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[§ 55. The Mystery of the Incarnation.] The subject of our Saviour’s most holy birth and in fancy is brimful of joy, of tenderness, of edification: of joy in respect of our own exceeding gladness; of tenderness in regard to His sufferings; and of edification because of the lessons taught us. For what more joyful than to behold as Man Him who, as we know, is man’s Creator? What, again, should seem to man more touching than to see, as he does, with unveiled eye, that in the Person of this Meditator of God and men, our Lord Jesus Christ, after a certain wondrous and ineffable manner, eternity begins to be, and majesty is shrouded in humility? He who IS everlasting in the Bosom of the Father is conceived in a Mother’s womb. Born from eternity of His Father without mother, He is born in time of His Mother without father. He who clothed the earth with trees and verdure, who decked the sky with its lamps, who peopled 153the sea with fishes, lies wrapped in rags. He whom the heaven of heavens cannot hold is confined in a narrow manger, is fed with a Mother’s milk. The Wisdom, whose wisdom has neither beginning nor end, who is Himself the very Wisdom of God the Father, advances from less to greater. He, whose eternity cannot be contracted even as it cannot be increased, exists by measurement of days and hours; and the primal Author of grace, its Preserver and its Rewarder, grows in grace. He who is the object of the adoration of all created being, and to whom every knee is bowed, is made subject to human parents. Let us add farther, if we may, the following: ‘He is baptised; yes in deed; the Lord by His servant, God by a man, the King by His subject. He whom angels serve is tempted by the devil. Food hungers, the Fountain thirsts, the Way is weary, Greatness is brought low, Might is weakened, Power enfeebled, Glory despised and wronged, Joy mourns, Gladness grieves, Majesty is shrouded in humility, and Life in death.’

[§ 56. Hope inspired by the thought of the Incarnation.] O good Jesus, how sweet Thou art in the heart of one that muses on Thee and that 154loves Thee! I know not how it is—no, for I can not compass all I say—yet so it is that Thou art far sweeter, in the heart of one who loves Thee, in that Thou art Flesh than in that Thou art the Word; sweeter in Thy lowliness than Thy glory. Yes, indeed, it is far, far sweeter for loving memory to see Thee born in time of Thy Virgin Mother than to behold Thee begotten of Thy Father before the day-star; sweeter to think that Thou hast emptied Thyself, and hast taken the form of a servant, than that in the form of God Thou art equal to God; sweeter to see Thee dying on the tree in the sight of the Jews than to descry Thee lording it in heaven over the angels; sweeter to watch Thee amidst all things humbled and abased than high advanced and exalted over all; to know that as Man Thou hast borne a human lot than that as God Thy dealings have been all Divine; that Thou art the Redeemer of the perishing than that Thou art the Creator of all men out of nothing. O, how sweet it is, good Jesus, to go into the secret chamber of one’s heart and there call Thee to mind, for our sake conceived without stain in the Virgin’s womb, and born without hurt to her virginity; for our sake wrapped in rags, and laid in a manger, bearing reproaches with patience, and insults 155silently; to think of Thee washing Thy disciples’ feet, and wiping them with a towel; praying on through the long night, sweating Thy sweat of Blood; sold for thirty pieces of silver, betrayed with a kiss, captured with swords and staves, bound, judged, condemned to the scourge, led like an innocent lamb to the slaughter, neither opening Thy mouth when roughly used, nor answering when accused in many things; buffeted, smitten, scourged with whips; discoloured and livid with scars; arrayed in a scarlet cloak; crowned with a crown of thorns; worshipped in derision; beaten about the head with a reed; scorned and mocked in a robe of white, and then condemned to death; to see Thee carrying the cross and fastened to it, praying for Thy murderers; given vinegar to drink and gall to eat, reviled by the thief, pouring forth Thy Blood through the five wounds of Thy Body, bowing Thy Head, giving up the ghost, commending Thy dear Soul into the Hands of Thy Father, and enduring all this for us. All these thoughts breed in us and increase greater and yet greater joy, confidence and consolation, love and desire.

[§ 57. Joy inspired by the thought of the Incarnation.] Who but must rejoice and be beside 156himself with joy, who but must be beyond all measure happy and full of gladness, on seeing that not only is his Creator made man for his sake, but that, besides this, He has endured such hardnesses and such indignities? What more delicious to ruminate upon? What sweeter for the mind to taste? What more joyful subject of meditation? Who is to rob me of my place in a Kingdom over which He reigns omnipotent who is my Brother and my Flesh? What possible issue can ever make me desolate, since so bright a hope confers on me so certain an assurance? How can any sadness possibly have any sort of place in one in whom a thought like this is incessantly kept alive? Nor is the confidence this thought engenders in me one whit the less that the object of my loving ardours is my own Creator. Assuredly it is in every way a safe, and in no respect a rash, confidence, which is created in the mind by the contemplation of our humanity in the very Person of Christ. Why may I not trust that I shall attain to the inheritance of the elect, when I behold the very Creator of all things dead for the sake of me? For me He poured forth Blood from His Side; why, then, should I not be sure that I have been redeemed, when I know that so high a price has 157been paid for me? And for me He poured forth water also; why should I not feel confident that I have been cleansed from all my defilements, when it is clear that I have been cleansed by the Water which gushed from the Heart of Christ? The one welled forth from Him, and so did the other; and if the one was shed for my redemption, the other was shed for the washing clean of the redeemed; one for the redemption of the captive, the other for the cleansing of the foul. For me, a slave, was the everlasting Son delivered up, that He might buy me an inheritance by His death; how then shall I not believe myself an heir; ay, indeed, an heir of God, and a joint-heir of Christ? (Rom. viii. 17.) Though I was an enemy, I was reconciled to God by the death of His Son; how, then, justified now by His death, shall I not be saved from wrath through Him? Who shall lay anything to my charge, when His charity covereth the multitude of sins? (1 St. Pet. iv. 8.) His Blood cries from the earth, and speaks better than Abel; and shall not the voice of such and so loud a cry move His Father’s Heart?

[§ 58. Love inspired by the thought of the Incarnation.] Far be it, and again I say, far be it from 158me that I should lack bowels of compassion as I behold Thee, O good Jesus, dying for me. Thou art crucified before my eyes, and shall no emotion stir my heart? That sword of Thine gleams unsheathed before me, and shall it not pierce my soul? Sweet Jesus, what right have I to compassionate Thee? Yet it is none the less well that I should do so. And why should it not be well, since it is evident, if he discerns and judges aright in whom Thou spakest, that if we suffer with Thee we shall also reign with Thee? (Rom. viii. 17.) And in another place, ‘If we be dead with Him, we shall live also with Him’ (2 Tim. ii. 12). But that this compassion of which we speak may live and flourish in our mind, need is that it be inspired by an ardent charity; for whom we embrace with a burning love, those, and those only, we truly compassionate in their woe, and truly congratulate in their good estate. O Jesus, neither my mind can comprehend, nor my tongue suffice to declare, how worthy Thou art to be loved by me, Thou who hast condescended to love me with such a perfect love. Thou hast loved me, and washed me from my sins in Thine own Blood. For if I love Thee much, Thou certainly hast loved me first, and hast loved me more. For ‘by this,’ says the 159Apostle, ‘hath appeared the charity of God, not as if we have loved God, but because He first loved us’ (1 St. John iv. 9, 10). He loved when I loved not; for indeed hadst Thou not loved him that loved not, Thou hadst not made him love. I love Thee, O sweetest Jesus, above all things; but all too little, because far less than Thou deservest, O Thou most dearly loved; and as far less than I ought. And who could? One may indeed love Thee, by Thy gift, as best he can, but never as much as he ought. Who shall repay Thee the worth of Thy innocent Blood, which flowed not in drops but in rivers from five parts of Thy Body? Thou createdst me when I was not; Thou redeemedst me when I was lost. But the sole motive for my being and for my salvation was Thy love. What didst Thou see in me, O Jesus, Sweetness of my life; what didst Thou see in me, that Thou shouldest pay so great a price for me? Nothing, nothing; but so it seemed good in Thy sight. As Creator, Thou bestowedst much on me, but far more as Redeemer. O, how lovely Thou art, Lord Jesus; and O, how sweet! Lovely, but to those who see Thee; sweet, but to those who taste Thee. Thou art not known, unless Thou be seen; nor found sweet, unless Thou be tasted. Make 160me seek Thee; and seeking find Thee; and finding keep Thee; that Thou mayest be the sole sweetness of my taste, the sole pleasantness, the sole delight. Make me know Thee, fear Thee, love Thee, yearn for Thee. Let me not fall away into love of perishable things. Alas, my Lord, that I cannot taste incessantly how delightful and how sweet Thou art!

[§ 59. Jesus the Salvation of sinners.] I am a sinner, O most merciful Jesus. Have mercy on me, Thou who earnest not to call the just, but sinners. Thou Fountain opened to the house of David, show Thyself, and flow forth, and wash me clean. For Thou art an open fountain to all who thirst after Thee; and of all who truly repent Thou dost wash away the stains, returning good for ill, a gift for their iniquity, merit for their fault, justice for their crime, and grace for their sin. King David had experience of this, who, on repenting, heard from Thy messenger the words, ‘The Lord also hath taken away thy sin; thou shalt not die’ (2 Kings xii. 23). For he was washed in Thee with the tears of penance, and cleansed from the stains of a grievous sin; for Thy purity washed out the foulness of the adulterer’s crime, 161and Thy compassion the murderer’s cruelty. In Thee was purged that prince of the Apostles, who wept bitter tears for his cowardly denial of Thee. In Thee, Thou purest and sweetest fountain, the woman who was a sinner was made white as snow, and merited to be blessed with so intimate a nearness to Thyself as to witness the new glories of Thy resurrection, even before Apostles, and to preach the news to them. In Thee too was he made clean, who, hanging near Thee on his cross, whilst he owned that he had received the due re ward of his deeds, and prayed to be remembered by Thee in Thy Kingdom, merited to hear Thee say at once to him, ‘Amen, I say to thee, This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise’ (St. Luke xxiii. 43). And day after day, O merciful Jesus, how many are there enlightened and cleansed in Thee; raised from darkness into light, from filthiness to purity! O take me, take me home from my long exile to Thyself.

O good Jesus, Thou living and life-giving sweetness, Thou true unfailing health, if I have sown in the flesh, what shall I reap from the flesh but corruption? And if I have loved the world, what fruit shall I gather from such love? O my Lord God, I was wont to pay a threefold tribute 162to the Babylonian king, when employed in his impious service. His service is sin; the threefold tribute is delight, consent, and act; and I paid the tribute in thought, in word, and in deed. See with what fires this boiling cauldron was heated (Jer. i. 14), whose face was from the face of the north; when the suggestion of the enemy made the embers burn, and set ablaze the thoughts of my heart. See, merciful Lord, the threefold cord that bound me tight, in mind, in tongue, in body. From the sole of my foot unto the top of my head there was no soundness in me; therefore ‘heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee’ (Ps. xl. 5). Do Thine own work, O merciful Jesus, and save me. For Thou art called Jesus for this only reason, that Thou shalt save Thy people from their sin (St. Matt. i. 21); who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

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