Grace: Intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love him more and follow him more closely.
Text: Luke 2: 1-20
Reflection: Here in the middle of Lent, we find ourselves all of a sudden back at the little cave in Bethlehem, waiting for Jesus to be born. Today in our retreat, it’s Christmas. If it seems impossibly strange to celebrate Christmas in the middle of March—no snow, no carols, no gifts—consider this: that first Christmas in Bethlehem was a lot stranger than we often realize. In fact, it was astonishing.
After the meditations we did last week, we are now in a better position to see why. The child lying in the manger is the Eternal King who, having surveyed the face of the earth, has set out on the mission given to him by the Father. This little baby, who is unable to move on account of the swaddling clothes and who sleeps most of the day, is the face of the God who labors.
Like the father of the prodigal son, he is happy to suffer every indignity to ensure that no obstacles lie between him and the ones he loves. When catching sight of the prodigal, the father did not wait for his son to come to him, nor did he set out walking in a deliberate and dignified manner. Rather he launched himself across the fields in a frenzied sprint to embrace his beloved son. In the baby Jesus, we see the face of the Father who similarly runs to embrace us. And the distance he travels is enormous: in order to reach the lowliest of his people, the Creator of all things chooses to be born in the humblest conditions possible. The King of glory lies in a feeding trough.
In the face of such love, all we can do is marvel. We say with the whole Church, “O magnum mysterium!”
O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in a feeding trough!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear Christ the Lord.
— Responsory for Matins on Christmas Day
In preparation for today’s prayer, begin by reading the text from Luke’s Gospel slowly. Then come into the presence of the Lord, remembering to ask him, as always, to help you seek him in prayer. Next use your imagination to make yourself present in Bethlehem: what does the cave look like? what do you smell and hear? Finally, ask for the grace that you are seeking. There are three points you want to focus on during the time you have set aside for meditation:
First. Observe Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the other people who may be present in the cave. We should make ourselves a little servant who is there to help them however we can.
Second. Listen to what they are saying.
Third. Meditate on how each of them are laboring so that our Lord can be born in the most extreme poverty. What all do they suffer to make this possible?
As always, we want to spend the final few minutes of prayer speaking directly with the Lord or his Mother about what we have experienced.
After the prayer, if music moves you to greater devotion, you may draw some fruit from Lauridsen’s setting of “O Magnum Mysterium”.
O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, jacentem in præsepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum.