Very short and painful were the slumbers of the Infant Jesus. A manger was his cradle, straw was his bed, and straw his pillow; so that Jesus was constantly interrupted in his sleep by the hardness of this rough and painful little bed, and by the severe cold of the cave. Notwithstanding all this, nature succumbing to its wants, the sweet babe from time to time slept amidst his sufferings.
But the sleep of Jesus differed very much from that of other children. The slumbers of other children are useful for the preservation of life, but not for the operations of the soul, because the soul, being buried in sleep with the senses, cannot then work; but such was not the sleep of Jesus Christ: I sleep, and My heart watcheth.1 His body was asleep, but his soul was watching; because in Jesus there was united the person of the Word, who could not sleep, nor be influenced by the slumber of the senses. The Holy Infant slept therefore; but while he slept he thought of all the sufferings he was to endure for our sake during all his life and at his death. He thought of the labors he was to undergo in Egypt and in Nazareth during his miserable and despised life; he thought more particularly on the scourges, the thorns, the ignominies, the agonies, and on that miserable death that he should at last suffer upon the cross; and whilst he was sleeping he offered all this to his Eternal Father to obtain for us pardon and salvation; so that whilst our Saviour was sleeping he was meriting for us and appeasing his Father, and obtaining graces for us.
Let us now beseech him, by the merit, of his blessed slumbers, to deliver us from the deadly slumber of sinners who unhappily sleep in the death of sin, forgetful of God and of his love; and to give us instead the blessed sleep of the holy spouse, of which he said, Stir not up, nor make the beloved to wake till she please.2 This is the sleep that God gives to his beloved souls, which is none other, as St. Basil says, “but the most profound oblivion of all things;”3 and this is when the soul forgets all earthly things, to attend only to God and to the things that concern his glory.
Affections and Prayers.
My beloved and holy Infant, Thou sleepest, and oh, how do Thy slumbers enamour me! With others sleep is the emblem of death; but in Thee it is the sign of eternal life, because whilst Thou art sleeping Thou art meriting for me eternal salvation. Thou sleepest; but Thy heart sleeps not, it is thinking of suffering and dying for me. Whilst Thou art slumbering, Thou art praying for me, and obtaining for me from God the eternal rest of Paradise. But before Thou dost, carry me (as I hope) to repose with Thee in heaven, I desire that Thou shouldst repose forever in my soul. There was a time, O my God! when I drove Thee away from me; but I trust that, by means of knocking so often at the door of my heart,—now by making it afraid, now by enlightening it, now by the voice of love,—Thou hast already obtained an entrance there. This, I say, is my hope, because I feel a great confidence that I have been forgiven by Thee; I feel a great hatred and penitence for the offences I have committed against Thee,—penitence that causes me great sorrow; but a sorrow of peace, a sorrow that comforts me and makes me hope most assuredly for pardon from Thy goodness. I thank Thee, my Jesus, and I pray Thee never again to separate Thyself from my soul. I know indeed that Thou wilt not leave me, if I do not drive Thee away; but this is the favor I ask of Thee (and I pray Thee to give me Thy assistance that I may always seek it of Thee), that Thou wouldst not permit me ever to drive Thee from me. Make me forget everything, in order to think of Thee who hast always thought of me and of my welfare. Make me always love Thee in this life, so that I may breathe forth my soul in Thy arms, united to Thee, and may repose eternally in Thee without fear of losing Thee again. O Mary, assist me in life and in death, so that Jesus may always repose in me, and that I may always repose in Jesus.
1“Ego dormio, et cor meum vigilat.” – Cant. v. 2.
2“Ne suscitetis neque evigilare faciatis dilectam, quoadusque ipsa velit,” – Cant. ii. 7.
3“Summa rerum omnium oblivio.” – Reg. fus. disp. int. 6.