The conception and birth of a child changes the life of his parents forever. The death of a husband or a wife ends the sacramental bond of Holy Matrimony. Neither the death of a parent or his child ends the bonds between them that were forged at the moment of the child's conception. A parent has the solemn obligation to help his child get home to Heaven from the first moment he is aware of the child's existence in his mother's womb. One becomes a parent not at the birth of a child but at the moment of his child's conception. A new Guardian Angel is added to a family to light and to guard, to rule and to guide. The whole of the lives of a husband and a wife is changed forever by the conception of a child. Even if the child dies before or during birth the child's existence was an actual reality. The child will always be the son or daughter of a particular set of parents no matter whether he is in Limbo, or, having been baptized validly immediately after birth, is in Heaven.
Even during the months of expectant waiting for a child's birth, however, parents must be conscious of fostering conditions in the family that will accustom their unborn child to the things of the Faith. Children in the womb will be able to recognize the pattern of the daily Rosary once they acquire the ability to hear. They will recognize the glories of Gregorian chant and the joys of a Solemn High Mass. Even though their little souls are still captive to the devil by means of Original Sin, preborn children can be taught much about the Faith in the months before they are born. Remember, Saint John the Baptist leapt for joy in Saint Elizabeth's womb when he heard the voice of Our Lady, who was carrying the One Whose precursor he was meant to be. Oh, yes, children can learn much in the womb.
Careful preparations must be made, therefore, for the birth of a child. A husband and a wife who are expecting their first child have the ability in most instances to spend a great deal of time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament during the nine moths of waiting for their child's birth. They may not have such an ability on a regular basis thereafter, especially when a child is a young toddler with a limited span of attention. Thus, parents are called to recognize that the residual graces that are stored up by the time spent in prayer during a child's development in his mother's womb will be of special assistance to them in the months and the years after their child is born.
Additionally, parents must be assiduous about adorning their living space, whether it be a simple two-room apartment or a veritable mansion, with images of the Holy Faith. Crucifixes must be found in every room. Images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary should be featured prominently. Statues of Our Lady and Saint Joseph and other saints should be commonplace. The family, which is the domestic cell of Holy Mother Church, must be in all of its constituent parts a replication of the simplicity of the Holy Family of Nazareth, intent on doing God's will alone and of embracing the joys of Holy Poverty in order to be attached permanently to the things of Heaven.
Our Lady and Saint Joseph had the Sacred Heart of Jesus, formed out of Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, with them as their unborn Child, conceived by the power of God the Holy Ghost at the moment of the Annunciation on March 25, developed in Our Lady's Virginal and Immaculate womb. Saint Joseph, the just and silent man of the House of David, comforted his ever-virginal spouse, Our Lady, after she returned from her three-month period of Visitation to her cousin Saint Elizabeth in the hill country of Judah, seeing to it that the Ark of the New Covenant was surrounded with his tender love and devotion. The head of the Holy Family of Nazareth, having been told by Saint Gabriel of the origins of Mary's Child, gave of himself tirelessly to prepare the way for the birth of his foster-Child, showing himself to be the selfless model for all fathers, both those of the flesh and those of the spirit who are the pastors of our immortal souls.
The Christ-Child Himself was at work during those nine months which His Sacred Humanity, hypostatically united to His Sacred Divinity at the moment of His Incarnation, was developing in the tabernacle of His Most Blessed Mother's Virginal and Immaculate womb. He, the Lord of history, knew all things. He knew what would happen in the future. He knew that we would be living in a wicked age that would traffic in the blood sport of killing innocent children in the womb. Although He could have become Man in any way of His choosing, He placed Himself as a helpless embryo in Our Lady's Virginal and Immaculate womb to express His absolute and unwavering solidarity with every child in every mother's womb. Every mother is thus called to cherish the fruit of her womb with the love of the Blessed Mother. Every father is thus called to prepare the way for the birth of his child with the selfless love and devotion of Saint Joseph. Every attack on an unborn child is mystical attack on the unborn Christ-Child. Oh yes, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was quite busy at work in the Ark of the New Covenant that carried Him for nine months.
Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ chose to be an unborn child, hidden from view for nine months in the tabernacle of Our Lady's Virginal and Immaculate womb. When not Exposed for Solemn Adoration in His Real Presence, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is "hidden" from view as He reposes in a tabernacle in a Catholic Church (or a chapel or oratory or monastery or rectory or convent or school served, of course, by true bishops and true priests). He wants us to spend "hidden" hours praying before His Real Presence, recognizing that the tabernacle light is but a symbol of the bright, burning love of His Most Sacred Heart for us erring and frequently ungrateful, recidivist sinners. Even when Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is exposed solemnly for Adoration, however, it takes an acceptance of our Catholic Faith to recognize that He is truly Present--Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity--under the appearance of the consecrated Host that has been placed in a monstrance. In like manner, you see, it took Faith to recognize His Sacred Divinity, hidden under the reality of His Sacred Humanity, when He was born the cradle in the stable in the cave in Bethlehem.
The events that led up to that Birth of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in Bethlehem unfolded in God's Holy Providence.
A despot, Caesar Augustus, whose mausoleum (which remains a place of graffiti-covered ruins) would later be vandalized by the Vandals during the sack of Rome in 455 A.D., ordered a census of all of the entire Roman Empire, including the lands under Roman occupation in the Holy Land. Saint Joseph, being of the House of David, had to return to his lineage's native place, Bethlehem, the City of David, thus fulfilling the prophecy found in the Book of Micah. Entire families were uprooted to crisscross the Empire's expanse in order to be counted properly in the census. There were to be no statistical projections made of the population. No, every person had to be counted, meaning that Our Lady, then in her ninth month of expectancy, would have to be led on a donkey by her chaste spouse from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Our Lady had traveled to Judah on a donkey for the Vitiation. She would now travel to Bethlehem on a donkey, an animal that would carry her unborn Child into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday at the beginning of the first Holy Week a little over thirty-three years later.
The seventy-mile journey to Bethlehem from Nazareth was arduous.
We drive in motor vehicles that provide us with air-conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. We must exert no physical energy except for that needed to depress to hold on to the steering wheel and to depress the accelerator and brake pedals. We now have cellular phones to use in the event of some unexpected incident. The Holy Family of Nazareth had to make a journey that was not easy, exposed to all of the elements and to all of the dangers of highwaymen eager to rob those who were in transit to be counted in the census as they passed through such places as Megiddo, Ibleam, Shechem, Shiloh, Ai and Jerusalem, analogous to the arduous daily journey that we must make in this mortal vale of tears to Heaven itself. This journey of the Holy Family, which may have taken up to a week to complete, reminds us that we must be all the more ready to make every effort imaginable to keep focused on dying in a state of Sanctifying Grace so that we can arrive successfully at the Last End for which we were made and regenerated in the baptismal font, the possession of the glory of the Beatific Vision of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost for all eternity.
As we know so very well from Saint Luke's Gospel, Saint Joseph found that there was no room in the inn for the Mother of God to give birth to his foster-Son.
Is there really room for Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the "inns of our hearts?"
That is, are we so in love with Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as He has revealed Himself to us through His true Church that we seek on a regular basis to root out the weeds even of our Venial Sins of disordered self-love so as to let Him take total possession of our hearts? Those of us who say we love Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ must prove it by the way we live, choosing to think and to speak and act in accord with the Deposit of Faith He has entrusted exclusively to the Catholic Church for our sanctification and our salvation. There is not one aspect of our lives that in which Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is not to "fill the room," so to speak, not one aspect of the life of any nation at any point in history which is not meant to honor Him confessional as its King and His Most Blessed Mother as its Immaculate Queen.
There was no room in the inn in Bethlehem on the night of December 24.
The Jews, however, motivated in large measure by our own sins, would find a place for Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ some thirty-three years later: the Cross, the instrument of our Redemption whose shadow hung over Bethlehem even as Saint Joseph sought to find a shelter for his virginal spouse to deliver his foster-Child.
Thus it was that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man in Our Lady's Virginal and Immaculate womb was brought to birth in a cave. Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was born in a cave filled with the stench of barn animals thirty-three years before He would be buried in the cave of a borrowed tomb following His cruel death atop the stench of Golgotha.
The newborn Christ-Child was placed in a manger, a feeding trough made of wood from which the barn animals were fed. Our sins caused Him to be affixed to the wood of the Holy Cross, which has become for us the true manger from which are fed by His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity unto eternity. Our Lady wrapped her newborn Son, Whom she, the Immaculate Mother of God, had delivered painlessly, in swaddling clothes, holding Him gently in her loving arms, adoring Him with the perfection of love found in her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. She would behold His mangled, dead Body after It had been taken down from the Cross, wrapping It in His burial shroud thirty-three years after placing Him in His swaddling clothes.
Our Lady's painless and miraculous birth of her only Child was a privilege she merited as a result of her Immaculate Conception. She, the New Eve, whose perfect obedience to the Will of God the Father at the Annunciation untied the knot of Eve's prideful disobedience in the Garden of Eden, did not have to undergo the pangs of childbirth, which are a punishment for Original Sin. As the New Eve, however, Our Lady did have to suffer the Seven Swords of Sorrow that pierced her Immaculate Heart through and through, none more painfully as she gave birth to us as the adopted sons and daughters of the living God as she stood so valiantly by the foot of her Divine Son's Holy Cross as He redeemed us on Good Friday. She untied the knot that had tied shut the Gates of Heaven by Adam's sin. Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's death on the Cross re-opened the Gates of Heaven.
Our Lady had beheld the bright, radiant beams that emanated from the Holy Face of her newborn Babe in Bethlehem only to see our sins mar that incomparable brightness disfigured almost beyond all recognition as she met Him on the Via Dolorosa. It is impossible to think of the joy of Bethlehem without contemplating the very reason that Love Himself become Incarnate in Mary's Virginal and Immaculate womb: to give birth to us all by taking upon Himself the debt of our own sins on the wood of the Holy Cross. Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ came out of love to redeem us. The Saviour born for us in Bethlehem meant to give birth to us all on the wood of the Holy Cross.
The Holy Family of Nazareth was poor. Saint Joseph worked hard at his craft as a carpenter. He charged a just sum for his work and made just enough to support his wife and to prepare for the birth of his foster-child. He did not seek the riches of this world. He was enriched, however, by being chosen to be the Chaste Spouse of Mary Immaculate and of being enriched by the privilege of caring for Word Who was made Flesh in his spouse's Virginal and Immaculate Womb. Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ chose Saint Joseph, a poor man who did not seek the riches of this world, as His foster-father. Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, stripped of His attachment to His royal prerogatives as the King of Kings, was born in the anonymity of a lowly stable to live a life of complete poverty. He, deemed to be poor in the eyes of the world, came to enrich us unto eternity. We should seek to imitate one of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's most fervent disciples, Saint Francis of Assisi (who gave us the tradition of Nativity displays) who gave away all that he had in order to identify himself completely with the One Who had the only thing He owned, His tunic, taken away from Him prior to His Crucifixion on Good Friday. Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ embraced Holy Poverty. Why should not we do so?
Our Lady's joy is now complete. She who had been filled with grace from the first moment of her conception beheld her Divine Son in all of His holy innocence and purity, born to poverty in this mortal vale of tears but full of the richness of His Sacred Divinity. What a moment of pure joy. She in whose chest beat an Immaculate Heart unstained by sin beholds the One in whose chest beats the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the One who saves us from our sins. The New Eve beholds the New Adam Who would refashion us on the gibbet of the Holy Cross. What a moment of joy and exultation. What an opportunity for to us to reflect on the mystery of God's ineffable love for us, His erring creatures, that He would condescend to become one of us in all things but sin and to give us such a wonderful, loving Mother to help us get home to Him through the Catholic Church.
Only a handful of people realized what was happening at Midnight on December 25 when Our Lady gave birth to the fruit of her Virginal and Immaculate womb, the God-Man Who was to redeem us by shedding every single drop of His Most Precious Blood. In addition to Our Lady and Saint Joseph, both of whom had spent much time in prayerful preparation for the miraculous birth of their own Divine Redeemer, angels announced the news of "peace to men of good will" to the rugged shepherds who were tending the fields nearby. Nothing is an accident with God. The shepherds were chosen to receive the glad tidings of the Birth of the Saviour because He was to proclaim Himself the Good Shepherd Who had come to shepherd His flock safely home through the Church that He would create upon the Rock of Peter, the Pope. How noteworthy it is that Our Lady, who was made homage by the shepherds shortly after she had given Birth to the Christ-Child, chose to appear to a shepherdess in Lourdes, Saint Bernadette Soubirous, and to the sheep herding children in Fatima. Our Lady is very near to those who look after sheep, mindful that the first from the outside world who adored her Divine Son and paid honor to her were shepherds.
The Three Kings would come in their own time to adore Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Most of the Jewish people at the time of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's Nativity, though, were busy with their own worldly pursuits. Most of the Jewish people of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's time imagined that the Messias, the Anointed One, would manifest Himself thunderously out of the side of a mountain, overthrowing the hated Romans and restoring Israel to its rightful place in political power and territorial expanse. They could not have imagined that the Messias would be God Himself, no less God Incarnate as a helpless babe born to materially poor parents from Nazareth, which was deemed to be a garbage-heap of a town. The Jews of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's day expected a political messiah who would resolve all of the world's problems at once.
Father Frederick Faber described the world as it existed this very night, Christmas night, as its King, Christ the King, was born at Midnight, in piercing cold, in Bethlehem, a world that, sad to admit, has existed all too frequently in our own ungrateful souls:
To all but its Creator the world makes no difficulty of at least a twofold hospitality--to be born and to die, to come into the world and to go out of it. yet how did it treat him in both these respects? He was driven among the animals and the beasts of burden to be born. That little village of the least of tribes said truly, it had no room for the Immense and the Incomprehensible. Bethlehem could not indeed hold her who held within herself the Creator of the world. There was an unconscious truth even in its inhospitality. He was to be born outside the walls of Bethlehem, as he died outside the walls of Jerusalem. Thus he had truly no native town. The sinless cattle gave him ungrudging welcome; and an old cavity in the earth, fire-rent or water-worn, furnished him with a roof somewhat less than the starry sky of a winter's night. So far as men were concerned, it was as much as he could do to get born, and obtain a visible foothold on the earth. So he was not allowed to die a natural death. his life was tramped out of him, as something tiresome and reproachful, or rather dishonorable and ignominious. He was buried swiftly, that his body might be cumbering the earth, polluting the sunshine, or offending the gay city on the national festival. And all the while he was God! These are old thoughts; but they are always new. They grow deeper, as we dwell upon them. We sink further down into them, as we grow older. Every time we think them, they so take us by surprise that it is as if we were now thinking them for the first time. No words do justice to them. The tears of the saints are more significant than words; but they cannot express the astonishing mystery of this inhospitable Bethlehem, which will not give its God room to be born within its walls.
Alas! the spirit of Bethlehem is but the spirit of a world which has forgotten God. How often has it been our own spirit also! How are we through churlish ignorance forever shutting out from our doors heavenly blessings! Thus it is that we mismanage all our sorrows, not recognising their heavenly character, although it is blazoned after their own peculiar fashion upon their brows. God comes to us repeatedly in life; but we do not know his full face. We only know him when his back is turned, and he is departing after our repulse. Why is it that with a theory almost always right our practice should be so often wrong? It is not so much from a want of courage to do what we know to be our duty, although nature may rebel against it. It is rather from a want of spiritual discernment. We do not sufficiently, or of set purpose, accustom our minds to supernatural principles. The world's figures are easiest to count by, the world's measures the most handy to measure by. It is a tiresome work to be always looking at things from a different point of view from those around us; and, when this effort is to be lifelong, it becomes a strain which cannot be continuous; and it only ceases to be a stain by our becoming thoroughly supernaturalized. Thus it is that a Christian life, which has not made a perfect revolution in man's worldly life, becomes no Christian life at all, but only an incommodious unreality, which gets into our way in this life without helping us in the life to come. hence it is that at we do not know God when we see him. Hence it is that we so often find ourselves on the wrong side, without knowing how we got there. Hence it is that our instincts so seldom grasp what they are feeling after, our prophecies so often come untrue, our aims so constantly miss their ends. God is always taking us by surprise, when we have no business being surprised at all. Bethlehem did not in the least mean what it was doing. No one means half the evil which he does. Hence it is a grand part of God's compassion to look more at what we mean than what we do. Yet it is a sad loss for ourselves to be so blind. Is it not, after all, the real misery of life, the compendium of all its miseries, that we are meeting God every day, and do not know him when we see him? (Father Frederick Faber, Bethlehem, published originally by the John Murphy Company, Baltimore, Maryland, and republished by TAN Books and Publishers, pp. 102-104.)
Is it any different today? Even traditionally-minded Catholics think that Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and His Social Kingship have no role to play in the lives of men and their nations, that it is possible to know social order absent a subordination of everything in national life to the Catholic Faith without any exception whatsoever.
The little Babe Who came for us in Bethlehem came not to provide us with "civil liberty." He came to give re-birth to us on the wood of the Holy Cross so that we might be liberated from the power of sin and eternal death. The little Babe Who was worshiped by only a handful at the time of His Nativity on Christmas Day means for all men in all nations at all times to worship Him, to invoke with piety and reverence His Holy Name, to give public honor to His Most Blessed Mother and to His foster-father, the Patron of the Universal Church, Saint Joseph, to take shelter in the sure refuge provided by the Deposit of Faith that he has entrusted to the Catholic Church. The Incarnation and Nativity of the God-Man changes everything about every human life and thus everything about human history. Everything means everything.
Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ came to us on Christmas Day. However, as noted above, He comes to us every day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
He gives us countless opportunities to see Him in those whom He sends our way in our daily lives, starting with our family members. We are to welcome them as we would have welcomed Him on Christmas Day, as we welcome Him into our souls every day we receive Him in Holy Communion. We are to treat others as we would treat Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Himself, something that is so very easy to forget in the sturm and drang of our daily lives. Having received the Father's choicest gift of His only-begotten Son, Co-Eternal with Him, we must give a gift of ourselves to Him by remaining in a state of grace always and by consecrating ourselves totally to His Most Blessed Mother's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart as her slaves of love. We are called to give this gift of the true Faith to all we see and meet, starting with our own spouses and our children. There is no greater gift than we can give. We must give him hearts that are grateful for all that He has given to us, adoring Him with the purity, humility, and devotion of the Blessed Mother herself.
Indeed, as Dom Prosper Gueranger wrote in The Liturgical Year:
Let us endeavour to make, by our profound adorations, some return to the God who thus humbles himself for us; let me thus give him back some little of that whereof he has deprived himself out of love for us, and in obedience to the will of his Father. It is incumbent on us to emulate, as far as possible, the sentiments of the Angels in heaven, and never to approach the Divine Infant without bringing with us the incense of our soul's adoration, the protestation of our own extreme unworthiness, and lastly, the homage of our whole being. All this is due to the Infinite Majesty of the Babe of Bethlehem, who is the more worthy of tribute we can pay him, because he has made himself thus little for our sakes. Unhappy we, if the apparent weakness of the Divine Child, or the familiarity wherewith he is ready to caress us, should make us negligent in this our first duty, or forget what he is, and what we are!
The example of his Blessed Mother will teach us to be thus humble. Mary was humble in the presence of her God, even before she became his Mother; but, once his Mother, she comported herself before him who was her God and her Child with greater humility than ever. We too, poor sinners, sinners so long and so often, we must adore with all of the power of our soul him who has come down so low: we must study to find out how by our self-humiliation to make him amends for this Crib, these swathing-bands, this eclipse of his glory. And yet all our humiliations will never bring us so low as that we shall be on a level with his lowliness. No; only God could reach the humiliations of God. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year.)
This is a day of great joy. Our Lady's time has come. She has given birth to Our Saviour, Emmanuel, God-is-with-us. We rejoice for an Octave of eight days and for a season of forty days, closing with the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary on February 2. The time for fasting is over. The time for feasting has begun. Give joy to the world. The silence and the still of a holy night have been punctuated by God's ineffable love for His creatures. The dark of the night has been enlightened by the Light of the World, Lumen Christi.
May we in silent prayer and with joyful hearts let that love punctuate everything we say and do as His disciples who are reliant upon the maternal intercession of His Blessed Mother and the protection of His foster-father. May the Christmas joy of the Holy Family of Nazareth be ours this day and always unto eternity.
Quotquot autem receperunt eum, dedit eis postestatem filios Dei fieri; his qui credunt in nomine ejus, qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri, sed ex Deo nati sunt. ET VERBUM CARO FACTUM EST, et habitavit in nobis; et vidimus gloriam ejus, gloriam quasi Unigenti a Patre, plenum gratiae et veritatis.
But to as many as received Him He gave the power of becoming sons of God; to those who believe in His name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH, and dwelt amongst us. And we saw His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth. [John 1:12-14]
On behalf of my dear wife Sharon and our faith-filled daughter, Lucy Mary Therese Norma, I want to extend our wishes to each and every one of you for a truly blessed Christmas Day, Octave, and Season. We thank those of you have supported us by means of your prayers and your material generosity. Our friends and benefactors will be remembered in a Novena of Masses starting on Christmas Day.
Sincerely yours in the Newborn Babe, Christ the King, and His Most Blessed Mother, Mary our Immaculate Queen,
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
Viva Cristo Rey! Vivat Christus Rex!
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary now?