The Stable and the Manger

Continuing in Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, XV-VI:

God prepared the world a great and new spectacle when he made a poor King to be born and he made him a palace and a suitable cradle. He came unto his own: and his own received him not. They found no place for him, when he came. The crowd and the rich of the earth had filled the inns: for Jesus there was only an abandoned and deserted stable and a manger for him to sleep: worthy retreat for him who when he grew older said: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air, who are the most vagabond families of the earth, have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. He was not complaining: he was used to being left this way, and literally from his birth he had no place to lay his head.

He himself wanted it that way. Let us leave the places inhabited by men: let us leave the inns where disorder and schemes reign: look for me among the animals a retreat more simple and innocent. One has found a place worthy of being left. Leave, divine child, all is ready to publicise your poverty. He comes like a beam of light, like a ray of sunlight: he mother is stunned to see him appear all at once: this birth is exempt from cries of pain and violence. Miraculously conceived, he is born more miraculously, and the Saints found it more surprising to be born than to be conceived of a virgin.

Enter into possession of the throne of your poverty. The angels will come and adore you. When God introduces you to the world, the command comes from the high throne of his Majesty: And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith: And let all the angels of God adore him. (Hebrews 1:6 DRB) Who can doubt that his mother, and his adopted father did not adore him at the same time? Jesus was prefigured by Joseph, himself adored by his father and mother; but the adoration which Jesus received was at a new level, as he was blessed and adored as God above all, to the end of the age.

Do not think of approaching this throne of poverty with love of riches and great things. Do not be mistaken, deceived or put up a front, at least in spirit, you who come to the manger of the Saviour. Who does not have the courage to leave all to follow poor the King of the poor? Let us leave all, at least in spirit, and in place of surrounding ourselves with a lavish lifestyle, let us blush to be such where Jesus Christ is naked and left.

All the while he was not naked: his Mother wrapped him in swaddling clothes with her chaste hands. It was necessary to cover the new Adam, who took the character of sin, which the air would devour and which modesty would clothe, out of necessity. Cover, Mary, this tender body: bring him to the virgin breast. Do you understand your giving birth? Do you have too much modesty to see yourself as a mother? What child dares to approach these divine hands! Worship him in feeding him, while the angels bring him other worshippers.

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