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mother, not having the garments proper for such an occasion, wrapped him in coarse swaddling clothes; they were not of linen, which even the poor man's child usually has, but they were of wool, and consequently too coarse and rough for the tender little limbs of Jesus; and yet who knows but that even these poor robes had to be borrowed. The new-born Babe was not laid upon soft feathers; no silken canopy hung above His head; but, in her extreme poverty, His mother "laid him in a manger" (a); and this manger was hard and comfortless. It was mid-winter at the time; and, while the cold winds chilled them, there was never a fire to give warmth to their shivering limbs. This wretchedness was followed by the two inseparable companions of poverty—scorn and sorrow; so that the Divine Infant might truly say with the Prophet: '■ I am poor and in labours from my youth" (b).
O my Jesus? the heavens are your dwelling-place, the cherubim are your throne, and yet you lie here in a stable, in a manger, between two dumb beasts. You are the splendour of the glory, and the image of the substance of the Father, and yet you lie here poor, and abject, and miserable; all but naked and shivering with the cold, without ever an inn in all Bethlehem to give you shelter. But I understand, 0 Jesus, why all this has occurred: being rich, you became poor for our sakes, that through your poverty loe might be rich" (c), and that by your example you might incite us to esteem, to love, and to desire poverty.
And yet, how luxurious, how easy is our poverty! both because we have a superabundance of superfluities, and love overmuch those things which are necessary to us. 0 God! what a difference there is between my poverty and that of Jesus Christ! He, in a poor stable—I, in a comfortable apartment; He, in extreme want of everything—I, complaining because I have not superfluities; He has neither a roof to shelter Him, nor food, nor clothes; and I am not satisfied unless I have fine garments, and delicate dishes, and a magnificent house to dwell in. Ah! when, at length, will I begin to imitate Him whom I adore! 0 luxurious liver! hear what the Lord says to you: "Behold me, .... and dost thou seek great things for thyself" (a). I have been "in cold and nakedness" (b), and you seek out every luxury to gratify your flesh. I, "in hunger and thirst" (c); and you, ever in search of something to gratify your palate. •' All my days are full of sorrows and miseries " (d), and you are always in search of conveniences and delicacies. Oh! how great a difference!
2. Who would not have thought that the King of kings, the Lord of lords, on coming into the world to redeem us, would be born in the halls of the Caesars, surrounded by magnates of the empire, nursed at the breasts of queens, and clothed in purple, studded all over with precious stones. But, behold! instead of a palace, the Eternal Father
(a) Jerem. xlv. 5. (6) 2 Cor. xi. 27.
(c) Deut. xxviii. 48. (d) Eccles. ii. 23.
assigns Him a stable; for courtiers, He has the beasts of the field; and, for a royal cradle, a manger. And the Eternal Father treats His most holy and most beloved Son thus, solely for our sake, that, knowing the vanity of the world, we might learn to esteem poverty, and the treasures that are concealed therein.
3. To what has been said, add this further consideration: that Jesus Christ voluntarily chose this state of poverty, with all its attendant wretchedness, although He foresaw that it would be prejudicial to His repute as the Messias; and, moreover, injurious to His health. And although all these disagreeable circumstances were brought about by the vanity of Augustus Caesar, who wished to make a census of his empire, Christ, nevertheless, submitted to them, in order to serve His Eternal Father in the manner which He had decreed, being born with perfect indifference to the state and place which His Father had marked out from eternity.
I believe, O Lord, since you have proved it to be so, both by word and example, that the poor of spirit are blessed, and that of these is the kingdom of heaven. I believe that the world, in following riches, honours, and pleasures, deceives itself, since Jesus, the Infinite Wisdom, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, assures us that it is so.
O Jesus! most abject in Thy poverty! the rags that cover you, the manger, the stable, are to axe, as they once were to the shepherds around Bethlehem, a proof that you are the Son of God, in whom "dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead corporeally" (a). With them I, also, adore you as my Lord and my God. Oh! how I grieve that my over-anxiousness for the conveniences of life and earthly goods should have made Thee weep almost from the moment of thy birth, sorrowing over my foolish affection for the things of earth, and my eagerness to possess them!
Having been taught the mistake I made, by your example, I learn now, at length, to value the inestimable riches of poverty; nay, more, to love them, and, still more, to desire them. "Your rags are more precious in my sight than all the purple in the world: your poverty is to me greater riches than the earth holds" (b). The "one hundredfold " and the kingdom of heaven, which you have so generously promised to the poor, persuade me to love this virtue as a mother; to look upon it as dearer than the pupil of my eye; to guard and defend it as the outpost and stronghold of my religious practices.
Frightened by that dread sentence: "Woe to you that are rich" (c), I now renew my vow of poverty. With my entire soul I reject and detest every inordinate affection towards earthly possessions. This resolution is unalterable; I will retain nothing that is superfluous; I will not take, nay more, I will not accept what is necessary without permission; and I will not entertain an overdue affection, even for those things which I may be permitted to use.
(a) Coloss. ii. 9. (b) S. Bernard. Serm. iv. in Vigil NabV. (c) Luke vi. 24.
I shall be always indifferent to any place, and to every kind of food, no matter how coarse and poor it may be, and it will always afford me the greatest pleasure to be able to experience some of the effects of poverty. Every hut will be to me a palace, provided I be engaged in your service in that place where it is your wish that I should dwell. You, O Jesus, model of poverty! you are my treasure in whom my heart will henceforward repose. Despoiled of all things, it shall be my fondest pleasure to follow you in your poverty, for you are my reward one hundredfold, you are my all. 0 Lord! thou who dost listen to the prayers of the poor, grant to me, that, poor in everything else, I may be rich only in Thee.
1. Jesus Christ, in His nativity, teaches us to esteem, to love, and to desire poverty, since His own poverty was extreme from the very moment of His birth. 1. Because of the place in which He was born; in fact He was born in a half-ruined stable, out of His own house, out of His own country, without even the shelter of an inn.
2. His poverty was extreme, because of His clothing; He was not wrapped in linen and fine robes, but in poor, coarse rags, and was laid upon the straw in a manger, in all the cold of that winter's night.
II. Consider the wide difference there is between your poverty and that of Jesus Christ. Oh, what and how great a difference! He is content with a stable, while you seek for comfortable and well