Frederick William Faber, D. D.


Bethlehem: The Midnight Cave, Part 4

Mary has looked upon the Face of the Incarnate God. In one glance she has read there voluminous wonders of Heaven, and yet sees that its loveliness is inexhaustible. The Vision has surpassed all expectations, even such expectations as hers. She gazes; and, as she gazes, she can understand how the mightiest spirits of Angels and of men in the full-grown stature of their imperishable glory will unfold themselves in the sunlight of that beautiful Countenance, and feed forever on the manifold expression of its sweet worshipful solemnity. A change comes over her, of which this visible change is the stupendous token. It is an unspeakable crisis in her life of grace, one of those new beginnings, of which the Annunciation was one and the Descent of the Holy Ghost another. She was no longer the tabernacle of the hidden God. God had changed His position toward her, and so her graces were changed, changed with the only kind of change they ever knew,---an incredible augmentation. She was suddenly clothed in a new purity: for Jesus had again magnified her spotlessness by the manner of His Nativity, as He had done before by the manner of His Incarnation. It was a purity such as no creature has ever shared. There had never been heretofore a created purity which at all resembled hers. She looks upon His Face, and grows more like Him by looking. One while He wears an expression as if He were created, another while as though He were that moment judging. His great reason, with its plenitude of consciousness and its abysmal science, was manifest; and yet it overlaid not the delicate gracefulness of infantine infirmity. There was something in the silentness of His look, which compelled worship by its palpable mysteriousness, even while it allured familiarity by its almost pitiful and plaintive eloquence. As at the moment of the Immaculate Conception, as in the hour of the Annunciation, so was it at the Nativity. The Mother began for the third time a new life of gigantic sanctities.

Joseph likewise draws near to adore. The earthly shadow of the Eternal Father rests softly on the Child. His temporal birth is complete in its adumbration of His unbeginning and unending Nativity. Joseph draws near, that most hidden of all God's Saints, shrouded in the very clouds and shadows which surround the Unbegotten Fountain of the Godhead. His soul is an abyss of nameless graces, of graces deeper than those from which ordinary virtues spring, roots which make no trial of the winter of this world, but wait to bear marvellous blossoms before the Face of God in the world to come. We can give no name to the character of his sanctity. We cannot compare him with any other of the Saints of God. As his office was unshared, so was his grace. It followed the peculiarities of his office. It stood alone. He was to Mary among men what Gabriel was to her among Angels; but he came nearer to her than Gabriel; for he was of her nature. What St. John was to Mary after Calvary, Joseph was to her after Bethlehem: so that probably, if we could perceive it, there was an analogy between his holiness and that of the Beloved Disciple. But his sanctification is hidden in obscurity. It is probable that he had received the gift of original justice, as the Baptist had,---though whether it was restored to him before birth, as with John and Jeremias, we cannot tell. It is becoming to think also that by a special grace he was preserved from venial sin. It is most certain that he was a peculiar vessel of the Divine predilection, eternally predestined to a singular and incomparably sublime office, and laden with the most magnificent of graces to fit him for that office. For, wonderful as was his office to Mary, his office to Jesus far surpassed it,---unless, as is more true, the former was but a portion of the latter.

He stood to Jesus visibly in the place of the Eternal Father. He was loved therefore in a most peculiar way by the Divine Person Whom he thus awfully represented, and also in a most peculiar way by the Second and Third Persons of the Most Holy Trinity, because of that mysterious representation. The Human Soul of Jesus must have regarded him not only with the tenderest love, but also with deep reverence and an inexplicable submission. Meek and gentle, blameless and loving, as St. Joseph was, it is not possible to think of him without extreme awe, because of that shadow of identity with the Eternal Father which belongs to him and hides him from our sight even while it presents him to our faith. We cannot describe his holiness, because we have no term of comparison. It was not only higher in degree than that of the Saints, it was also different in kind. But it was eminently hidden with God. His life was an unearthly life. His very place in the world was but a seeming place. He was an apparition in the world, an apparition of the Unbegotten and Everlasting. His soul was as it were withdrawn into itself. He was weak, and in years, [1] mild and unresenting, poor and obscure, passive and docile, and yet an inexpugnable fortress behind which the honor of Mary and the life of Jesus was secure. If his hiddenness was like that of God, so also was his tranquillity. His justice, like that of God, was so tempered with mercy that it almost lost its look of justice and wore the semblance of indulgence. His holiness was one of God's eternal ideas, one of those which He most cherished and kept nearest to Himself. He communicated with God in his hours of sleep, as if his sleep was but the mystic slumber of contemplation. Even now in the Church he stands back under the shadow of the Old Testament, as if that were rather the dispensation of the Father, and therefore the most congenial place for him.

He draws near to the newborn Jesus, that he may adore before he commands. His vast soul fills silently with love, and his life would have broken and ebbed away at the Infant's feet upon the floor of the Cave, as it did years afterward on his lap, but the time was not come, and the Babe sanctified him anew, and fortified him with amazing quiet strength and robust gentleness, and raised him into a higher sphere of holiness and of grace unspeakable, in order that he might be the official superior of his God.

Who shall dare to guess what Jesus thought with His human thoughts, as He lay there for a moment on the ground, beholding with His eyes that furniture of the Cave which Mary had been beholding, and which He had chosen from all eternity? Who would essay to fathom the unfathomable depths of that love and worship which He gave to God,---a finite worship, but of value infinite? The whole history of creation, past, present, and to come, was before Him. He saw it all, embraced it all, understood it all. He felt Himself to be the centre round which all else revolved, the hinge upon which all things turned, the light in which all was plain, the dread lovely meeting-point of the Creator and the creature. He was busy worshipping, He was busy redeeming, He was busy judging, at that moment. All hearts of men lay in His Heart at that hour.
We too were inmates of the Cave of Bethlehem, and of the Cave's divinest centre, the Heart of the new-born Babe. Is not that thought enough to set the rudder of our life heavenward once for all? Who shall tell the ineffable love which He bore to Mary, whom he was then first looking on with His human eyes, and whose fair soul lay open to His inward eye and pleased discernment? Who shall tell with what exulting reverence He yearned toward Joseph? For Mary and Joseph were both radiantly wet all over with that Precious Blood, which, yet unshed, was flowing in His veins and throbbing in His Heart. Those Three! they were three kingdoms of God, but one King; three creations, and the Creator One of these creations; three, yet as it were but one, one with an amazing unity, a unity which made them one, yet left them three, the Earthly Trinity!

From the Earthly Trinity the adoring soul looks up abashed to the Most Holy Trinity on high, thus wonderfully forthshadowed on the earth. Prostrate before the Incomprehensible Majesty the hierarchies of the Angels were bowed down at the hour of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Through all the illimitable depths of the Godhead, profoundest oceans of unfathomable being opening out everywhere into like profoundest oceans, through all the immeasurable realms of Essence which space girdles not, over all the outstretched, unsuccessive Life which time recounts not, was there an immense Complacency, an unutterably tranquil, brooding glory, at the moment when the Babe was born in Bethlehem. There were immaterial waves of Divine exultation, the very spray of which might have been the star-dust of countless. countless worlds, which passed at that hour over the abysses of the divine mind, over the radiant, far-withdrawn furnaces of the Divine life. Yet was there no change in the Immutable. There was no stir in God. Gathered up, as from the beginning, whole and entire and full, into each possible point of space and time, that Divine life abode in its stationary calm, just as it had been from before the beginning, when there were neither space nor time. There was no sound. Creation would have perished if that Divine gladness had sounded. At the voice of such thunder nature must have fled away. There was no movement: all things must have been displaced had God moved. They would have dropped back into indefinable nothingness from before any gesture of God's simplicity. The Infinite encroached not on the finite with the bounding of that unutterable joy. Its presence broke not the slightest vessel which it filled, nor tore the frail rose-leaf within whose countless arteries it can confine itself by its essence and its power. Not a thrill was felt through the delicate framework of nature, which one sunbeam of the daybreak can cause to tremble, to vibrate, and to glow. Vast, colossal, resistless, unbounded, incomprehensible, was the Divine Complacency; yet the hush of midnight was not stiller, the breath of sleeping babe was not so gentle. There was no change in the Unchangeable. Yet to angelic eyes the Father seemed not more a Father, yet in a new way a Father, as He bent over the Babe in the Cave of Bethlehem. Not unmarked surely in the Person of the Son was His sweet condescending joy in that Sacred Humanity, now among the visible things of a glad earth which already so teemed with loveliness. Surely with more than common predilection the invisible lightnings of the Holy Ghost played round Bethlehem, and the joy of Mary was but an emanation from the joy of her Uncreated Spouse. They saw, those bright angelic hosts, they saw with trembling adoration, and the sight gladdened their endless gladness, and made their glory glow more wondrously, the Complacency of the Most Holy Trinity in the newborn Child, as it were a new jubilee in the Immutable, a new Father because the Eternal Father was newly a Father, a new Son because the Everlasting Son was now also a Son in time, a new Holy Ghost, because He was from old the Unbeginning Jubilee both of Father and of Son, and now the jubilee was new, new without novelty, new without mutation, new with an eternal newness. It was as if creation were making ripples on the shining, glancing depths of the Uncreated, while the Word was being still and again begotten and begotten of the Father, begotten eternally at the selfsame moment He was being born in time, begotten eternally the moment after He had been born in time, and while the jubilant Spirit was still and again proceeding and proceeding, eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son in the selfsame moment that Jesus was being born in Bethlehem, and still, and not anew, proceeding and proceeding the moment after that Birth in Bethlehem.

Thus it was, with such strange Divine triumph, that the Creator came forth to be as it were a part of His Own visible creation. But how did His creation receive Him? What welcome did it give Him? What response did it make to the mystery of Bethlehem? A response altogether worthy of Him it could not be; for that was impossible, nay, beyond all possible power with which omnipotence itself could endow creation. But it welcomed Him as it best could, and it was very gloriously. Mary's first act of worship met Him the very moment He was born. No sooner had she seen His face than she adored Him more perfectly than all the Angels had been able to do in their thousands of years before the throne. Except by the Incarnate Word Himself, never had the Divine Majesty been worshipped so worthily, so near to adequately, if we can speak of nearness when we think of that gulf which lies between the finite and the infinite. Never creature so cowered down before God in the sense of its own exceeding nothingness as Mary did. She could stoop lower than anyone else, because she was so much higher in holiness. Joseph also had worshipped Him as no Saint before had done. From his deep calm soul he had poured out a very ocean of love, tenderest love, humblest love, love shrinking from being like the Father's love, yet also daring to be like it, as Mary's had been like the conjoined loves of Father and of Spirit, as she was Mother and Spouse conjoined. No Angel might love Jesus as Joseph loved Him, as Joseph was bound to love Him. No temporal love but Mary's could be more like an eternal love than the love of Joseph for the Child, because of its likeness to the love of the Everlasting Father. The choirs of Angels also sang out loud in the midnight heavens, while the winter night ran over with the sweetness of their strains. Every note in their music, every pulse in their exulting song, represented a whole world of supernatural acts in their mighty spirits, acts of love, of complacency, of worship, of adoring gratulation, of self-oblivious jubilee. Never had creation been so wonderful as it was that night! never had it gathered round its God so gloriously as it did then! Never did it look less imperfect than when at that still hour it strove to lift itself to the height of the grand mystery, and while it fell short infinitely, yet it fell short worthily! Who would have dreamed that finite worship could be so nearly infinite as it was that night? Oh, joyous thought, oh, grateful remembrance, that Jesus was thus welcomed into the world!

But we must try to enter further into this thought. Our view of the mystery of Bethlehem is incomplete without it. Fresh light is thrown on the Creator's coming by creation's response to His coming, its welcome, its salutation, its recognition of Him. The true history of His triumph is not told, if the applauses which greeted Him are not mentioned also. The scene of the Creator's installation in His Own creation is imperfect, unless we depict also creation doing its homage, and swearing its oath of fealty before His throne and at His human feet. Now Mary is not only the sovereign creature, but she is the representative creature also. While therefore the worship of Joseph and the songs of the angelic hosts are magnificent incidents in the coming of our Lord, we may consider Mary's first act of worship as by itself substantially the welcome of creation to its Creator; and, even at the risk of a little recapitulation, we must consider it attentively.

The most difficult fact for us to apprehend rightly about our Lord's Three and-Thirty Years' life is the amount of it which was lived to God, to God only, to God secretly, without any apparent connection with the great work of redemption, or without any visible benefit there and then to the welfare of mankind. Next to God, Mary seems to usurp an unexpected amount of His time, presence, and Divine communications, yet with how legitimate a usurpation! As it is the tendency of our modern mind in science, rightly rebuked by the geological discoveries of the secular epochs of our planet untenanted by man, to make ourselves the centre of God's works, and to look out only for adaptations, ministries, and subserviencies to ourselves in all the glorious kingdoms of animal, vegetable, and mineral magnificence, so are we apt in theology too much to regard our Lord as coming to do one two-sided work, first to teach us lessons of heavenly wisdom, and then to suffer and die for our redemption. We almost picture Him to ourselves, more or less unconsciously, as a modern man of active habits, engrossed with His work, losing no time about it, bending all things to it, and, if not precipitate about it, at least diligent, exclusive, and decisive. In the light of this modern view we construe His words to Mary in the Temple, forgetting the eighteen years of apparently inactive seclusion which as a matter of fact followed the utterance of those words; and again we put a like construction on His seemingly impatient speech about His Passion, not discerning those supernatural principles of love of souls and thirst for suffering and appetite for shame which our Lord's example has impressed forever upon Christian holiness. It seems to us strange that our Lord's human life should be of any use to God, except as the instrument of our own redemption. The idea of worship is faint and feeble in our minds. Work, utility, success, palpable results,----these are what we look for. Hence we neither habitually see how inexplicable on our principles our Lord's division of His life into thirty years of seclusion and three of active work really is, nor discern the Divine significance of it when it is pointed out to us. We thus do an injustice to His secret created life of adoration before God, and almost ignore His wonderful exclusive occupation with Mary, which absorbed so much of the time He spent on earth. This causes us to misread the Gospels, to arrange the mysteries of our Lord in wrong order and with bad lights upon them, and to miss in many of the mysteries that which is most specially Divine about them.
In their measure, these remarks apply also to the mysteries of Mary, and to the place which they occupy in the life of our Blessed Lord. The things of God have an air and odor about them unlike the things of the world. Like the fragrance of the woodlands, we are conscious of the sweetness, but do not trace it to the mossy bank, or to the withering herbs, or to the dew-bathed flowers, from which it comes. We may even see the things of God, and not know them when we see them. They seldom bear their diginity on their outward appearance. It is not stamped upon them, but hidden in them. However much we have prepared ourselves for their secrecy, they are in the experience more secret than we were prepared for. Hence it comes to pass that Divine things almost always take us unawares. There is also a noiselessness about them which brings them upon us when we are least suspecting their neighborhood or dreaming of their approach, while at the same time they are so swift that they have come and gone without our having had time to pause upon them. We only know, from the breathlessness of our souls, that we have suffered some Divine thing. They pass upon us not as growths of earth. They only float over it, like the clouds that dapple the moon----never anchoring their shadows there, but always passing, though sometimes with an imperceptible slowness. They seem even to be regardless of their influence upon earth. They look as if they did not intend to influence it, or as if their influence were a by-play, a consequence of their presence which they could not avoid, but which they did not value, an accident, inseparable from them, certainly, yet still an accident, about which they were not anxious and on which they laid no stress. It is as if they had derived some of His self-sufficiency from the God Who is their author. Their value----and they are conscious of it,---is, not their having done a work on earth, but their abiding life and beauty with God forever. The individual soul is world enough for them; for they only want a kneeling-place on which to put themselves before the majesty of God and in the sunlight of His glory. When they have reflected back upon His magnificence one of His Own rays, their mission is accomplished, but their work passes not away. That reflected light of theirs lies over the vast awfulness of God, and is beautiful there, forever.

So was it with Mary's first worship in the Cave. The light of it is lying upon God this hour. A century of Church history is a less event in the chronicles of the Incarnation than that act of Mary. The supernatural value of our actions depends upon our degree of union with God at the time we do them. But what spirit of Angel or soul of man was ever in such union with God as the soul of His blessed and sinless Mother? Neither had there yet ever been a moment in which she had been so closely united to God as at the moment of our Saviour's birth. The moment of the Immaculate Conception was indeed a marvellous epoch in the world of grace, momentary in lapse of time, secular in the immensity and durableness of the work. The moment of the Incarnation had been yet more wonderful. Who can say how wonderful? But her union with God had grown inconceivably during His nine months' residence within her bosom. How could it be otherwise? Thus, at the moment of the Nativity she was more closely united to God than she had ever been before; for union was the especial distinguishing grace of those nine months; and she was united to Him with a union compared to which the most glorious mystical unions of the Saints are but as shadows and as semblances. Her ecstasy at midnight was as it were a fresh spiritual rivet to that union. When she saw the Child born, lying on her veil, with hands stretched out to her as if mutely asking to be taken up,----He asking, the orphan God, for the embrace of a mortal mother's arms!---and when she saw the beauty of His Face, and felt it passing into her soul, was she not immersed in God as never creature had been before? Her first act was an act of love; but it was the highest love, the love of adoration. Although she had languished to see the Human Face of our Blessed Lord, yet, now that she gazed upon it, it was His Divinity she saw, rather than His Humanity. To her His Human Nature unveiled, rather than veiled, His Godhead. She saw in Him, and worshipped especially, the Person of the Word, the Second Person of the Undivided Trinity. As none had ever been so near to God, so none had ever worshipped Him so well. The Angels, who had been lying for ages in the blaze of the uncovered Vision, saw not so far as Mary, though they saw differently, and, while they worshipped with all the capacities of their grand natures, they worshipped not so wonderfully as she worshipped; for they were in shallower depths of Divine union and of transforming love than was she, the Mother of the Most High.

She as it were encompassed our Lord with her ecstatic worship. All He was and is and has, she covered with her praise, her wonder, her fear, her joy, her love, her jubilee. She, who had more than miraculously compassed Him in her bosom, went as near to compassing Him with the immensity of her worship as it was possible for mere creature adequately to compass His illimitable and uncreated glory. His Divine Person, His Divine Nature, His Human Nature, with His Soul as well as His Flesh, the passible state in which He had vouchsafed to come because of sin,---all these she worshipped, mindfully and tenderly, separately and together, with clearest intelligence, with deepest abasement, with sweetest love, with most awe-stricken admiration. All His perfections as God came before her in wonderful order, enchained together, flowing out of each other and back into each other, each looking both backward and forward at once. She saw them also as one perfection, as the Divine simplicity, and then she saw them as no perfections at all, but as His simple Self, a Self with no perfections but the Act which He Himself is, a Self with no separable attributes, but only an eternal life which is ever living in Itself, too simple for thought, too beautiful for speech, too magnificent for love, too jubilant for fear, only to be rapturously adored, with a timidity which transcends all fear, and with a familiarity which far outgrows all audacities of love.

In adoring the Divine perfections of the new-born Babe, we may well believe that Mary worshipped particularly those attributes seemingly most opposed to His infant state. The instincts of prayer would lead her that way. The very circumstances of the mystery would suggest it. She adored profoundly the eternity of Him Who was but a minute old. She congratulated Him in the boldness of holy love on His having been from everlasting co-eternal with the Father, and at the same time eternally a Son.

She exulted in the knowledge that from all eternity her Babe: had with the Father breathed forth the Holy Ghost, and had been with the Father the principle from which the coeternal Spirit had proceeded, and was forever proceeding, and was to proceed for all eternity. It was a joy to her that time, old as it was, was a younger birth than Him whose birth in time was one short minute since. She was abased with sweetest reverence when she looked into His childish Face, and with delighted faith hailed Him as time's Creator.

She looked upon Him in His weakness and His helplessness. His beauty was so frail that it seemed as if a breath of summer wind might have blown Him away. It was as if He could not lift Himself from the ground on which He was lying, or raise Himself into His Mother's arms. Yet in that weakness she adored His almighty power. She worshipped Him as the unfatigued Creator, Who had built up the massive worlds with an act of His will, Who held the mountains in the hollow of His hand without the effort of sustaining them, and Who directed the earthquakes and the storms, as pliant and docile creatures, where He pleased. She exulted in the boundless majesty of His tremendous power. She congratulated Him that at that moment all creation hung upon Him with its whole weight, and that were He to loosen His hold of it for an instant it would fall back into that nothingness from which it came and to which, through its own finite imbecility, it is ever tending. She felt, and joyed to feel, that she, herself was but as the breath of His mouth, and that she too was relapsing into nothingness unless He held her up by the irresistible gentleness of His vast power. She worshipped Him as the God to Whom nothing is impossible, and yet Whose power works with such facility, such smoothness, and such delicacy that it makes no sound in its going, feels no effort in its magnificence, and strives not in its career. He upheld all things even while He slept; and yet His features were sweetly relaxed in the graceful abandonment of infantine slumber, and upon His countenance there was no sign of care, nor strain of labor, no shadow of government, nor semblance of occupation.

She beheld Him speechless on the ground. Only perhaps an inarticulate cry was rising from His childish lips. But she worshipped Him as the articulate Word of the Father, pronounced from all eternity, and even now being eternally pronounced, with most inexplicable articulation. He Who expressed, not to creation only, but to the Father Himself, the whole of His marvellous perfections, He Who with unutterable distinctness outspoke the whole mystery of the Godhead, He Who pronounced in the language of His coequal beauty all the hidden things of the Divine Nature,----He it was Who was lying speechless on the ground; and Mary adored Him in His truth, not in His seeming. He wore the same look of unconsciousness which other infants wear. His life looked the animal life of in fan tine wants and woes and little jubilees, to be expressed by bright eyes, or by sounds which are language only to a mother's ear. But in this apparent unconsciousness she not only recognized the mighty reason in full possession of itself, but she also adored that immense and uncreated wisdom which is in some sense the favorite attribute of the Word. She exulted in the thought that there was no wisdom among Angels or men which was not simply a derivation from His wisdom, and that there were no philosophies or sciences which were not the merest scintillations of His uncreated knowledge. All the impenetrable secrets of creation were out of the hidden treasures of His wisdom. The marvellous plans of nature, grace, and glory, countless in number, bewildering in variety, incalculable in their profundity, were all but as the merest surface of His ever-blessed mind. The intricacies of Providence, those dark and seemingly contradictory problems which have often driven to wildness or despair the irreverent questioning and profane inquisition of the human understanding, were all calmly evolved by His skill in lucid beauty and admirable sequence. The very unconsciousness of the Babe held a light over all this abyss, and Mary looked down, and saw, and worshipped.

Thus also to the Mother's eye His littleness magnified His immensity. He seemed all the more illimitable, because He was so small. He lay upon her veil a mere span of fair human life; but she knew that in truth He was outstretched beyond all possible spheres of imaginary space. She adored the omnipresence of that tiny prisoner, Whom a delicate frame of flesh and blood was now containing. For nine months she herself had compassed the Incomprehensible, and now she saw as it were with her bodily eyes the immensity which had lain so long like an unopened flower in her own virginal bosom. She rejoiced with Him in His universal presence, in His immeasurable essence, in His unconfined liberty, in His inexplicable unlocalized simplicity. She congratulated Him that all about Him was boundless, not only putting away from itself all the limits of imaginable perfection, but far transcending, in its Own awful truthfulness, not only all actual existence, but all possible existence. The possibilities of omnipotence far outstrip the flight of created imagination; but to equal the immensity of God is impossible even for God Himself.

Finally, when Mary beheld Him trembling with the cold, and discerned the pathetic sadness which mingled with the brightness, and perhaps saw Him weeping human tears, she worshipped Him whose eternal life was an unspeakable beatitude. She recognised in Him the uncreated fountain of all created joy. She knew that at that instant He was filling to the brim myriads and myriads of angelic spirits with celestial exultation. She knew that there was not a joy on earth among men or animals but it was a sparkle mercifully struck from His abounding and self-sufficing gladness. Nay, when our lives, and the lives of those we love, are dense with sorrows, there is a joy even in the sorrow, like the fragrant damps of the close dripping woods of midsummer, and that joy is but the sweet bliss of God, compassionately making its way even thither. Thus it was, that, while Mary worshipped Jesus with the most perfect worship of which a mere creature is capable, she especially adored those perfections which to outward seeming were least compatible with His infant state.

She beheld also how His Human Nature lay in Hypostatic Union with His Divine, and therefore was itself entitled to the honors of Divine worship. Hence she worshipped the spiritual beauty of His Sacred Humanity. She worshipped the Flesh, which He had taken from herself, and in which He was to suffer, and by His suffering to redeem the world. She worshipped it as the real Sacramental Food of all the generations to come, to be adored by all the faithful upon the altar. She adored it also as impassible and glorious, gifts which it already contained within itself. She adored with the most delighted reverence the Precious Blood which was flowing in His veins. She exulted in the abundance and even prodigality of the redemption which the munificent shedding of that Blood was to accomplish. She congratulated Him on the countless victories of grace which it would procure for Him, the marvellous holiness of the Saints, and the magnificent conversions of sinners, and the glorious perseverance of all who should die in union with Him. She saw that Precious Blood in its course over the world as a broad and brimming river, carrying fertility into every land, flushing the face of nature with the verdure of grace, causing the wilderness to blossom as the garden, and the barren rocks to be covered with shadowy woods, redolent of odors, golden with fruits, and resonant with songs. She beheld on its broad bosom huge fleets freighted with heavenly treasures sail onward to the eternal sea. She admired the silent, irresistible beneficence of its sweet streams, and adored it in the veins of the Child, and wept tears of humblest joy as she thought of its fountains in her own Immaculate Heart.

She worshipped His Sacred Heart, with all its sanctified affections. She saw His immense love of herself therein, and penetrated the wonders of which that love was full, and how gloriously the human and Divine were blended in it and were one unequalled, unprecedented love. She beheld also the place which each of us occupied at that moment in His all-embracing Heart; and surely it would seem to her that there was nothing about Him more adorable than His inexplicable love of sinners. More wonderful is that love than even the all-wise means by which He emancipated sinners from their sin. She adored His Soul, with all its marvellous operations, and its depths of wisdom and of joy. Nothing was omitted in that act of worship. Every thing found its place. Every thing came in its right order. To every thing its due honor was paid,---so far at least as a mere creature could pay what was due to God. Such was Mary's first act of worship, an act of which we shall be able to conceive more worthily when we have considered ... the Babe's perfections as God, and the eminences and excellences of His Soul and Body as Man, considerations which we have been here obliged in some measure to anticipate. But these are things which bear repetition well.

Now, let us reflect on all that was involved in this act of adoration. As was said before, Mary is not only the sovereign creature, she is the representative creature also. Thus her worship was offered in the name of all creatures. It was creation's recognition of its Incarnate Creator. Moreover, she began in it, and as it were officially inaugurated, all the manifold Catholic devotions to the Sacred Humanity, such as those to the Sacred Heart, to the Precious Blood, to the Blessed Sacrament, to the Infancy, to the Passion, and the like. She not only began them, anticipating the loving inventions of the Saints, but she surpassed all that the Saints have ever done in each. That act of worship is a life in the Church at this present hour, passing daily into holy hearts, guiding the sense of the faithful, supplying fair types of various devotions, and queening it with tranquil pre-eminence over all other collective homages of redeemed love to the Sacred Humanity of the Redeemer. Her worship also, let it be observed, was not disjoined from the worship of St. Joseph, with whom she was in the closest spiritual union, as God had united them in the transcending unity of the Earthly Trinity. His worship and hers had one prerogative which the worship of none else could have; for they offered to Jesus with it the authority they were to exercise over Him. From Joseph, as from Mary, our Blessed Lord received the worship of those whom He Himself had constituted His superiors. If the bent of the hearts of the Saints is a token of the bent of Mary's heart, and is itself the instinctive inspiration of the Heart of Jesus, then in these latter days it would seem that by nothing could we so effectually unite ourselves to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, as by a loving and reverent devotion to St. Joseph.

Moreover, in this act of worship our Blessed Lady recognizes us as her children. She was conscious of the place she occupied in the creation of God. She began already to fulfill that office with the insignia of which she was publicly invested upon Calvary. She offered herself to the newborn Babe for us. She was willing  to be our Mother. She was ready to endure for us those dolors with which she was to travail with us her second-born, so unlike the painless childbirth of that night. She was prepared to represent us in all her tender ministries to Him. She offered us also to Jesus. She offered us to His love. She freighted her prayers with our names. She yearned for our more and more complete conversion, and longed that we might be part of the happy triumph of His Passion. By her effectual intercession she bathed us in His Precious Blood, and was forward to accept that active and prominent place which she occupies in the secret life of grace with every one of us. For us also she offered Jesus to the Father. With heroic love she gave back for our sakes what for her own much more than for ours she had just received. She saw that Calvary was in the offering, and yet she drew not back her uplifted hands. Such was her beautiful three-fold oblation. She offered herself to Jesus for us. She offered us to Jesus. She offered Jesus to the Father for us. Then from the height of Calvary she turned round and faced the Church of all coming ages, and offered to us all our Blessed Lord for our acceptance and our love. So she climbed from the Cave to the Eternal Father, from the offering of herself to Jesus to the offering of Jesus to the Father. For, if the first thought of the Mother is for the Child, is not the second for its Father?

Thus was completed the mystery of Bethlehem. Thus were we present there in our Mother's hands and in our Savior's Heart. It has taken long to tell you: yet it was but for a moment that Jesus lay upon the ground. In a moment all these things had been accomplished. The tyranny of time sits lightly on Divine works. They have other measures. The infinite must needs be instantaneous. O happy Mother, happy beyond all thought! she has seen the Face of Jesus, and He smiled into her face. Was it through tears? What significance was there not in that celestial human smile! He smiled as a Son smiles to a doting mother. He smiled as the victorious Savior Who had redeemed her by the Immaculate Conception. He smiled as the Creator Who complacently regards the most lovely of His works. He smiled as the Last End and Beatitude of her whom He rejoiced to glorify and to have with Him for eternity. He smiled as God, smiling unutterable and unimaginable things. Of a surety there was some special expression in that first look, in that many-meaning smile, which reminded her of the Immaculate Conception as distinctly as if he had spoken. Nor was the joy of that smile less to her than its significance. But she alone can tell it. It makes us tremble with expectation to think that that same smile will one day be a joy to us, and a joy which will not pass away! But, like all the aspects of God, that smile brought with it a world of grace. It was substantial, as God's visitations ever are, substantially effecting that which it expressed. How therefore must it have lifted her in sanctity, and been to her almost like a new creation! A look of His converted Peter: what must a smile do, and a smile into His sinless Mother's face! O sweet Babe of Bethlehem! when shall we too kneel before Thy face? When shall we see Thee smile, smile on us our welcome into Heaven, smile on us with that smile which will sit upon Thy lips as our own glory and possession for ever more?

Listen! the last strip or cloud has floated down under the horizon. The stars burn brightly in the cold air. The night wind, sighing over the pastoral slopes, falls suddenly, floats by, and carries its murmuring train out of hearing. The Heaven of the Angels opens for one glad moment, and the midnight skies are overflowed with melody, so beautiful that it ravishes the hearts of those who hear, and yet so soft that it troubles not the light slumbers of the restless sheep.

1. In the controversy about St. Joseph's age, I must admit that the majority of great names are on the side of his being in the prime of life, between thirty and forty. This is the opinion of Gerson, Vigerius, Theophilus Raynaudus, Esselius, Baronius, Suarez, Vasquez, Capisucchius, Serry, Sandinus, Salianus, Tornielli, Toletanus, De Castro, Trombelli, Isidure lsolanus, and Bernardino di Busto. The Apocryphal Gospels, St. Epiphanius, Cedrenus, Nicephorus, with antiquity generally, and especially ancient pictures, represent St. Joseph as quite old. Gerson feels the difficulty of the ancient pictures, but says, in his usual and quite characteristic way of referring to development in doctrine as the explanation of every thing, that painters did this purposely because the tenet of the perpetual virginity of our Blessed Lady was not well rooted in the minds of the ruder faithful. This reply is quoted with applause by Raiiaello Maria the Carmelite in his very full book on St. Joseph. The habit of contemplating St. Joseph as the shadow of the Eternal Father has led me instinctively to take the side of antiquity in this dispute. Without tradition, the text of Isaias lxii. 5 is hardly convincing. The opinion in favor of St. Joseph's youth makes him more than double our Lady's age; and this would make him seventy when he died, as traditions about his death seem only to hesitate between a little while before our Lord's baptism or a little while after it. The other opinion would add from ten to twenty years to this. I may embrace this opportunity of naming here some of the books most to be recommended on devotion to St. Joseph; Istoria di San Giuseppe, by Raiiaello Maria, Carmelite; Synopsis Magnalium Divi Josephi, by Ignatius of St. Francis, also a Carmelite; St. Theresa's friend Father Gracian of St. Jerome, whose Spanish treatise has been recently translated into French; Glorie di San Gillseppe, by Don Gillseppe Loxada Becerra, written in St. Alphonso's lifetime, and In Imitation of the Glories of Mary; Jacqulnot's Gloires de St. Joseph, recently reprinted; and Vita di San Giuseppe, by Antonia Maria dalla Pergola, a Franciscan. The treatises of Gerson and the Sermons of San Bernardino are, however, the fountains from which all have drawn.


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