Gospel Reading: Luke 2:1-14
1. The hour arrived in which the incarnate Word was to be born of a Virgin and appear in the world. The onrush of his joy was so great that the Prophet compares it to the first efforts of a giant about to engage in a great venture: He leaped, he says, like a giant to devour his path. Here is the story of the Evangelist Saint Luke.
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrolment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” (Lk 2:1-5).
Mary and Joseph therefore obey the authorities of this world also.
The road was long and rough, and in the grips of winter. And exhausted from the trip, Mary and her holy Spouse entered Bethlehem. How great was their patience, how perfect their acceptance before the refusals they suffered in the city of David! Not a single home or inn to welcome them for a few nights.
They proceed into the city and go about its quarters; every place is occupied by strangers. They turn back, they pray and implore: it is useless. Relatives, friends, acquaintances, all remain deaf to their pleas: they receive only refusals.
O holy poverty! Are you so uncommon that you find no one to receive you in this miserable world? That even the Mother of God herself adorned by you is repudiated? Poverty is shameful and despicable in the eyes of humanity, yet immeasurably dear to the eyes of God.
“And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered” (Lk 2:6). Mary is aware of the approaching delivery, not through pain as with other women, but through the growth of her love and her desire to see with her own eyes, and to hold in her own arms, this only Son of God and of herself.
But what a state she is in! What tribulations for Joseph! The cold, the night, the darkness, the gathering of so many strangers and the confusion increase their suffering, their bewilderment, their exhaustion.
And yet not a word of complaint escapes from them.
Better instructed than others in the secrets of God’s conduct, they know well that those whom He chooses for his great works must be prepared to meet the hardest trials.
2. Admire their poverty, my soul. Shut out from all homes on account of the multitude of guests, going here and there through the rugged and uneven streets, they reach the countryside, and the only refuge for the greatest persons on earth is a stable! To this place God leads these two holiest and dearest persons He has created, Mary and Joseph. They recognize the hand guiding them, they worship it with love and submission. To reward their faithfulness the Lord bestows the most remarkable favours upon them, and He grants them the consolation of being the first to gaze upon the Word of God made Flesh.
Therefore, in a corner of this refuge, fitting for the birth of a Child destined to one day die upon a cross, Mary enters into deep contemplation, and while remaining as she was, a Virgin and Immaculate, she truly becomes a Mother by delivering to the world her Son, the Head, Heir and Firstborn, according to the flesh, of the House of David.
The Incarnate Word through its own divine power, like a ray of sunlight passing through glass without breaking it, enters the world through Virgin Mary in a tiny but infinitely beautiful body. Who can describe the words and feelings of Mary and Joseph in that moment! The Angels recognize and adore the new-born Child as their Lord and, having called the shepherds, they sing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Lk 2:14).
Behold the Queen of Heaven and Earth, my soul. She wraps the Creator of all things in poor clothes and places him in the manger, which serves as his crib. She calls her virgin Spouse, and together they offer him the first and purest adoration ever rendered to him on earth! Let us rejoice with this divine Mother and with St. Joseph; let us join our praises to theirs! Above all may we imitate their poverty, their resignation, their patience, submission and faithfulness to the designs of Divine Providence.
O Holy Divine Providence, how splendid you are in your designs, though they may seem the results of chance to the foolish world! The Roman Emperor, who by his edict carries out the designs of his policies and vanity, is the occasion for which Mary goes to Bethlehem and there gives birth to Jesus, to fulfil the prophecy which indicated this town as the place of his birth. Jesus is enrolled in the registers of the Empire, so that the place and time of his birth, and that He is the Son of Abraham and the Heir of David, remain manifest to the nations of the earth. Jesus is born in a stable, He is placed in a manger, to become the founder of an eternal empire that must subject everyone to the laws of humility and detachment from riches. To the eyes of the flesh everything appears as the result of chance, because man as animal does not rise from visible things to the invisible; he is therefore unaware of the ultimate reason of things and does not notice that it is God who governs the world.
Lord, I recognize and adore your wonderful Providence! Man is blind in his judgements. As for me, in whatever state of hardship, of humiliation, of contradiction I may find myself, I shall always recognize that these things come from you or are permitted as the result of your ineffable providence, which disposes all things for my good and your glory.
3. Then who is this Jesus born in a manger? He is our God, but a truly hidden God, as Isaiah called him: equal to the Father in his divinity, and like me in his humanity, except for sin. O most charming Infant, faith reveals you to my heart as my Saviour and model! Very early on You teach me obedience, humility, mortification, detachment, holy poverty, true disdain for all that the world esteems, and true esteem for all that the world disdains.
How eloquent are the voices of this stable and this manger! O great God! The Eternal has become an infant one day old! The Word Creator, who spoke, and it was done, has become a wordless creature! Witness, my soul, how this tender tiny body is being offended by the harshness of the manger. His delicate limbs already suffer the rigours of the cold; his loving eyes filled with tears, not to bemoan his sufferings but to wash your sins! And you so love worldly comforts and seek them with such anxiety? Jesus Christ treated his body so pure and innocent, and so perfectly submissive to divine will, with such roughness, while you seek such softness for yours that it has become a body of sin and the enemy of your happiness! He desired that his body, though holy and delicate, be placed on the ground on a bit of straw, because He knew how the love of our flesh and the false peace we derive from its depraved yearnings endanger our salvation.
They make us lose all the fruits of the pain which our Saviour endured for us, and the merits He acquired for us. Alas! St. Bernard moaned, we shall never be completely free of self-love if not in Heaven alone. Indeed if self-love, without the weakness of the flesh, cast so great a number of Angels into hell, what will it not do to creatures fashioned with mud who abandon themselves to their passions?
I adore you, O Incarnate Word! I adore you, O Son of the living God! I adore you, O true God, dressed in my flesh and willingly subject to my pains. Come into my soul with your grace, and be my true Saviour. How those first tears of yours which you shed at the sight of the world’s many sins do pierce me! I have already sacrificed a great part of my life to the cares of the world and of my body; what remains is not very much in order to gain Heaven. May I at least begin now, O my God, to serve you. I have been penetrated by the pain of my sins, and I sincerely wish to lament over them along with you. But it is up to you, O powerful tears which open Heaven, it is up to you to open my eyes in order to heal the blindness of my soul. O sweet tears, wash all the stains of my heart. O tears that penetrate the heart of the Eternal Father, penetrate my heart as well, and inflame it with love of God and hatred of profane love.
O Mary, O Joseph, I am unworthy of being heard; but through your intercession I hope to obtain everything.
VIRTUE – Poverty.
REFLECTION – Love poverty, frugality in your meals, being content with simple food; seek simplicity in your dress, leaving off pomp and vanity.
Suffer a lack of even the necessary things with patience, and become used to neither yearning after riches, nor suffering their loss greatly.
EJACULATION – O Mary, true Mother of God, remember that you are my Mother also.
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A FAVOUR OF THE VIRGIN OF THE ROSARY OF POMPEII
AT PRESICCE: a miraculous recovery at the beginning of the Fifteen Saturdays.
Rev. Andrea Sponsiello Cera, from Presicce in the Land of Otranto, reported the following event to Avv. Bartolo Longo, the Editor-in-Chief of IL ROSARIO E LA NUOVA POMPEI, which was published in this magazine in the May issue of 1888.
“The youngest of the Priests of this Commune, Fr. Cesario Chiazzato, after five months of an obstinate haemoptysis, complicated in the end by pleurisy, came near to death in June of 1886, Not one of the human means was left untried, but without results! Immediately recourse to divine means was considered, but even these proved useless. The young Priest was doomed to die of consumption.
On the 19th of the same month I found myself in Rome on personal business, when I received from a brother Priest a letter which ended as follows: our poor Don Cesario is sorry that you will not be able to be present at his funeral!...
Pierced by a sharp pain, I decided I had no other recourse than to personally turn to the miraculous Virgin of the Rosary and her dear Shrine of Pompeii, to go there and shed tears on her Altar and force this grace from her through my petitions.
On the evening of the following day I rushed from Rome to Naples; and on the morning of the 21st I went to the Valley of Pompeii. I celebrated Holy Mass at the Altar of Our Lady and pleaded with all my heart, that she might show her power on behalf of my most dear dying brother.
Meanwhile, on that same day (June 21st) eight doctors, called in for consultation, had given up all hope and had given him few hours to live. The sick man, having received the Sacraments, was awaiting death at any moment.
His agony dragged on, to such an extent that when I returned home, on the 23rd, I found him still alive but dying.
His very painful agony continued even on the 24th and 25th of June, and everyone, not only in Presicce but even in the neighbouring parishes of Acquarica del Capo, of Barbarano and others, was praying to the Lord, that He grant life to the sick man; if not life, at least a quick death which would relieve him of such a pitiable state.
On the evening of June 25th, a Friday, while bidding farewell to the dying man (I thought this was the last farewell), I said to him:
‘Don Cesario, tomorrow I am beginning the devotion of the Fifteen Saturdays of the Rosary, which, being pleasing to God, we shall do as in the past six years. Many pious souls will be praying for your earthly life, if this proves satisfactory to God, or for your soul, if He so wishes!’
The sick man, who had not spoken for many days, by a nod showed his pleasure in our charity.
On the following morning (Saturday, June 26th) I went to visit the dying man, whom I was sure to find having expired: but oh, what a wonder! I found him better and peacefully sleeping.
I did not believe my own eyes! I left his room and was going to church to thank the Queen of the Rosary when I ran into his doctor. With a cheerful expression on my face I told him that Fr. Cesario had been saved. But the doctor laughed in my face, and gravely responded: ‘Don Cesario has died!’
Upset and confused by this sudden news, I returned immediately to the home of the sick man, and what do I see? The dear young Priest who is not only alive, but almost completely recovered!...
From that moment his improvement advanced day by day, so much so that for the feast of the Rosary, the first Sunday of October, he was able to participate in all the sacred services organized for the solemn festivity, without any problems. Today my dear Don Cesario is alive and well to the amazement of everyone, including the doctors. We offer glory to Our Lady of Pompeii who returned him to us!
This report, which I attest and confirm in its substance, may be confirmed by all our people who maintain and proclaim that the recovery of our beloved Fr. Cesario Chiazzato is a miracle.”
“Rev. Andrea Sponsiello Cera”