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THE SECOND CHAPTER.
A devout Meditation and Thanksgiving on the Incarnation and Life of Jesus.
I Adore Thee, O Jesus Christ, Thou King of Israel, Light of the people, Lord of lords, Prince of peace, Power of God Almighty, Wisdom of the Father. I adore Thee, O Reconciler of men, most tender Advocate of sinners, the refreshment of them who labour, the comfort of them who are oppressed, the reward of all the just. I adore Thee, O Bread of Life, 8Medicine of the soul, Peace-maker of the people, Redeemer of the world, Joy of heaven, grateful Peace-offering and Sacrifice, peace-giving Victim, Who by the sweet smell of Thy vestments hast graciously bowed down and moved Thy Father, Who dwelleth on high, to look upon our weakness and wretchedness, and to hear our groans and lamentations, and to take us back into His favour. O most merciful Jesus! behold, I confess Thy exceeding tenderness and grace, which out of Thine own essential goodness, and for no merits of ours, Thou hast poured out upon us; and I offer Thee the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for all Thy benefits, which Thou hast bestowed upon us, who are but an evil seed, vessels of wrath, reprobate children, useless servants, and sinners worthy of damnation and death. Behold! I praise, and exalt, and bless Thee, and give thanks unto Thee with my whole soul and heart, and all the powers and faculties of my mind. Of a truth, Thy mercy over us is exceeding great! For when we were all children of damnation and wrath, and enemies to Thee, spotted with the stain of original sin, destroyers of Thine image in our souls, violators of Thy temple; when, I say, the old serpent had infected us with his poison, then it was that Thou wert mindful of Thy mercy, and lookedst down from Thy dwelling-place 9in heaven upon this valley of tears, and didst have compassion on our tears, and didst hear our groans, touched in Thy bowels with sorrow of heart, and moved by pity for the wretchedness of Thy people;—yea, at the same time, Thy heart was kindled with love. And although Thou wert the very Son of God, dwelling in light inaccessible, and upholding all things by Thy divine power, and governing and ruling all things by Thy divine wisdom, in Whose sight the angels tremble, at Whose name every knee is bent; yet in no way didst Thou disdain to bow down Thy lofty power to the dark prison-house of this wicked world, and to be made partaker of our weakness and misery, and to be clothed with the sackcloth of our mortality; and all this, that Thou mightest swallow up our wretchedness and weakness in Thine own divine power, and enrich our poverty, and cause our mortality to rise unto life eternal, and wash away and blot out our sins, and restore our nature to its first innocence, and lead us out of captivity into freedom of spirit, and make good again our ruin by bestowing on us glory everlasting. Nor to accomplish the work of our redemption didst Thou send any of Thine angels, no, not even from the Cherubim, or Seraphim, but Thou Thyself didst come at the bidding and by the will of Thy Father,—of 10Whose unutterable goodness we have had experience in Thee, His Eternal Word,— not, indeed, for change of place, but that Thou mightest show us Thy Presence by taking upon Thee our humanity. From the bosom of the Father Thou camest down into the most pure, and virgin, and integral body of the chaste and sweet Virgin Mary; in whose most sacred womb the power of the Holy Ghost alone caused Thee to be conceived and, born in the nature of man;—yet, in such, a way, that this birth of Thine in no way detracted from Thy Majesty, nor lessened the chaste integrity, of that most-blessed Virgin.
O wonderful and incomprehensible exchange! The Lord of glory, for our poor human weakness, gave His own most high Godhead! The Maker of all creatures did not abhor to take upon Him the form of a servant! Nor was it, alone, the form of a servant that He took upon Him, but He was even humbled, like an abject worm, and held of no account, and condemned as a transgressor, and a wicked man, to the shameful death of the cross,—He, Who is one day to judge the living and the dead! O most loving Jesus; how, from the very beginning, hast Thou loved us! It was not enough for Thee to be our Lord, and Maker, and Guardian, but Thou wouldst also become our Redeemer, 11fellow-worker, brother,—our own flesh and blood! Thou wouldst have a share in our weakness, and poverty, and mortality,—Thou who stoodest in no need of aught whatsoever! And, so poor wert Thou made, and so deeply didst Thou taste of the bitterness of our wretchedness, that at the very time of Thy birth, Thou hadst not even any little thing belonging to Thee by inheritance, wherein Thy tender and infant limbs might have been laid and sheltered—Thou Who art the Lord of heaven and earth! In a stable wert Thou born, and the rough manger and coarse little cloths were all that Thou didst suffer to be a resting-place and a covering for Thy tender members! Nay, even Thy poor unworthy resting-place was borrowed by Thy blessed and truly-loving Mother of the beasts of the field that cannot reason. O good Jesus! whose heart would not be softened and kindled with love, and stirred up to devotion, and moved to compassion, when he beholdeth such exceeding poverty, and marvellous lowliness, and burning love towards man? O how quickly didst Thou begin to work at our salvation! How zealously didst Thou accomplish it! Not even one moment of time didst Thou lose, for not a moment was there which was not perfectly spent by Thee in saving us according to Thy Father’s Will. Straightway, from the very 12first moment of Thy birth, Thou didst begin to give Thyself up to pain and suffering.
But why, O sweet Jesus, was it Thy Will to become so lowly, and poor, and helpless, and abject, except to teach us lowliness, and to commend to us holy poverty? Thou didst take our human nature, that we might be made partakers of Thy Godhead. Thou wert made the Son of Man, that we might be made the sons of God, that we might become, I say, by adoption and grace, what Thou wert from all eternity by nature. Thou wert born in a stable, that Thou mightest preserve not men only, but beasts, (for men had become beasts.) Thou wert placed in a manger, and Thyself wert made grass, that Thou mightest become the food of poor beasts. Yes, O Lord, it must needs have been, that Thou shouldst be made grass, when men themselves had become beasts. For a certain prophet saith: “The beasts have become rotten in their own dung,” that is, in the filth of their sins. In order, then, that these animal men might feed, the Word was made grass, (that is, flesh.) For all flesh is grass; and that they might be led out of the stable of their filthy sins, Christ was born in a stable. Now, then, O man given up to thy senses, adore Him lying in a stable, Whom 13thou hast despised as the Ruler of heaven; adore as a beast, and as one of the cattle of the field, Him Whom, in thy character as man, thou wouldst not recognize. Turn now to Him, in the wretchedness and banishment of this world, from Whom thou didst turn away in the paradise of delights. Honour now His manger, Whose commandment thou hast broken. Feed, now, upon the grass, who hast turned aside from, and left the Bread of angels. O Almighty King of glory, what love hath overcome Thee, that Thou shouldst make Thyself so poor, so lowly, so abject, for me, who am but a sinner and a poor worm; that Thou shouldst be placed in a filthy stable among brute beasts, Who art adored by the angels in heaven; that Thou shouldst be nourished with milk, Who art Thyself the Bread of angels, that Thou shouldst be wrapped in coarse swaddling clothes, Who adornest the heaven with stars, and clothest Thy holy ones in stoles of gold?
Nay, even in Thy very harmless infancy Thine enemies kept not back their cruel hands from Thy tender members. Scarcely wert Thou born, and while as yet Thou layest in the chaste arms of Thy sweet Mother, taking pleasant rest on her maternal bosom, as in Thy hunger she gave to Thee her virgin milk; when not as yet hadst Thou spoken a word to anyone, even then did cruel and wicked men 14seek after Thy life to destroy it. O sweet Jesus, how quickly did they rise up against Thee, those wicked enemies of Thine! How young didst Thou begin to suffer! As Thou grewest in age, so, too, grew Thy suffering. Eight days had barely passed away, when Thou didst shed Thine infant and innocent Blood for me, and as if under sin and the law, wert circumcised according to the law, that Thou mightest uphold, and build up, and sanctify the law. So, too, that Thine infancy and boyhood might be an ensample of religion and the mirror of virtues, Thou didst not follow the vain ways of this world. Thou soughtest no comfort or relaxation of mind in boyish games, or in the company and meeting-places of talkative men, where nothing but temporal and vain things are spoken of. But in the temple, and worship? and service of Thy Father, wert Thou found amidst the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions,—Thou Who art the very Wisdom of the Father, the Lord of knowledge, the Eternal Truth, and the Word of God, which was in the beginning. And that Thou mightest deliver unto us a certain form of obedience, Thou placedst Thyself under Thy parents, being made subject unto them, Thou to Whom all the elements are subject, to Whom all power is given in heaven and in earth, and Who hast the keys of death and hell.15
Then, when the fulness of age had come to Thee, and the time was at hand when Thou wert to put out Thy hand to strong things, Thou didst go forth in the morning for the salvation of Thy people, and didst rejoice as a strong giant to run the course of our poverty. And that, first of all, Thou mightest teach us the virtue of blessed humility, which is the beginning and ground-work of all virtues, Thou wentest forth, an innocent lamb, to Thy servant John the Baptist, who was administering the baptism of penance unto sinners, just as if Thou Thyself wert a sinner; and Thou didst ask of him to be baptized, Thou Who hadst never felt the least stain of sin—not that Thou hadst need to be sprinkled, and washed with water, but that Thou, in Thine own Person, mightest bless the water as with sacred chrism, and mightest consecrate baptism for us, whereby we were to be cleansed from all stain of sin, and that thus Thou mightest point out, that Thou wert the true Messias, promised to the fathers, and the Christ, that is, the anointed One, and the spotless Lamb of God, Who, takest away the sins of the world.
Thence Thou wentest forth in the power of the spirit into the wilderness, and that, as our strong standard-bearer and leader, Thou mightest give us courage for the fight, Thou Thyself, first of all, didst enter 16into battle, and begin a single-handed combat with our cruel enemy, whom straightway, with his whole power, at the first meeting Thou didst lay low, that being conquered by a man, he might be confounded, and cease henceforth to boast that of old he had conquered and deceived man. O unvanquished Lion, how earnestly, and with what toil hast Thou wrought out our salvation, in order to stir us up, Thy weak members, and give us courage for toil and for battle. Thou didst not fear the loneliness of the wilderness, nor grow pale at the temptation of the devil—no gnawing of hunger, no roughness of penance held Thee back, nor wert Thou ever weary of the labour of prayer, or of meditation, or of watching. For the salvation of us, Thy suffering members, was ever in Thy Heart, and for these, like a most faithful father, Thou wert ever careful, and didst earnestly labour to enrich them with eternal goods, and lay up for us the unfailing treasure of virtue and merit, from which we might draw in all abundance whatever might be wanting to us. Then, too, because the light of Thy Godhead, which lay hidden within Thee, under the bushel of Thy Manhood, could not be concealed, Thou didst suffer the light of Thy heavenly doctrine and wisdom to shine out in the face of day, that Thou mightest enlighten all men as to the faith. 17For to all who dwelt in those parts Thou didst announce the kingdom of God, confirming Thy words by marvellous works and miracles; while to all who were weak, or in evil state, Thou didst declare Thy divine power, nor to anyone didst Thou refuse Thy tender loving-kindness, that Thou mightest gain all, and heal them. But the understanding of men was darkened, for not with love did they receive Thee as their Saviour, but rather turned away their hearts far from Thee, as if from some seducer and impostor of evil will. At the same time, they despised Thy teaching; they spoke ill of Thy works; they made light of Thy miracles. Not only were they ungrateful for all these Thy benefits, but even for the very reasons for which they ought to have loved and worshipped Thee, for these same reasons they wickedly accused, and hated, and persecuted, and blasphemed Thee, saying: “This man is not from God: He seduceth the multitude: He is a winebibber and a friend of publicans.” Yet all the while, O most meek Lamb, Thou openedst not Thy sacred mouth to utter words that might have grieved them, but Thou didst bear all with gentleness. Why, then, art thou so impatient, and so fainthearted, O my soul, when any adversity cometh upon thee, or some pain or annoyance is inflicted on thee on the part of 18men? Dost thou not perceive how great was the wrong, and the slight, and the contempt, and the shame which the Lord of glory suffered for thee? Dost thou make more account of thyself than of Him? If they called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of His household, and His ministers?
O Jesus, Wisdom of God, Eternal Truth, how brightly hath Thy divine light shone down on the sons of Adam! How hath all Thy life, and every action of Thine, been to us, as it were, a light leading us on to the truth! How clearly hath the light of Thy heavenly teaching lit up the darkness! How full were all Thy works of lowliness; and long-suffering, and love, and self-denial; in a word, of every grace and virtue, so that in these were reflected the most perfect examples of all holiness! Therefore, whatever is wanting to me, from these sources will I draw it. If in anything I shall happen to doubt, in Thy holy life as in a clear mirror will I look. For here I find rigorous self-denial, true obedience, profound humility, voluntary poverty, unutterable purity, marvellous patience, unchanging long-suffering, constant perseverance, and incomprehensible charity. Here, also, I find in all abundance, that of which we chiefly stand in need, infinite loving-kindness and mercy,—yea, and all the virtues that I can possibly 19think of in my heart, all these I clearly discover written down as on a tablet. Of a truth, Thou art that book which the prophet saw written within and without, for all Thy life, both outward and inward, is full of spiritual teaching, and all virtue. Truly, whosoever, with the prophet eateth this book, and masticateth it well, shall find it sweet in his mouth, like honey. O most pitiful Jesus, what labours didst Thou undergo, in seeking after and gathering together the lost sheep of the house of Israel! With what friendship and sweetness didst Thou recall them from their error to Thyself; how gently didst Thou smile upon them, and win them by Thy good deeds, and draw them by Thy love to Thy Father, now by the promise of heavenly gifts, now by the threats of the torments of hell, at one time by smiles, at another by upbraiding. What more couldst Thou have done unto this vine, that Thou hast not done? Oh! how earnestly didst Thou endeavour to plant Thy Father’s vineyard, without ever sparing Thyself in heat or cold, or in thirst or hunger, or in watchings or labours? For Thy Heart was ever glowing within Thee with an exceeding burning longing, as in a fiery furnace, to gain for Thy Father, and save the whole of Israel.
What shall I pay unto Thee, O sweet Jesus, for all these immense benefits of 20Thine? What is man, that Thou shouldst so thirst after his salvation, and suffer so much for his redemption, and labour so earnestly to draw him to Thy love? What is there in lost man in which Thou canst take delight? Of what use to Thee is the sinner in his uncleanness? Or what gain dost Thou look for from a vile and wretched worm of earth, that Thou placest Thy Heart so near him? O gentlest Lover of men, why have I begun so late to love Thee? Why have I left Thee, the well-spring of virtue, and the vein of living waters? Why have I turned away from Thee, Who art the stream of spiritual favours, the abyss of graces, the highest good, and the mirror of all perfection? What madness hath overcome me, that I should not blush to offend so faithful a father, to anger so powerful a Lord? Alas! wretched man that I am, I have forsaken Thee, the Bread of angels, and in my exceeding want have filled myself with the husks of vicious pleasure, in order that I might satisfy my beastly appetites. O, Restorer of nature, how glorious and beautiful didst Thou create me, and how full of corruption and foul have I made myself! For behold, my heart is turned aside, it is hard like adamant. My memory is scattered abroad, my understanding is darkened, my will is corrupted, my love is cold, my soul hath become a 21filthy thing, my spirit is relaxed and languisheth. I am wholly given up to my senses, I have become hateful and abominable. When Thou leavest me, I grieve not; I have fallen into the devils’ snare, and I see it not; they have struck me, and wounded me to death, and I feel it not; I have fallen to the gates of hell, and I mourn not. Yet not even in this state, O most merciful God, dost Thou turn away from me Thy great and manifold mercy. Thou callest me to Thyself, who have gone far from Thee. Thou drawest me to Thee, who still refuse to come. Thou openest Thine arms to receive me, before I reach Thee. Thou bowest down Thy Head to give me the kiss of peace, who am still all unworthy and unclean. Thou preventest me, and meetest me with Thy grace, before I am reconciled to Thee. Thou pourest out Thy grace upon me, more quickly than I dare to ask it. Lastly, Thou feedest me with the most sweet bread of Thy chosen children, who am not worthy to be the last of Thy slaves. What more shall I ask of Thee? For all these things my soul doth magnify Thee, and my spirit doth rejoice in Thee, O God, my Saviour. All my inward parts praise, and bless, and give thanks to Thee, O Lord, for Thy mercy over me is great. Oh! if Thou showest Thyself so loving to Thine enemies, 22my tender Jesus, what then art Thou to the friends of Thy Heart?
Moved, then, by the contemplation of this Thy immense mercy and goodness, I, a wretched and vile sinner, weighed down with the heavy burden of my numberless sins, come to Thee, O good Jesus! Very humbly do I cast myself at Thy feet, for Thou art full of grace, and exceedingly kind towards sinners, and it is, indeed, Thine own natural property ever to have mercy, and to spare, nay, even to show favour and kindness. Grant, I beseech Thee, that I may find the same grace which blessed Magdalen, Thy most fervent lover, obtained from Thee. Say unto my soul that word full of comfort which Thou spakest unto her: “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” For although my sins are beyond measure great, yet are they small when compared with Thy mercy. O, sweet Jesus, help me, for indeed Thou canst; give me the desire of my heart, for in my deep lowliness and wretchedness I cry unto Thee! Forgive me much, that I may love Thee much, and may magnify and bless Thee. Heal me wholly, that I may wholly cleave unto Thee. Unburden me of my heavy load of sins, that I may freely and cheerfully follow Thee. Cast away all my sins into the abyss of Thy divine mercy, and then so grind them into dust, and bring them to nothing, that all remembrance 23of them may pass away from before Thee. For now I have determined with myself, from this time forward, never more to offend Thee, O my God. Most tender Jesus, since I confess to Thee my wretchedness, show unto me, I beseech Thee, Thy goodness. All my wretchedness and poverty have I shown unto Thee, do Thou then open unto me the ample treasures of Thy grace, and at the same time apply to my sins and negligences all Thy toil, and labours, and all Thy good works, and all the merits of Thy most sacred Passion. Reconcile unto me Thy Father who is in heaven, and with whom Thou livest and reignest, Co-eternal God, world without end. Amen.
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