven as a gentle dew, to fertilize the earth; watering the earth, which is Mary, and budding forth as a Saviour.
2nd Prelude — Pray that sweet Jesus may drop dew upon your soul, as a mystic earth, and bud forth salvation in your heart.
1st Point — Consider the magnificence and beauty of this simile. The dew drops gently from heaven; and by this mystic dew we may understand the Divinity of Jesus. It comes from heaven, but descends to earth. It comes from above, but it falls, like long-expected rain, into the womb of Mary. And Mary is the earth, the mystic earth, into which the Divinity descends, that by the power of that Divinity, which alone could operate so great a marvel, it may bud forth a Saviour. O thrice holy Dew! O thrice blessed Earth! The earth — that is, the soul of Mary — has pined, and longed, and prayed for that Dew. The ardour of her desires has brought it down from heaven. Again and again she cried as none ever had cried, or will yet cry: “ For Thee my soul hath thirsted; for Thee my flesh, O how many ways!” (Ps. lxii. 2.) She thirsted for her God, not alone that her own soul might be filled, but that her people might be refreshed by the living waters. She looked out upon the world, parched and dried by the scorching fires of sin and lust, and she cried to God that He would come and deliver His people; and for her sake He came.
2nd Point — As the first man Adam was formed from the earth, so the second man also would be formed from the virgin earth, Mary. He drops His Divinity, as dew, into her womb in the silence of the night, that the bud of His Humanity may germinate therein. He comes with the silence of dew. His descent into her womb was hidden and noiseless; and thus His grace comes even now, as a soft and silent dew, into the hearts of His chosen ones. Oh, how earnestly we should pray that this mystic dew of grace may descend into our hearts! How earnestly we should cry out, “For Thee my soul hath thirsted; for Thee my flesh, O how many ways!” and when the dew of grace has softened and fertilized us, then we may hope that Christ will be found within us, and that our life may become so one with His, that He may indeed be our life.
3rd Point — If we desire this mystic Dew, if we wish that Jesus should germinate in us, by assimilating our life to His, let us seek this favour and grace through Mary. Let us seek to be like her in our lives, if we desire in our measure to be like her in her favours. Her heart was prepared for this Dew; it was calm, loving, and full of desire to obtain it; and when the Dew descended into that virgin earth, O how faithfully she corresponded with all the fertility it effected! It is the quality of dew to refresh and fertilize; let us pray that we may obtain all that our coming Saviour desires to give.
SECOND SUNDAY. THE HEART OF JESUS, THE FLOWER OF THE ROOT OF JESSE.
“And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him.”, (Is. xi. 1, 2.) 1st Lesson at Matins.
“Blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in Me.” (Mat. xi. 6.) Gospel for second Sunday in Advent.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the Infant Jesus as a flower budding in the womb of Mary.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may love and cherish this Flower, and that it may be planted in your heart.
1st Point — Consider the words of the Prophet: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him.” Already Mary is recorded in the prophetic page, even as she has already been predestinated in the eternal counsels as the Mother of Jesus. She is the rod of the root of Jesse, the rod which bears this mystic Flower. The stem which supports the flower always corresponds in grace and beauty to the flower which it bears. How beautiful, then, is the stem Mary, which bears the Flower Jesus. O most favoured stem! O most holy Flower! The stem nourishes and gives life to the flower. Humanly speaking, the stem is necessary to the flower. Mary nourishes and gives life to Jesus; the sap of this stem, that is, the blood of Mary, forms the sacred Humanity of the Flower Jesus. How we should reverence that stem! how we should honour it! how we should strive to protect it from the blasts of dishonour! how we should water it with tears of love and devotion!
2nd Point — The rod Mary springs from the root of Jesse. “Of this man’s seed, God, according to His promise, hath raised up to Israel a Saviour, Jesus.” (Acts, xiii. 23.) Mary springs from a royal and a holy stock; but while the progenitors usually ennoble the scion of a royal house, the scion here ennobles her progenitors. Mary need not glory that she is of the race of David, but David will glory, to all eternity, that Mary sprang from his root. Oh, how deeply this root had entered into the bed of humility, since its branches ascend so high! How great its stability, since it supports a God! How marvelous its fertility, since it produces the Author of creation. Let us bow down in lowly homage before this plant, and adore its Flower, who has called Himself the “Flower of the field, and the Lily of the valley;” the flower of the fertile field of Mary’s virginity, the lily of the deep valley of her most profound humility.
3rd Point — Let us beware lest we should be “scandalized” at the lowliness of this Flower. Our Lord Himself gives us this warning in today’s Gospel: “Blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in Me.” Alas! what fear there is that we may take scandal at Jesus, when Jesus Himself considered it necessary to pronounce a benediction on those who were not scandalized in Him. We are scandalized in Him when we question the wisdom of His providences and the love of His providences; we are scandalized in Him when we fail to appreciate the greatness of His humility and the beauty of His meekness. The world of heresy is scandalized in Him, because it will not stoop to honour her whom He has stooped so low to exalt. Let us beware lest we should fail, even in the least degree, in the honour due to the stem of Jesse. Let us pray that this Flower may be transplanted into our hearts by her blessed hands, and let us water it with our tears, and cherish it with our love. Then we may hope that the Spirit of the Lord will also rest on us, and fill us with His sevenfold gifts.
MONDAY.THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING TO DELIVER THE CAPTIVES.
“He hath sent Me to preach to the meek, to heal the contrite of heart, and to preach a release to the captives, and deliverance to them that are shut up.” (Is. lxi. 1.) Ant. at Mag.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the Infant Jesus coming as a deliverer, and the King Jesus coming as a judge.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may so prepare each year for the anniversary of His first coming, as to be enabled to meet Him at His second coming without fear.
1st Point — Consider the mission of the Infant Jesus. He comes to preach, to heal, to release, to deliver. Our divine Lord Himself declared these were the characteristics and the proofs of His mission. When John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask if He was the one who was “to come,” Jesus proved that He was indeed the long-expected Messiah by His works. They were to go and relate to John what they had seen and heard; the miracles which they had seen performed; and the gospel which they had heard preached. And now our sweet Infant Jesus is coming again, as it were, on the same work, the same mission. He will preach to us by His example; He will preach humility by His lowliness, He will preach silence by His speechlessness, He will preach charity by His surpassing exercise of that sublime virtue, He will preach love of Mary by His own conduct towards His Blessed Mother. And if we are “meek ” we shall hear Him and obey Him. The little Infant Jesus has not come to confound the proud, to silence the boaster, to humble the haughty; this will be His work at another coming, when He will manifest His power. Now He comes only to manifest His mercy. Oh, let us pray for meekness, the meekness and simplicity of little children, that we may rightly hear and obey the preaching of this little Child!
2nd Point — He comes to heal. O successful Physician, who is both the adviser and the remedy. We need not fear, however deep our wounds may be, however long they may have rankled and festered, the little Infant Jesus has a cure for all; one drop of His Infant blood can heal the most inveterate and long-standing sore. Let us no longer complain of our imperfections, of our temptations, of our difficulties, of our weakness. Here is a remedy which cannot fail. All through this blessed Advent, let us kneel in spirit before Mary, the tabernacle where Jesus reposes, and pray to Him to come and heal us, and He will come, and our healing will be perfected in proportion to the depth of our contrition, for He has come to heal the contrite of heart.
3rd Point — He comes to release the captives. Oh! let us never forget that there is another day coming — a day of exceeding fear — a day of agonizing dread; a day when Jesus will come, not to release, but to bind; not to deliver, but to shut up. And this day will be anticipated for us by the day of our death. The year is fast passing away. Can we tell if we shall live to see the close of another? Are we sure that this terrible day will not come to us before another Advent. If we have prepared for it, and it does not come, shall we be any the worse? If we have not prepared for it, and it does come, what will be our terror and dismay! Oh! let us run to our Infant Jesus, and beseech Him to release us now from sin, that we may not be bound eternally by it.
TUESDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS SENDING A MESSENGER TO PREPARE HIS WAY.
“The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God.” (Is. xl. 3.) Ant. at Mag.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the great Prophet announcing the coming of Jesus.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may profit by all the messages of grace which Jesus sends you.
1st Point — Consider the exceeding love of Jesus in sending a messenger to prepare His way. When earthly monarchs undertake a journey to a distant part of their dominions, they send messengers before them. These messengers are charged to provide for all their comforts, to remove every obstacle to their advancement, to warn the people of their approach, that they may conceal all that would prove offensive to royal eyes, to banish all semblance of sorrow, to command public rejoicings. But our sweet Infant Jesus has no such purpose in sending messengers before His face. Oh, no. His messenger is not charged to see to His comforts, for our coming King, our sweet Infant Jesus, has renounced all comforts. His messenger is not commanded to put out of sight such objects of sorrow and distress as would prove an annoyance to an earthly monarch. No; the messengers of our sweet Jesus were desired to assemble the unhappy and the miserable, to make the most unhappy and the most miserable the most welcome; for our Infant Prince is content to suffer all manner of afflictions Himself, if He can only console one of the poorest of His subjects.
2nd Point — Consider the messengers whom the Infant King employs. Before His first coming He sends the Baptist; but Jesus is always sending messengers before His face, for He is always coming to His people with some new grace, some new mercy, some new kindness. How many messengers has He sent you this year, and how did you receive His messengers? When He came, was the way prepared!? He sent you a messenger of warning, by the flight of time, at the close of last year; a messenger of recollection, by a short retreat; a messenger of remembrance of His passion, in Lent; a messenger of remembrance of His love, at Easter. He sent you, perhaps, messengers to say earth was not your home, by sickness and suffering, by kind trials, by temptations, by wise and loving admonitions. He sent you messengers of daily graces, which, perhaps, you were too much occupied with other things to notice, or if you noticed them, you have forgotten them. Oh, if we only profited by all the messengers Jesus sends us, how different our lives would be!
3rd Point — The voice cries in the desert. Earth is a desert to Jesus, because His Father is not loved and honoured there; and yet we try to make a home of the desert, and marvel then we cannot make ourselves comfortable in it. The voice cries in the desert. Jesus is often obliged to make a desert for us, because we will not listen to His voice, or the voice of His messengers, in the crowded city. When sweet Jesus wants a soul all to Himself, and purposes to do great things in her, He leads her into the very depths of the wilderness. He takes from her all she loves; He makes earth utterly desolate; and He leaves her for a little while to know and feel the bitterness and anguish of this desolation; and then, O then, He comes to her Himself into the wilderness, and the desert rejoices and blossoms like the rose, and the rivers of waters break forth, and the soul, suspended between heaven and earth, lies upon the cross with Jesus, and lives only to love or to suffer, and suffering manifest is here only joy, and love is her reward.
WEDNESDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS, THE LAMB OF GOD.
“Send forth, O Lord, the Lamb, the ruler of the earth. . . . And a throne shall be prepared in mercy, and one shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking judgment, and quickly rendering that which is just.” (Is. xvL 1, 5.) Lesson at Matins.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the Infant Lamb of God in Mary’s womb, the tabernacle of David.
2nd Prelude — Adore Him in that tabernacle, and pray that He may rule you from it.
1st Point — Jesus is coming to us now as the Lamb. We know how gentle, how humble, how silent, how uncomplaining is that Lamb. Lambs were used for sacrifice, and Jesus is coming to be a sacrifice. One day we shall see Him as the “Lamb that was slain,” and that Lamb has a “book of life,” in which He writes the names of His children. (Apocalypse, xiii. 8.) Oh, let us go to Him now, and implore Him to write our names in that blessed book! Alas! that they must be written with His Blood. One day we shall see that Lamb “standing upon Mount Sion” (Apoc. xiv. 1), and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand having His name, and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And those blessed souls who stand near this gentle Lamb, who stand nearest to Him, who go wherever He goes, those souls who sing a canticle which no one else can learn, who are they? And why are they thus so wonderfully favoured? We know this also; they are “virgins,” and the first-fruits of that most precious blood which the Lamb is coming to pour forth, that He may purchase them. Oh, how dear are virgins to Jesus, when He purchases them first of all the redeemed!
2nd Point — But the Lamb has a throne. We are told what the throne is, and how it was prepared. The throne was “prepared in mercy.” Let us look for this coming Lamb, and we shall soon see where He is enthroned. He sits in the tabernacle of David. Mary is the tabernacle of David, where the Lamb is enthroned, a thousand times more beautiful and more magnificent than the Temple of Solomon, the poor type of her perfect holiness and incomparable beauty. And if it was so honoured, and the Holy of Holies so revered, because it contained the ark and the cloud of the chekhinah, how shall she be honoured and revered who contained the Lamb of God! His throne is “ prepared in mercy.” Who can ever fathom the depth of mercy which prepared Mary to be the throne of mercy, the well-spring from which the fount of mercy poured itself forth upon the whole earth.
3rd Point — Jesus is coming now as the Lamb. He is coming to open the “sealed book” (Apoc. v.5) of the Incarnation, which none other could open. The seals of redemption are opened. But when the Lamb comes as the “Lion of the tribe of Juda,” He will open the seals of judgment, and pour forth the vials of wrath. Oh, let us beseech Him to come now as the Lamb, the Ruler of the earth! Let us submit ourselves to His gentle reign, lest haply we should be compelled to submit to Him as the Lion of wrath and judgment. Now He comes as the Lamb, to give us the fleece of His justice to cover us, the fleece of His merits to sanctify us. He comes to give us His blood to purify us, and His flesh to feed us. Oh, how can we ever love this gentle Lamb enough! And if we receive Him with love, when He comes hereafter as the Lion to a guilty world, He will come as the Lamb to us. If we submit to the rule of the Lamb now, the Lamb will rule us for all eternity, for those “who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” shall serve Him day and night; they shall hunger no more, and thirst no more, and the “Lamb shall rule them, and lead them to the fountains of the waters of life.” (Apoc. vii. 17.)
THURSDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING ON A LIGHT CLOUD.
“Behold the Lord will ascend upon a swift cloud, and will enter into Egypt, and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at His presence.” (Is. xix. 1.) 1st Lesson at Matins.
“Behold a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man’s foot.” (3 Kings, xviii. 44)
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the Prophet Elias upon Mount Carmel praying for rain, and behold this mystic cloud, the type of Mary.
2nd Prelude — Pray also earnestly for the refreshment of a world already parched and desolate with sin, and ask that refreshment may come through Mary now as Jesus through her of old.
1st Point — Consider Mary as the mystical cloud on which Jesus comes. At first the cloud is so small that it seems scarcely larger than a man’s foot. Thus, Mary at first is hidden from the world. But she contains Immensity; and as years and centuries pass on, the cloud spreads over the whole of the eternal horizon. It refreshes, it fertilizes, it pours down torrents of grace upon the world; and as we approach the end of time, the cloud will increase more and more, and the Church will obtain yet larger blessings, yet richer graces, through the intercession of Mary. Jesus comes to us hidden in this cloud; hence it is that He gives His choicest graces through it. And those who, like the Pro- phet, ascend the heights of Carmel, those who are most elevated above the things of earth, who have ascended the steep mountain of perfection with toil and pain, they will the soonest perceive this mystic cloud. Thus the Church sings of Mary: Sicut nebula texi omnem terram — “ As a cloud I covered all the earth.” (Ecclus. xxiv. 6.)
2nd Point — The Infant Jesus comes to us upon this cloud. It is a “swift” cloud, because of its love and desire. Oh, how swiftly Mary hastens on her path of mercy, when a soul cries out to her for relief! How she hastens to tell Jesus all its needs, and to bring Him to its deliverance! It is a light cloud, for Mary never was burdened with the heavy weight of sin or lust. The Egypt of the world needs a deliverer. The presence of Jesus alone can destroy its idols. Alas! do we not need His presence as much now as at His first coming? How full of thankfulness and joy we should be that He comes again with special grace and power each Christmas! If we only entered more faithfully and earnestly into the festivals of the Church as they recur, what increase of grace we should obtain! Let us begin to do so now. Let us prepare for this Christmas as we should have prepared for the birth of our Infant Saviour, had we been on earth when He came, and had we been privileged to know of His coming. He will come to us as really, as effectually as He came to Bethlehem. He will give us as abundant graces as if we had been present there. It is not because we were not present at the events which the Church commemorates, that we do not obtain all the graces which were then given, but because we do not prepare for these commemorations, and thus fit ourselves to receive what will be as freely given now as then.
3rd Point — Jesus comes to us now in a cloud, that is, concealed in the mysteries of the most holy Sacrament. It is still Mary who brings Him to us. If she had not given Him a body in her womb, formed of her own life-blood, how could we now feed upon Him as our daily bread? It is from this mystic cloud that the manna of the most holy Sacrament is rained down upon us. We receive Jesus through Mary; let us, then, go to Jesus through Mary. Let us ask her to give us this Bread of Life; and when we receive it, let us offer Him all the love and devotion and spotless purity of His spotless Mother, in atonement for our coldness and neglect.
FRIDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING AS OUR COMFORTER.
“Say to the faint-hearted: Take courage and fear not: God Himself will come and save you.” (Is. xxxv. 4.) Ant. at Mag.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the little Infant Jesus coming as your comforter.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may be worthy of His divine comforting.
1st Point — The earth was filled with darkness and desolation before the coming of Jesus. How much more dark and desolate will it be before His second coming! It will be darker, because men will have rejected the Light; and more desolate, because they will have rejected the Comforter. At Christ’s first coming, the darkness and desolation was one of desire; the world pined for a comforter, it longed for a guide; and yet it knew not its needs, or knew them but vaguely. Hence, here was one deep cry of desire and expectation from all creation. There were a few who looked for salvation in Israel a few who longed and prayed for the Coming One; a few who said in their hearts at least, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” Let us unite ourselves during this Advent with them; let us offer our sweet Jesus the tears of the Prophets, the sighs of the Patriarchs, the blood of the Martyrs, above all, the love and desire of Mary, as our best preparation for our coining God.
2nd Point — God Himself will come and save you. Oh, how certain and full will that deliverance be which is effected by a God! God Himself will come and save you. He sees us perishing in the ocean of our iniquities, and He will not send His saints or His angels to save us; He will come Himself. What a reason for holy confidence! If we are willing to be saved, we may be assured of our salvation. Since God Himself has willed to come and save us, we may know how desirous He is of our salvation, and how much confidence we may have that He will effect it! But if we desire to be saved either from eternal ruin, from an evil inclination, a long-continued imperfection, or a trying temptation, we must will our salvation with as much earnestness as God has willed to effect it. This is the reason why so many souls perish, not that God is unwilling to save them, but that they are unwilling to be saved. Yet we are unwilling in our measure when we do not use every exertion in our power to conquer sin and to attain virtue. Let us examine ourselves, and see how we are preparing for this God who is coming to save us.
3rd Point — God Himself comes to save us whenever we receive the most holy Sacrament. The altar at which we kneel is another Bethlehem, at which Jesus has just been born. There we behold the Lamb of God, and there we may receive Him into our hearts. Oh, let the faint-hearted “ take courage,” for here they may receive the eternal strength! Oh, let the fearful banish all their dread, for here they may receive their consolation. “God Himself” comes to save us; and hence those who are weakest in soul and in body, need this blessed strength more than others, and can only live by this life. Jesus comes to save us through Mary; therefore we should seek Him through Mary. Blessed are they who seek Him ever through her. Now He comes through her, and in her they will find Him. Hereafter He will come with her, and she will then be the salvation of those who seek salvation through her now.
SATURDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS THE JOY OF THE HUMBLE.
“O Lord, Thou art my God, I wilt exalt Thee, and give glory to Thy name: for Thou hast done wonderful things. Thy designs of old faithful, amen.” (Is. xxv. 1.) 1st Lesson at Matins.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself Mary singing her canticle of joy, “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” and exulting in her Saviour, her Redeemer, and the Redeemer of her people. Then behold Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden, and mourning in unutterable anguish the ruin caused by her sin.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may be enabled to rejoice with Mary, by imitating the penitence of Eve.
1st Point — Consider the faithfulness of God. Five thousand years have elapsed since He made the promise, “She shall crush thy head.” Even when it was uttered, Mary was present in the mind of God, and every type which prefigured her coming was ordered in marvelous succession and wisdom, from the miraculous fruitfulness of Sara, to the mystic vision of the golden gate in the temple shown to Ezechiel. But how many saints of the old dispensation lived and died before Mary came! The unbelieving doubted, and the scoffer scoffed; but the word of the Unchangeable was written in “the Book,” in the book of Scripture, and in the book of the eternal purposes, “She shall crush thy head.” The demon had deceived and ruined the human race through the woman; through the woman the demon is now deceived and ruined.
2nd Point — How great is that woman, for whom above five thousand years was not considered too long a preparation! How fearful was the sin for which woman suffered such terrible punishment! Until Mary came, woman was at best the servant, but more often the slave of man. “I will multiply thy sorrows and thy conceptions,” was the sentence of the Judge. And the sorrows of woman were, indeed, multiplied, until she came whose sorrows were concentrated on One, whose conception was limited to One. Henceforth, where ever Mary was known and honoured, woman was free. Even those who refuse to honour Mary, gain the advantage of her advent, though they will not honour her as the restorer of woman. Henceforth barrenness is no longer a reproach to her, nor is she obliged to conceive in anguish. The deliverer has come; and while “marriage is honourable in all,” there is yet a more excellent way; and the Queen of virgins has made virginity the highest privilege of woman and her noblest praise.
3rd Point — How powerful is that woman, to whom God Himself gave authority “to crush the serpent’s head”! The head is the emblem of power; crushing signifies not merely victory, but that the vanquished can no longer exert his power, that he cannot rebel again. The ancient enemy lay crushed beneath the feet of Mary, when she accepted the will of God that she should become His mother. Well might the “dragon be angry against the woman” (Apoc. xii. 17), and make war with her spiritual seed, since he has failed so utterly in making war with her. Well may he endeavour to prevent devotion to Mary, knowing as he does her power. If we desire to overcome the dragon, to crush the serpent, let us seek her aid, whom God Himself has declared should accomplish this work.
THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING TO DELIVER US.
“The Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.” (Phil. iv. 5, 6.) Invitatory at Matins and Epistle for the day.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the Infant Jesus in the womb of Mary preparing to come forth and deliver us.
2nd Prelude — Adore your coming King with joy and thanksgiving.
1st Point — This is the Advent Sunday of joy. The Mass commences with joy. “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again, I say, rejoice.” And what is the cause of our joy? “The Lord is nigh.” He is near in the commemoration of His first coming. He is near in the hope of His second coming. He is near, we know not how near, in that swift, sudden coming, which shall be to us the end of time and the commencement of eternity. How many causes, then, we have for joy! When a great prince is born, what rejoicings take place, what long preparations are made even before the birth of a royal child! The nobles prepare gifts, the monarch prepares feasts, his subjects prepare rejoicings. Shall we not also prepare gifts, and feasts, and rejoicings for our coming Prince? Let each have a gift to offer Him; some daily practice of virtue, some little daily thanksgiving for His love in coming to redeem us, some little daily self-denial. And when the day of His birth has come, we can gather our thanksgivings and our devotions in one, and lay them at His feet, or, better still, place them in the hands of our Mother to present for us to her Son. The touch of her blessed hand will beautify them, even if her love does not prompt her to add to them from her own treasures.
2nd Point — “Be not solicitous.” Why I Because “the Lord is nigh.” What should we think of the heir to a kingdom, who was always fretting about trifles, who, even when all his necessities were sup- plied today, began to weep because he feared they would not be supplied tomorrow? What should we think of the son of a king, who gave himself up to anxiety about his temporal affairs, because he had some difficulty in managing them in his father’s absence, when he knew that father was even then coming to deliver him from every embarrassment? O Christian soul, you are the heir of a kingdom, the child of a King. He is “nigh”: why be solicitous? What is there on this earth worth five minutes’ anxiety Or if you must be solicitous, be solicitous for God, and it will not destroy your peace, or hinder your sanctification, as being solicitous for yourself will most assuredly do. Be solicitous for His interests; be solicitous for His glory; be solicitous to prepare a welcome for Him; and let it be more in prayer and thanksgiving than in restless, busy work.
3rd Point — But if we are commanded to be “nothing solicitous,” we are not commanded to be indifferent. We are not told not to work for God in our daily duties, or our spiritual employments; we are not told to use no foresight, or care, or holy thoughtfulness, how our work, spiritual or temporal, may be done best: on the contrary, we must work as if all depended on our labour; we must occupy ourselves earnestly with plans for God’s glory and our own sanctification, according to our circumstances and state of life; but we must not be solicitous; we must not give ourselves up to undue anxiety, to repining if we fail, to fretting cares. Why? Because “the Lord is nigh.” He is coming; He will soon be here; and we shall see that His providence arranged all things, even our contradictions and disappointments, for the best. We must be nothing “solicitous,” because we can “pray and if “our requests are made known to God,” do we wish that He shall give us what He thinks best, or what we think best? Are we not sure that He hears what we say to Him, and that He will do what He knows is best for us. What reason, then, can we find for being solicitous?
MONDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS THE CORNER STONE.
“Behold I will lay a stone in the foundations of Sion, a tried stone, a corner stone, a precious stone, founded in the foundation. He that believeth, let him not hasten.” (Is. xxviii. 16.) 3rd Lesson at Matins.
1st Prelude — Consider the Infant Jesus as the foundation stone of Sion, the Church of the living God.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may be placed as a precious stone on that foundation.
1st Point — The corner stone of a building is always proportioned to its strength and magnificence. It is this stone on which all the others rest, and without its support the edifice would soon fall into ruin. Behold the Stone on which the Church of God is founded! That Church is destined to endure to eternity, and hence the foundation stone is the Rock of ages; that Church is to be magnificent in its sanctity, and hence it is founded on the King of saints; that Church is to surpass all that the human mind can conceive in its beauty, and hence it is founded on the Eternal Beauty. Let us offer our most fervent thanksgivings to the Infant Jesus, for having chosen us to be stones in this mystic building. How many has He passed by to choose us, and who could He have chosen so unworthy? Have we ever thanked Him enough for the gift of faith? If we have not, let us begin to do so now, when He is about to manifest Himself to the Gentiles, and to those who knew not His name.
2nd Point — This stone is a tried stone. O sweet Infant Jesus, Thou comest to be tried and fashioned by the rude tool of suffering, and we desire to be stones in this building without any fashioning that can give us pain. When Solomon was building the temple, which was both the type of Mary and of the Church, the workmen were required to cut and hew the stones at a distance, “so that there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house when it was in building.” (3 Kings, vi. 7.) We must also be cut and hewed here for the eternal temple, since no sounds of pain can be heard therein; since into whatever shape we are fashioned now, we shall continue for all eternity. Oh, how ardently we should desire the hammer and the axe: the axe of purification, that every evil may be cut away; the hammer, that we may be refined and polished, that our virtue may be perfected by suffering!
3rd Point — “He that believeth, let him not hasten.” Let us not desire that hours of suffering should pass quickly; for we believe they are hours of purification, of preparation for our place in the eternal temple. Let us not desire that they should hasten, lest we should be less fit for the place or which we are destined, or less “precious” than the Heart of Jesus designs to make us. Alas! if, by our murmurs or impatience, we should deprive ourselves of the least touch of that purification which He is giving us daily with His own wounded hand! Alas! if, by our petulance or pride, when reproved or advised by our superiors, we should deter them from admonishing us, and thus lose a brightness perhaps transferred to a more perfect soul.
TUESDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING TO ENLIGHTEN US THROUGH MARY.
“And the light of the moon shall be as the light of the son, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the Lord shall bind up the wound of His people, and shall heal the stroke of their wound.” (Is. xxx. 26.) 3rd Lesson at Matins.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the beauty of Mary as she longs each hour with deeper desire to behold her child and her God.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may also become spiritually beautiful by your ardent desire of Jesus.
1st Point— Mary, the moon which enlightens the Church, becomes every hour more beautiful. Her light was the one bright spot on a dark earth, when Jesus beheld it from His Father’s throne, and came down into her womb. But her light was hidden, for the time of its manifestation had not yet come. Nor will Mary’s light be fully manifested until this prophecy has its full accomplishment at the second coming of Jesus. How, indeed, could we bear the fullness of its glory, when even its rays are dazzling to our sinful eyes. But at the moment of the Incarnation the light of the moon did indeed become as the light of the sun. The Sun had concealed Himself in Mary’s womb, and henceforth she shines with His light. Her light was indeed clear, and fair, and beautiful; but now she shines with the light of God, she sees in the light of God, she lives in the light of God.
2nd Point — Hence it is that those who are most devout to Mary know Jesus best. They see Him with and in her light, and her light is His. Oh, if we need light to see our imperfections, let us go to Mary, and ask her to show them to us! She sees them in God’s light, she sees in what manner they are most offensive to Him. She sees the little specks and motes which we could never discern, be- cause her light “is as the light of the sun,” which manifests what is hidden to every light less penetrating. If we need light to discern our path of duty, let us go to Mary. She sees all things in the light of the Sun of justice, for He abides in her. She will point out to us the shadows of self-deceit. She will shine upon our path in the fullness of heavenly beauty; and when all earthly light fails, if we have the light of Mary’s love, we shall never lose our road.
3rd Point — The light of the sun fertilizes, and brings the fruits of the earth to perfection. But it also has the power of scorching and destroying. Mary is now as a mystical sunlight, fructifying the people of God. Jesus has come “to bind up the wound of His people,” and He has made the light of His Mother’s love a principal instrument in effecting this blessed end. When the sunshine of Mary’s love is turned upon a soul, what graces it obtains, how rapidly it ripens, how marvellously it fructifies, what knowledge it attains! Oh, let us beseech her to look upon us! Her look is life. Once again her divine Son will come, and then this prophecy will have its perfect accomplishment — “the wound” of God’s people will be healed eternally, and the light of Mary will shine with an eternal glory. But there will be another light — a light of fear, a light of destruction. The light of the Sun of justice will be sevenfold; magnificent to His chosen, destructive to His enemies. Oh, let us pray now that the powerful light of Mary may illuminate and fructify our souls, lest the destroying light of the last awful day should scorch us for eternity!
EMBER WEDNESDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS SENDING HIS ANGEL TO ANNOUNCE HIS COMING.
“The Angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke, i. 26, 27.) 1st Lesson at Matins. Gospel at Mass.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the scene of the Annunciation.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may receive all God’s messages with the humility and deference of Mary.
1st Point — As Christmas approaches, the Church leads us on deeper into the mysteries of this holy season. This day, in ancient times, was one of great devotion and special observance. Alas! that the coldness of our love should have occasioned the withdrawal of so much that might help us heaven – ward. But a special Mass and Office is still left to us. Let us try to enter into the Church’s designs. Perhaps if the Advent is a short one, Jesus will come to us in a few days. How can we prepare ourselves better, than by uniting ourselves with Mary; by joining in spirit with her as she hears the Annunciation; by uniting our preparations for our coming Saviour to her preparations for His Nativity; by joining, with all the love of our hearts, in this the Church’s special commemoration of the Annunciation.
2nd Point — But we must think also of another purpose for which this day is appointed. Alas! that we do not think more prayerfully of the ember days, as they recur at each season of the year. God does not need our prayers; but in the designs of His providence, He is pleased to act as if He were influenced by them. And what more momentous subject of prayer could we find than that which should be uppermost today? If the pastors of the flock are not faithful and holy, what will become of the sheep? Today hundreds are preparing for the solemn rite of ordination. They are to be God’s messengers. Like the Angel Gabriel, they will be “sent from God” to His virgin spouse, the Church, to announce the tidings of salvation. Theirs is a high commission, an awful dignity, and an untold honour; nay, they are even honoured far above Gabriel, for he but brought the message of God to Mary, but they will bring God Himself to His people. How clean of hands and pure of heart should those angelic messengers be! Can we pray sufficiently for them?
3rd Point — Consider the manner in which Mary receives this message. Meditate on her profound humility, her meek attention, her prompt obedience. Do we thus receive the messengers whom God sends us? Is our answer always an Ecce ancilla? Would to God that we did not even utter a refusal or a murmur. Let us learn from Mary how to reverence our priests and superiors, and how to obey their message. God sends us countless messages all day long — messages which are whispered in our hearts, but which we are often too busy to hear — messages of love, of warning, and of counsel. Let us examine ourselves as to the manner in which we receive those favours. Let us resolve earnestly, for the future, to receive them like Mary. Let us always be as handmaids, loving, gentle, thoughtful handmaids of our beloved Jesus, watching for His messages, however secret, and ready to say meekly, Ecce ancilla, Domine.
THURSDAY. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS SENDING A MESSAGE TO MARY.
“Hail full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou among women.” (Luke, i. 28.) “And there shall be faith in thy times, riches of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.” (Is. xxxiii. 6.) 2nd Lesson at Matins.
1st Prelude as yesterday.
2nd Prelude — Pray for grace so to imitate Mary, that Jesus may abide with you also.
1st Point — Consider the angelic salutation, “Hail full of grace.” If Mary was full of grace before Jesus was conceived in her womb, how she must have overflowed with grace when the Fountain of grace abode within her! O immaculate Mother, may some of the overflowings of thy grace descend into our poor hearts! O most pitiful Mother, the fountain is at thy disposal. Thou hast the key; open, oh, open its treasures to us, for we are parched and thirsty. Consider the words, “full of grace.” Mary was so full of grace, that there was no room for self, and no room for creatures. Self and creatures are the two great obstacles which prevent us from receiving the measure of fullness of grace which God desires to give us. Let us ask our immaculate Mother to teach us the secret of emptying ourselves, that we may be filled with God. Let us begin this blessed work now. Jesus is coining very quickly; shall we not do all we can to make room for Him in our hearts?
2nd Point — Let us try to ascertain the special obstacle which prevents us from receiving the fullness of grace. Let us beseech our divine Lord to purify our intentions, our actions, our purposes, our life. Mary had no end but God, and hence she was ever full of God. But we have so many ends, that He cannot find room in our hearts. Until a soul has watched herself very closely, and has received great light from God, she will have no conception how imperfect and how manifold are the motives of her very best actions; and when she is trying to do well, why should she not try also to act purely! God will thereby be so much more glorified, and our merit so immensely increased.
3rd Point — Consider the words, “the Lord is with thee.” He loves to dwell in the humble heart. His delights were with the children of men long ere He came to die for them to win their love. And if the Lord was “with” Mary before He became incarnate in her womb, how much more really was He with her when He took flesh of her! He was with her before the Incarnation, but now He is in her. Oh, what a union between a creature and a Creator! Oh, what a union between flesh and spirit! Oh, what a union between man and God! Jesus is also with us and in us when we receive Him in the most holy Sacrament of His love. When the priest utters the Ecce Agnus Dei, it is a second Annunciation. When he gives the body of Jesus, it is a second Nativity, in which Jesus is born in us and of us anew. He is born of us when we manifest Him to others by living His life, by speaking His words, by acting His acts; and thus in our measure we may be blessed with Mary, whose highest blessedness was that she did the will of God in all things.
FRIDAY. (December 17th.) THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING AS THE ETERNAL WISDOM, AND CHOSING HIS MOTHER TO MANIFEST ITS EXERCISE.
“O wisdom which proceedeth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end, and disposing all things with power and sweetness; come and teach us the way of Providence.” Ant. at Mag.
“And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me.” (Luke, i. 43.) Gospel for Ember Friday.
1st Prelude — Behold the Mother of God inspired by and containing the Eternal Wisdom, hastening to fullfil His desires by her visit to Elizabeth!
2nd Prelude — Pray that the Infant Jesus may thus sweetly and powerfully dispose all things for your salvation.
1st Point — Consider how the Eternal Wisdom orders all things for the good of His elect. He orders them “with power and sweetness” With power, because none can withstand the fiat of His omnipotence; and when to our short-sighted wisdom His plans seem to fail, or His purposes appear to be contradicted and defeated, then, as we shall see hereafter, He has acted with most power and authority, and those who imagine they resist Him, only accomplish His will. He orders all things “sweetly,” and this we shall also know hereafter, if our love is too feeble too realize it now. All that has seemed most severe in His conduct towards His chosen ones, has been not only wisest but kindest. Happy are they who have passed through deep trials, which, at the time, seemed more in judgment than in mercy, and yet have known and acknowledged that the tenderest love had ordered all.
2nd Point — But if the Eternal Wisdom orders all things in regard to His creatures with power and sweetness, how much more must He not have ordered all that concerned His only beloved Son! His choice of the time of His Incarnation must have been most perfect. The events which immediately preceded the Nativity in the world’s history, were all overruled with a view to the divine birth. But, above all, oh, how wise a choice was the choice of the Mother of God! Can we imagine any subject connected with the Incarnation of higher importance? Can we suppose any subject in regard to which the Eternal Wisdom would manifest itself more plainly? With what deep and lowly homage we should reverence this mother, chosen by the light of Eternal Wisdom that to all eternity He might manifest His power in her and through her. Hence she is the Virgo potens of the Church. Hence the first miracle in the order of grace is worked through her in the sanctification of John the Baptist; hence the first miracle in the order of nature is performed through her at Cana of Galilee. Chosen by the sweetness of the Eternal Wisdom, she is the Virgo clemens of the Church, and by her, with surpassing sweetness, every favour we ask is granted. Her sweetness moves her to visit Elizabeth, as the first spiritual charity of the new dispensation; her sweetness moves her to implore the supply of wine for the wedding feast, as its first temporal charity.
3rd Point — Consider the words of Elizabeth, the type of all true lovers of Mary. Far from fearing lest she should pay her too much honour, she trembles lest she should pay her too little. “Whence is this,” she exclaims, “that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” Ah! let us leave it to the cold worldling to be like the wedding guests, who never thanked Mary for the wine; we will rather imitate the saintly Elizabeth; we will cry out at each favour granted to us through her intercession, “Whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me” We shall be amazed that she can vouchsafe even to listen to our entreaties, even to speak one word for us to her Son.
SATURDAY. (18th December.) Feast of the Expectation. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS REJOICING IN HIS MOTHER’S ARDENT DESIRES OF HIS BIRTH.
“O Adonai, leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and gave him the law upon Sina; come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.” Ant. at Mag.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the Mother of Jesus praying and longing with ineffable desires to behold her Infant and her God.
2nd Prelude — Pray with your whole heart that you may as ardently desire Him.
1st Point — The burning bush, which was not consumed, even while surrounded with flames, is a type of Mary’s conception. She brings forth a Son, but her virginity remains inviolate; nay, she is even purer from conception, as fire purifies and refines what it does not destroy. But what is this mystic fire which causes so great a marvel? “How shall this be, angel of God,” exclaimed Mary, in the words of the divine office for the Saturday of this week (Ant. at Benedicts) — “how shall this be, angel of God, for I know not a man? “Hearken, O Virgin Mary; the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.” And well might she hearken to such a message; well might she ponder it in deep and awful reverence; well might she treasure it a secret which none might know until God Himself revealed it.
2nd Point — The Holy Ghost, then, is the fire which burned Mary, but did not consume her. How awful was her nearness to that Spirit which is called in Scripture a consuming fire! how unutterably pure she must have been to bear such nearness unconsumed! She is penetrated, permeated by Him into her very inmost being, body and soul, and yet she does not die. O Spouse of the Dove, who art so dear. to Him, what words can describe thy awful greatness, thy surpassing purity! We must put off our shoes even to approach that flame, and yet thou abidest in it. O Spouse of the Dove, pray for us, for thou canst obtain from Him what thou wilt; and ask that we may be purified for the coming feast, that we may be inspired with longings for the divine birth, in some manner, at least, like thine.
3rd Point — Consider how Mary longs for this birth, and let us unite our desires to hers. How she implores that this Leader of the house of Israel may appear. Do we not also need His presence and His deliverance! Oh! let us ask Him to come with an outstretched arm. It is not by stretching out; His arm to destroy that He will effect this deliverance. Alas! it is by stretching out His arm to suffer. It is by stretching out His arm that His hands may be nailed to the tree. It is by using the very opposite means to those which human wisdom would suggest. He delivers by suffering and by patience. Let us also learn to help others, and to assist in our own deliverance by stretching out our hands to suffer. One day our sweet Jesus will come with an outstretched arm of power; but He has stretched out His arm first to suffer, and even on that day He will bear the marks of His agony. If we desire to reign with Him then, and to be delivered by Him from eternal woe, we must suffer with Him now.
FOURTH SUNDAY. (December 19th.)
“O root of Jesse, who standest for an ensign of the people, before whom kings are silent, and the nations offer their homage; come and deliver us, and do not tarry.” Ant. at Mag.
“I am the root and stock of David, the bright and morning star.” (Ap. xxii. 16.)
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the Infant Jesus elevating His standard, and inviting all the faithful to place themselves under His protection.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may ever march faithfully under the standard of this great King.
1st Point — The root of Jesse is still hidden in the mystic earth of Mary’s womb; but even now He is preparing to come forth. As the first man was made of virgin clay, so is the second; but woman is now honoured in Mary beyond all that her heart could have hoped and desired. The first woman was formed from man, and hence owed him a debt of gratitude, which she, alas! repaid with evil. The second man is formed of a woman, and from the moment of the Incarnation, the evil which woman had done to man was more than compensated, and man owes a debt of gratitude now to woman. O Mary, who shall tell us how to repay all we owe thee! The mystic ark still contains the hidden manna; but even now He is preparing to come forth and feed His people. O Mary, what hast thou not given to us!
2nd Point — When Jesus comes forth from the Tabernacle, from the Holy of Holies, where He reposes, He will raise His standard, that all nations may assemble beneath it. He invites us with smiles and tears. He assures us that in the war to which He summons us, He will bear the hardest share; and that, however many our defeats, if we only rise up after each and invoke His help, we shall be counted as having won the day. He promises to bear the brunt of the battle, and assures us that He will endure all, and more than all, which the meanest soldier in His camp may suffer; nay, more; He promises that our wounds shall shine resplendent as suns, and prove no small part of the magnificent adornment He is preparing for us. Who would not desire to enlist under such a leader? Alas! that any should be led astray by the deceitful promises, the false protestations of His enemies.
3rd Point — Let us beseech Him to come and deliver us; let us implore Him not to delay, lest our weakness should prove our ruin; let us ask Him to shine upon our souls as the morning star. One day He will come, and angels will display His standard in the heavens. Oh, how many will desire to flock beneath that banner then, who are ashamed to appear even near it now! But it will be too late. That ensign will be a protection to the people of God, but it will be a destruction to the enemies of God. That sign of the cross, which they have despised, or viewed with indifference, will be no protection when enemies assail them; but it will be the very mark of the elect, and the token of their being under the protection of the great King.
DECEMBER 20th THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS THE KEY OF DAVID.
“O key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel, who openest and none can shut, who shuttest and none can open; come and lead us forth from our prison-house, where we sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” Ant. at Mag.
“Behold I am living for ever and ever, and have the keys of death and of hell.” (Ap. i. 18.)
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the Infant Jesus coming to offer the keys of the kingdom of heaven to the pastors of His Church, that all who desire it may be admitted therein.
2nd Prelude — Pray that the golden key of mercy may open its doors for you, through the merits of the coming Saviour.
1st Point — The key is the emblem of power. He who possesses the keys of a palace, is master of the palace. The keys of a city are placed in the hands of its conqueror. Our sweet Jesus comes, as the key of David, to open to us the royal treasures of that royal house. But we may refuse them; we may prefer our poverty; we may imagine the treasures of earth greater and better than the treasures of heaven. Let us not forget that many, that multitudes do thus deliberately prefer the treasures of earth. Alas! if we should in any measure be so unhappy as to act thus! We prefer earth to heaven, when we prefer the pleasures of sin or sense, however trifling, to the boundless treasures which we might obtain by mortification. We prefer earth to heaven, when, even in trifles, we occupy our time with what pleases us, instead of with what pleases Jesus. We prefer earth to heaven, when we fail in earnestness of purpose, in purity of intention, in attaining that nearness to God to which He is calling us, because we do not like the trouble of constant watchfulness over self.
2nd Point — Consider the power of Him who holds this key. A conqueror may win the keys of a mighty city today, and tomorrow they may be wrested from him. A prince may hold the keys of his palace today, and tomorrow the monarch Death may strike his hand, so that he can no longer hold them. But who can snatch the keys from the hand of our Infant Jesus? If He opens the door of the prison-house, who can close it? If He frees the captive, who can bind him again, unless he wills to resume his chains? If He opens the golden gate of the palace of David, the “many mansions” of the Father’s house, who can close its portals against us? But we must remember, also, that if He shuts none can open. Oh, how we should fear, how we should weep before Him! how we should beseech this gentle Infant that the gates of mercy may never be closed on us! And if we fear that these gates are well-nigh closed because of our sins, let us have recourse to Mary. Jesus has hidden the golden key of mercy in her blessed heart, and she can never refuse to use it for poor sinners; and even if Jesus is obliged to take the key from her, lest she should admit such vile creatures as we are, if we only kneel and weep at her feet, she will kneel at the feet of Jesus, until He gives her the key again; for He can refuse nothing to her, who never refused anything to Him.
3rd Point — But if we desire to obtain all the privileges of the key of David, if we desire to possess the key of the sacred Heart of Jesus, we must give Him’ the key of our hearts. Our sweet Jesus asked S. Gertrude for the key of her heart, that He might take away from it what He pleased, and place in it what He pleased. But when that saint of love asked Him what was this key, He told her it was her good will! Oh, let us hasten to lay this key at the feet of our Infant Jesus, or rather to place it in His little hands! Let us ask Him to keep it, and never more give it back to us. He will forgive many a fault and many an imperfection to the heart which with true good will seeks to be His alone.
THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING AS THE ORIENT FROM ON HIGH.
“O Orient, Splendour of eternal light and Sun of justice; come and enlighten us sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.” Ant. at Mag.
“The Orient from on high hath visited us. To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke i. 78, 79.)
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the splendour of this glorious Sun coming forth as the light of morning to illuminate a dark and sinful world.
2nd Prelude — Pray that we may be truly enlightened by His coming.
1st Point — The special sin for which Jesus condemns the world is its rejection of light, because, by rejecting light, they rejected Him. This, He says, is the “judgment ” or condemnation of men; “light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light.” Why? “Because their works were evil.” (S. John, iii. 19.) If they had received the light, they would have perceived their darkness. But theirs was a deliberate rejection of light, and a deliberate choice of darkness; for the word “preference” implies a choice between two objects. Do we ever prefer darkness? Do we ever willfully blind ourselves to the light of truth? Do we ever try to hide from ourselves what we can scarcely help seeing, lest we should be obliged to act against our evil inclinations. Oh, let us pray fervently for grace to be “children of light.” How noble, how beautiful a title? Jesus says of Himself, “I am come a light into the world and asks us to be His children, “children of light.” (S. John, xii. 36 and 46.) The children of light are full of light; they are all openness before God and before men. They do no deeds of darkness, because they have nothing to conceal.
2nd Point — Since Mary is the mother of light, she must be its most fruitful source. More enlightened than the Prophets, more enlightened than the Patriarchs, more enlightened than all the Saints, Mary is filled with light, because she contains its Author. Hence those who are most truly devout to Mary, will be most enlightened in divine things. As a mother will impart all the knowledge she possesses to her children in proportion to their age and advancement, so does Mary impart the light of God to her spiritual children in proportion to their spiritual necessities. Happy they who are favoured with the least ray of this light! It will not fail to guide them to the eternal day. Let us beseech this kind mother to enlighten us, to teach us all we need for our perfection and sanctification, to impart to us the necessary light for our respective duties.
3rd Point — Jesus is coming as the Sun of justice. Oh, let us beseech Him to ripen the fruits of grace in our souls: alas! perhaps the little plants of grace have hardly yet commenced to germinate. But, beneath the rays of this powerful Sun, they will shoot forth and multiply rapidly. Let us beseech our sweet Infant King to come quickly, and illuminate us “sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.” Let us beseech Him to enable us to reflect His light on others, like the great Apostle of today. Let us beseech Him to enable us to overcome our doubts and unbelief, and in our measure to evangelize even until death. How many thousands are sitting in darkness whom we might lead forth into light by our prayers, if not by our words! “Sitting,” because the darkness is so intense that they fear to move. “Sitting,” because they are paralyzed by the chill shadow of death.
DECEMBER 22nd. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING AS THE DESIRE OF NATIONS.
“O King and Desire of nations, corner stone which unites both in one; come and save man, whom Thou hast formed from clay.” Ant. at Mag.
“O poor little one, tossed with tempest, without all comfort, behold I will lay thy stones in order, and will lay thy foundations with sapphires, and I will make thy bulwarks of jasper: and thy gates of graven stones, and all thy borders of desirable stones. All thy children shall be taught of the Lord: and great shall be the peace of thy children.” (Is. liv. 11-13.)
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself Mary and Joseph on the road to Bethlehem, despised by all, and yet bearing the King and Desire of nations.
2nd Prelude — Pray for grace to discern Jesus in His Saints, lest you should unhappily despise Him by slighting them.
1st Point — Consider our coming King as the Desire of nations. How ardently we should desire Him as our Deliverer, as our Saviour, as our Friend, as our Brother! With what anxiety we desire the moment when a friend shall arrive after a long journey. How carefully we prepare for his reception! how fondly we anticipate the moment of meeting! But we shall never welcome such a friend as Jesus. Let us begin today to increase the earnestness of our preparations. It is time to get the little crib ready in our hearts, where we propose to place Him at the moment of His birth. How shall we honour so royal a guest? How shall we be able to console Him for the neglect and indifference of the creatures He comes to save? What reparations shall we make to Him for being driven to the cold stable at Bethlehem, for being sent by His creatures to live with beasts? Alas! the poor beasts were better than many of His creatures, for they had never sinned.
2nd Point — Consider how we may best prepare this little mystical couch for the Infant Jesus. Let us cover it with the purple of charity. Let us commence today by offering every beating of our hearts, in union with the beatings of the Infant Heart of Jesus, to the Eternal Father, as an act of homage and love to our coming King. How many acts we shall have made before Christmas night! Then we might offer the first beating of our heart, after we receive our Lord, in union with the intention of the first beating of His Infant Heart, when He came forth from Mary’s womb. Oh, what a concentration of love that pulsation manifested! We know how our poor human hearts beat high with desire and affection for those who are dear to us. Who shall even imagine what the Heart of Jesus felt and desired, how ardently it throbbed with love for us, with desire of our salvation?
3rd Point — There is nothing Jesus desires from us so much as love — love to Him and love to the brethren. He knew there would be a great diversity of stones in the spiritual temple of His church; and He knew also that this diversity, which ought to have produced increased beauty, might, on the contrary, produce disagreement and discord; so He comes as the Corner Stone, that He may both support and unite those mystical stones, that they might be “laid in order,” that they might be “desirable stones.” He comes to unite the Jew and Gentile, that both may be one in Him. He comes to unite the rich and poor, that the one may give of the abundance of their temporal wealth, and the other of the abundance of their spiritual treasures. Oh, let us seek and pray to be united in Christ Jesus to all! We may well bear with what He bears with. The stone that appears so unsightly or so disagreeable to us, rests upon the Corner Stone, on which we also rest: how, then, can we choose but love it!
DECEMBER 23rd. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING AS OUR KING AND LAWGIVER.
“O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Saviour and Expectation of all people; come and deliver us, O Lord our God.” Ant. at Mag.
“Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the Prophet, saying: Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matt. L 22, 23.)
1st Prelude — As on yesterday. 2nd Prelude — Pray earnestly for this coming God, that He may indeed abide with you.
1st Point — Consider the words, “Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the Prophet.” How many things are done, the purpose of which we, in our ignorance and blindness, fail to discern! Who would have supposed that a heathen emperor would issue an edict for his own advantage, in order to prepare the way for the fulfilment of a prophecy. Thus it has been since the world began. Man acts with a view to his own ends and interests, and God over- rules to His own eternal glory. Oh, with what submission we should accept all the decrees of Providence! How careful we should be not to question their wisdom or their love! We only see man’s end now, hereafter we shall see God’s end. All the varied events and circumstances of our lives have been ordered and overruled that some purpose, not indeed spoken by the mouth of the Prophets, but designed by the God of Prophets, might be fulfilled.
2nd Point — Consider the great purpose now on the eve of fulfilment, the birth of Emmanuel. Be- cause we refused to dwell with God when He offered us His love and His company all day long in the Garden of Eden, God has come to dwell with us. And even while He is, as it were, obliged, for our punishment, to withdraw from us the sensible manifestations of His presence, which we might have enjoyed there, He comes to change Himself, as it were, into our nature, that He may be able to abide really, though invisibly, with us. Oh, let us beseech Him to come as our Emmanuel, to abide with us as our God! Alas! that our desires of His presence should be so cold, our love so feeble. Jesus is coming as our Saviour, and we scarcely desire to be saved; or we desire it rather to escape the company of demons, than to enjoy the company of our God.
3rd Point — Consider the exceeding compassion which moves the Heart of our Infant Jesus, and how ardently He longs to commence the work of our salvation. O sweet Infant Jesus, it is well for us that Thou didst desire to save us more than we desired to be saved. It is well for us Thy purposes of assisting us are more steadfast than our purposes of amendment. It is well for us that Thy love is the noble love of a God, the unchangeable love of the Majesty of heaven, for no other love would bear the coldness and contempt of Thy creatures. Sweet Jesus, Thou mightest well have expected some little preparation for Thy birth, since its time and place had been so plainly predicted by the Prophets. Sweet Jesus, Thou mightest well have hoped to find some few hearts hastening to welcome Thee to this poor dark world with all their love. But not one came to Thee. Thou hadst to call the shepherds by angelic messengers, and the kings by a star, but none came uncalled. Sweet Jesus, how shall we love Thee, what reparation shall we make to Thee!
CHRISTMAS EVE. THE HEART OF THE INFANT JESUS COMING TO SAVE US.
“In the evening you shall know that the Lord hath brought you forth out of the land of Egypt: and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord.” (Ex. xvi. 16.)
“Tomorrow the iniquity of the earth shall be done away, and the Saviour of the world shall rule over us.” Versicle at Mass and Office.
1st Prelude — Represent to yourself the arrival of Mary and Joseph at the stable, after they have vainly sought room in the inn.
2nd Prelude — Pray that you may never drive your sweet Infant Jesus from your heart.
1st Point — Already the Church has commenced her Christmas office. Now she implores her dear Lord to come in His Divinity, crying out, “Thou that sittest upon the cherubim, appear;” and now she implores the advent of His adorable Humanity, exclaiming, “He is as a bridegroom coming out of His bride-chamber.” Yes; Mary is the mystic bride-chamber, and the one true bride; and He comes forth from her to run His course. Alas! that the end of that course should be blood and death! Alas! that the children of the bridechamber should conspire to slay the Bridegroom, in all the beauty of His love and manhood! O sweet Jesus, how many and how mystical are the treasures of Thy Church’s words and office: “Today ye shall know that the Lord will come, and tomorrow ye shall see His glory”! O sweet Jesus, how happy shall we be if we truly know that Thou hast come! If we know it with a saving knowledge in the day of life, we shall, indeed, see Thy glory in the day of eternity.
2nd Point — Let us take care lest we murmur at sweet Jesus, when He brings us out of the land of Egypt. The road through the wilderness is not a pleasant one, and there are many things in the Egypt we have left which seem attractive. We cannot expect, as pilgrims to Canaan, to have every comfort and convenience on the road. When Moses uttered these words to the children of Israel, it was to tell them of the manna, the heavenly bread, which on the next day was sent to them. And Jesus comes now, also, to let us see His glory. Tomorrow He will give us the living bread. Tomorrow He will feed us with His flesh and blood, of which the manna rained from heaven was but a feeble type. He knows how much our spiritual life will need this sustenance. Oh, let us never loathe this holy Bread, as the children of Israel loathed the manna, and asked for other food than that which God had given them!
3rd Point — Tomorrow sweet Jesus will come. Oh, how blessedly near is His advent! Today we are decking our houses for His divine visit; let us not forget to deck our hearts. Let us sweep out every imperfection, every imperfect disposition, every wandering thought, with the besom of penance, and adorn ourselves with the fair bright flowers of contrition and love. Tomorrow our Infant King will come. Are we prepared to receive Him? Have we all the love ready for Him we should like to offer Him? If we have not, let us ask our mother Mary to give us a share of hers. Bethlehem would never have seen Jesus, had Mary not brought Him there. Her love was the fullest atonement any creature could make for the world’s coldness. Oh! if we obtain but one little spark of that love, we shall be rich; and if we ask, Mary will not refuse us.
“She brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger. ” (Luke, ii. 7.)
“While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, the almighty word leaped down from heaven.” (Wisdom, xviii. 14.)
“Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is full of dew, and my locks of the drops of the night.” (Cant. v. 2.)
1st Point— Today we can have only one thought and one subject; our prelude is our meditation, and our meditation our prelude. “She brought forth her first-born son, and laid Him in a manger.” O sweet Mary, bring Him forth tonight also, and lay Him in the little manger of our hearts. They are very lifeless and very cold, but thou wilt try to warm them for Jesus, for thy first-born. We have tried to prepare a lodging for Him, and, poor as it is, we know He will accept it if thou wilt come with Him. We must try to make reparation to thee also, sweet Mother, for the unkindness of thy children, who keep the warm house for themselves, and drive thee to the stable. Alas! sweet Mother, how many there are now who are as cold and as cruel to thee! And as thou didst tell S. Gertrude that we are all thy children, that Jesus is called thy first-born, rather than first-begotten, because thou wiliest to include us all in thy family, and give us all a share in thy maternal love, we must act towards thee as children, and thou wilt act toward us as a mother.
2nd Point — Consider the time at which Jesus comes. In the night, when all things were in “quiet silence.” Yes, Jesus always comes to us in the night of sorrow, and when our hearts are still. But our silence must be a quiet silence, if we desire to entertain this gentle Child, for He cannot bear the rough noise of unquiet men, or the busy talkativeness of a heart exteriorly silent, but inwardly full of commotion. Oh, if we will but quiet our hearts and open them wide, He will “leap from His royal throne” into the midst of them, so great is His haste to come and save us! Nay, He even asks us to open them for Him; and who could refuse anything to the little Babe of Bethlehem? He calls us “His sister and His love,” He even tries to persuade Himself we are His “undefiled;” and He comes with His head full of dew, full of the rich dew of the graces of His Divinity, that He may fertilize our souls; but, alas! He comes also wet with the drops of the night, with the griefs and tears of His adorable Humanity. O little Babe of Bethlehem, come, leap into our hearts tonight. We will treasure the dew Thou bringest, and we will try to wipe away the “drops of the night” from Thy baby brow, and we will shut the doors of our hearts so close when Thou comest, that Thou wilt never be able to leave them again.
3rd Point — Let us try to enter into the spirit and intentions of the Church in celebrating the adorable Sacrifice three times on this great festival. She commemorates thereby the threefold salvation He has come to effect: 1. He saves those who were before the Law; 2. He saves those who were under the Law; 3. He saves those under the Gospel. And further, three spiritual nativities are commemorated: 1. the eternal nativity of Christ, born before all time, from eternity, of His Father; 2. His nativity in time from the womb of Mary; 3. His spiritual birth by grace in the souls of His children. Hence, we might do well to offer the midnight Mass in thanksgiving to God for the eternal generation of His only begotten Son — offering to the sweet Infant Jesus all the love and sanctity of those who lived and served Him faithfully before the Law, and praying specially for all who are in mortal sin. The second Mass, at break of day, in thanksgiving for His love in coming down into the womb of Mary, in thanksgiving for her perfect purity, offering Him all the love and devotion of those who served Him faithfully under the Law, and praying for those whom He is leading from darkness to light, that their entrance into the Church may be hastened. Lastly, we may offer the Mass at midday in thanksgiving for all His love to us and to all whom He has permitted to live in the full light of the Gospel, in thanksgiving for His exceeding love in abiding with us in our very souls, praying fervently for all the just on earth.
Aspiration — O my sweet Infant Jesus, I love Thee; and because I love Thee, I am sorry that I have offended Thee. Make a Christmas offering of your best resolution to the little Babe of Bethlehem. Examen.