An Ave Maria Encore Meditation
“Mary wrapped the child in swaddling cloths. Without yielding to sentimentality, we may imagine with what great love Mary approached her hour and prepared for the birth of her child. Iconographic tradition has theologically interpreted the manger and the swaddling cloths in terms of the theology of the Fathers. The child stiffly wrapped in bandages is seen as prefiguring the hour of his death: from the outset, he is the sacrificial victim (…). The manger, then, was seen as a kind of altar.
Augustine drew out the meaning of the manger using an idea that at first seems almost shocking, but on closer examination contains a profound truth. The manger is the place where animals find their food. But now, lying in the manger, is he who called himself the true bread come down from heaven, the true nourishment that we need in order to be fully ourselves. This is the food that gives us true life, eternal life. Thus the manger becomes a reference to the table of God, to which we are invited so as to receive the bread of God. From the poverty of Jesus’ birth emerges the miracle in which man’s redemption is mysteriously accomplished.”
(Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, p. 68.)
The Son of God was lovingly carried by His holy virgin Mother for nine months as an unborn child. When He came into this world a tender and helpless baby, He was laid in a manger of straw–prickly straw. The One who was to redeem mankind began immediately and the life He was to live was not one filled with comforts or luxury. But He would know the love of a mother and father, a family. Mary and Joseph prepared as best they could within their means for the coming child, both spiritually and materially.
Often we prepare materially but spiritually is more difficult for busy-ness and obligation seem to choke out the time we need for quiet, to prepare our hearts and souls for a new dawn in our spiritual lives. May we find time these remaining days of Advent for extra Masses, for confession, for times given to adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Our faith tells us that He, the Lord, is truly present in the Holy Eucharist; it was faith that brought souls to believe that the Baby, the Boy, the Man Jesus was the Son of God.