Jesus is born an Infant.
Consider that the first sign which the angel gave to the shepherds whereby they might discover the new-born Messias was that they would find him under the form of an infant: You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger.1 The littleness of infants is a great attraction for love; but a still greater attraction must the littleness of the Infant Jesus be to us, who, being the incomprehensible God, has made himself small for the love of us: “For our sake he became a little child.”2
Adam came into the world at a full age; but the eternal Word chose to appear as an infant—a child is born to us3—that he might thus attract our hearts to himself with greater force: “so would he be born, who willed to be loved.”4 He came not into the world to inspire terror, but to be loved; and for this reason he preferred to show himself, at his first appearance, as a tender, weak infant. “Our Lord is great, and greatly to be praised,”5 says St. Peter Chrysologus. My Lord is great, and therefore he deserves highly to be praised for his divine majesty. But when the saint considered him as a little child in the stable of Bethlehem, he exclaimed with tenderness, “My Lord is a little child, and greatly to be loved.”6 My great and supreme God has made himself little for my sake.
Ah, how is it possible that any one can reflect with faith on a God become a little child, crying and wailing on the straw in a cave, and yet not love him, and invite all men to love him, as did St. Francis of Assisi, who said, “Let us love the child of Bethlehem, let us love the child of Bethlehem.”7 He is an infant; he does not speak, he only cries; but, O my God! are not these cries all voices of love, with which he invites us to love him, and demands our hearts!
Let us consider, besides, that infants also gain our affections because we consider them innocent: but all other infants are born with the infection of original sin; Jesus was born an infant, but he was born holy; “holy, innocent, unpolluted.”8 My beloved, says the holy spouse, is all ruddy with love, and all white with innocence, without a spot of any sin: My beloved is white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands.9 In this Infant did the eternal Father find his delight, because, as St. Gregory says, “in him alone he found no fault.”10
Let us miserable sinners comfort ourselves, because this divine Infant has come down from heaven to communicate his innocence to us by means of his Passion. His merits, if we only know how to apply them to ourselves, can change us from sinners into innocents and saints: in these merits let us place all our confidence; through them let us continually ask for graces from the eternal Father, and we shall obtain everything.
Affections and Prayers.
Eternal Father, I, a miserable sinner, worthy of hell, have nothing of my own to offer Thee in satisfaction for my sins; I offer Thee the tears, the sufferings, the blood, the death of this Infant, who is Thy Son; and through them I implore pity from Thee. If I had not this Son to offer Thee, I should be lost; there would be no longer any hope for me; but Thou hast given him to me for this purpose, in order that, in offering Thee his merits, I might have a good hope of my salvation. My ingratitude, O Lord, is great; but Thy mercy is still greater. And what greater mercy could I hope for from Thee, than that Thou shouldst give me Thy own Son for my Redeemer, and for the victim of my sins? For the love, therefore, of Jesus Christ, forgive me all the offences that I have committed against Thee, of which I repent with my whole heart, because by them I have offended Thee, O infinite Goodness. And for the sake of Jesus Christ, I ask of Thee holy perseverance. O my God, if I should again offend Thee, after Thou hast waited for me with so much patience; after Thou hast assisted me with so much light, and forgiven me with so much love,—I should indeed deserve a special hell for myself. O my Father, do not forsake me, I pray Thee. I tremble when I think of the number of times that I have betrayed Thee; how many times have I promised to love Thee, and then have again turned my back upon Thee? O my Creator, let me not have to lament the misfortune of seeing myself again deprived of Thy favor: “Permit me not to be separated from Thee; permit me not to be separated from Thee.”11 I repeat it, and will repeat it to my very last breath; and do Thou always give me the grace to repeat to Thee this prayer: “Permit me not to be separated from Thee.”12 My Jesus, my dearest Infant, enchain me with Thy love. I love Thee, and will always love Thee. Permit me not to be ever again separated from Thy love. I love thee too, my Mother; oh, do thou also love me. And if thou lovest me, this is the favor I beg thee to obtain for me, that I may never cease to love my God.
1“Invenietis infantem pannis involutum, et positum in præsepio.” – Luke, ii. 12.
2“Propter nos factus est parvulus.” – In Ps. lviii. s. 1.
3“Parvulus natus est nobis.”
4“Sic nasci voluit, qui voluit amari.”
5“Magnus Dominus et laudabilis nimis.” – Ps. cxliv. 3.
6“Parvus Dominus et amabilis nimis.” – In Cant. s. 48.
7“Amemus Puerum de Bethlehem! Amemus Puerum de Bethlehem!”
8“Sanctus, innocens, impollutus.” – Heb. vii. 26.
9“Dilectus meus candidus et rubicundus, electus ex millibus.” – Cant. v. 10.
10“In hoc solo non invenit culpam.” – In Ezech. hom. 8.
11“Ne permittas me separari a te! ne permittas me separari a te!”
12“Ne permittas me separari a te.”