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swaddling-bands; and when she had represented to God her first scene of joy and eucharist, she softly laid him in the manger, till her desires and his own necessities called her to take him, and to rock him softly in her arms : and from this deportment she read a lecture of piety and maternal care, which mothers should perform toward their children when they are born, not to neglect any of that duty, which nature and maternal piety requires.
4. Jesus was pleased to be born of a poor mother, in a poor place, in a cold winter's night, far from home, amongst strangers, with all the circumstances of humility and poverty. And no man will have cause to complain of his coarse robe, if he remembers the swaddling-clothes of this holy Child; nor to be disquieted at his hard bed, when he considers Jesus laid in a manger; nor to be discontented at his thin table, when he calls to mind, the King of heaven and earth was fed with a little breast-milk. But since the eternal wisdom of the Father, who“ knew to choose the good, and refuse the evil,” did choose a life of poverty, it gives us demonstration, that riches and honours, those idols of the world's esteem, are so far from creating true felicities, that they are not of themselves eligible in the number of good things: however, no man is to be ashamed of innocent poverty, of which many wise men make vows, and of which the holy Jesus made election, and his apostles after him made public profession. And if any man will choose and delight in the affluence of temporal good things, suffering himself to be transported with caitive affections in the pleasures of every day, he may well make a question, whether he shall speed as well hereafter'; since God's usual method is, that they only, who follow Christ here, shall be with him for ever.
5. The condition of the person who was born, is here of greatest consideration. For he that cried in the manger, that sucked the paps of a woman, that hath exposed himself to poverty and a world of inconveniences, is “ the Son of the living God," of the same substance with his father, begotten before all ages, before the morning stars; he is God eternal. He is also, by reason of the personal union of
1 οίει συ τους θανόντας, ο Νικήσατε, τρυφής απάσης μεταλαβόντας εν βίω, πεφυγέναι To Diñer ;-Diphilus.
the Divinity with his human nature, “ the Son of God;" not by adoption, as good men and beatified angels are, but by an extraordinary and miraculous generation. He is “ the heir” of his Father's glories and possessions, not by succession, (for his Father cannot die,) but by an equality of communication. He is “the express image of his Father's person,” according to both natures; the miracle and excess of his Godhead being, as upon wax, imprinted upon all the capacities of his humanity. And, after all this, he is our Saviour; that to our duties of wonder and adoration we may add the affections of love and union, as himself, besides his being admirable in himself, is become profitable to us. “ Verè Verbum hoc est abbreviatum,” saith the prophet; the eternal Word of the Father is shortened to the dimensions of an infant.
6. Here then are concentred the prodigies of greatness and goodness, of wisdom and charity, of meekness and humility, and march all the way in mystery and incomprehensible mixtures; if we consider him in the bosom of his Father, where he is seated by the postures of love and essential felicity; and in the manger, where love also placed him, and an infinite desire to communicate his felicities to
As he is God, his throne is in the heaven, and he fills all things by his immensity: as he is man, he is circumscribed by an uneasy cradle, and cries in a stable. As he is God, he is seated upon a super-exalted throne; as man, exposed to the lowest estate of uneasiness and need. As God, clothed in a robe of glory, at the same instant when you may behold and wonder at his humanity, wrapped in cheap and unworthy cradle-bands. As God, he is encircled with millions of angels; as man, in the company of beasts. As God, he is the eternal Word of the Father, eternal, sustained by himself, all-sufficient, and without need : and yet he submitted himself to a condition, imperfect, inglorious, indigent, and necessitous. And this consideration is apt and natural to produce great affections of love, duty, and obedience, desires of union and conformity to his sacred person, life, actions, and laws; that we resolve all our thoughts, and finally determine all our reason and our passions and capacities upon that saying of St. Paul,-
“ He that loves not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursedk.”
7. Upon the consideration of these glories, if a pious soul shall, upon the supports of faith and love, enter into the stable where this great King was born, and with affections behold every member of the holy body, and thence pass into the soul of Jesus, we may see a scheme of holy meditations, enough to entertain all the degrees of our love and of our understanding, and make the mystery of the nativity as fruitful of holy thoughts, as it was of blessings to us. And it may serve instead of a description of the person of Jesus, conveyed to us in imperfect and apocryphal schemes. If we could behold his sacred feet with those affections which the holy Virgin did, we have transmitted to us those mysteries in story, which she had first in part by spiritual and divine infused light, and afterwards by observation. Those holy feet, tender, and unable to support his sacred body, should bear him over all the province of his cure, with great zeal for the gaining of souls, to the belief and obedience of his holy laws; those are the feet, that should walk upon seas and hills of water, as upon firm pavement; at which the lepers and diseased persons should stoop, and gather health up; which Mary Magdalen should wash with tears, and wipe with her hair, and anoint with costly nard, as expressions of love and adoration, and there find absolution and remedy for her sins; and which, finally, should be rent by the nails of the cross, and afterwards ascend above the heavens, making the earth to be his footstool. From hence take patterns of imitation, that our piety be symbolical, that our affections be passionate and eucharistical, full of love, and wonder, and adoration; that our feet tread in the same steps, and that we transfer the symbol into mystery, and the mystery to devotion, praying the holy Jesus to actuate the same mercies in us, which were finished at his holy feet, forgiving our sins, healing our sicknesses; and then place ourselves irremoveably, becoming his disciples, and strictly observing the rules of his holy institution,“ sitting at the feet” of this our greatest Master.
* 1 Cor. xvi. 22.
8. In the same manner a pious person may (with the blessed Virgin) pass to the consideration of his holy hands, which were so often lifted
whose touch was miraculous and medicinal, cleansing lepers, restoring perishing limbs, opening blind eyes, raising dead persons to life; those hands which fed many thousands, by two miracles of multiplication; that purged the temple from profaneness; that, in a sacramental manner, bare his own body, and gave it to be the food and refreshment of elect souls, and after were cloven and rent upon the cross, till the wounds became (after the resurrection) so many transparencies and glorious instruments of solemn, spiritual, and efficacious benediction. Transmit this meditation into affections and practices,“ lifting up pure hands” in prayer, that our devotions be united to the merits of his glorious intercession; and putting ourselves into his hands and holy providence, let us beg those effects upon our souls and spiritual cures, which his precious hands did operate upon their bodies, transferring those similitudes to our ghostly and personal advantages.
9. We may also behold his holy breast, and consider, that there lay that sacred heart, like the dove within the ark, speaking peace to us, being the regiment of love and sorrows, the fountain of both the sacraments, running out in the two holy streams of blood and water, when the rock was smitten, when his holy side was pierced : and there, with St. John, let us lay our head, and place our heart, and thence draw a treasure of holy revelations and affections, that we may rest in him only, and upon him lay our burdens, filling every corner of our heart with thoughts of the most amiable and beloved Jesus.
10. In like manner we may unite the day of his nativity with the day of his passion, and consider all the parts of his body, as it was instrumental in all the work of our redemption; and so imitate, and in some proportion partake of, that great variety of sweetnesses, and amorous reflexes, and gracious intercourses, which passed between the blessed Virgin and the holy Child, according to his present capacities, and the clarity of that light, which was communicated to her by Divine infusion. And all the members of this blessed Child, his eyes, his face, his head, all the organs of his senses, afford variety of entertainment and motion to our affections, according as they served, in their several employments and co-operations, in the mysteries of our restitution.
11. But his body was but his soul's upper garment, and the considerations of this are as immaterial and spiritual as the soul itself, and more immediate to the mystery of the nativity. This soul is of the same nature and substance with ours; in this inferior to the angels, that of itself it is incomplete, and discursive in a lower order of ratiocination ; but in this superior: 1. That it is personally united to the Divinity, full of the Holy Ghost, overrunning with grace, which was dispensed to it without measure. (And by the mediation of this union, as itself is exalted far above all orders of intelligences, so we also have contracted alliance with God, teaching us not to unravel our excellencies by infamous deportments.) 2. Here also we may meditate, that his memory
is indeterminable and unalterable, ever remembering to do us good, and to present our needs to God by the means of his holy intercession. 3. That his understanding is without ignorance, knowing the secrets of our hearts, full of mysterious secrets of his Father's kingdom, in which“ all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of. God are hidden'.” 4. That his will is impeccable, entertained with an uninterrupted act of love to God, greater than all angels and beatified spirits present to God in the midst of the transportations and ravishments of paradise : that this will is full of love to us, of humility in itself, of conformity to God, wholly resigned by acts of adoration and obedience. It was moved by six wings; zeal of the honour of God, and compunction for our sins, pity to our miseries, and hatred of. our impieties; desires of satisfying the wrath of God, and great joy at the consideration of all the fruits of his nativity; the appeasing of his Father, the redemption of his brethren. And upon these wings he mounted up into the throne of glory, carrying our nature with him above the seats of angels. These second considerations present themselves to all, that with piety and devotion behold the holy Babe lying in the obscure and humble place of his nativity.
I Col. ii. 3.