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what I can least understand, so tender? for, it is the love of an Infant-God, who treats me, a sinner, as a much-loved Brother. Yet I must say it, my sweetest Jesus! for thy Crib and thy Swathing-bands, the magnificent trophies of thy unmatched love, encourage me to say it:—I love thee! I come to thee, that I may love thee better. I no longer wish to flee from thee : thou desirest to be united to me by love, nor will I cease to sigh after thee, until I have received thee into my heart, and am made one with thee, according to thy word : He that eateth my Flesh, abideth in me, and I in him.1 O my Jesus! inflame my heart and make it like that of the Shepherds, when they came near to the Stable where thou wast born; like that of the Magi, when the Star stood over Bethlehem, the House of Bread, and showed them that their journeying was at an end; like that of the venerable Simeon, when he saw the Christ of the Lord in Mary's arms, and all the promises fulfilled, which he had received from the Holy Ghost. I offer thee the love of these and all thy Saints, of thy Holy Angels, and of thy Blessed Mother herself: let it supply the poverty of my own love, and deign, I beseech thee, to enrich me, by this thy visit, with the gold of divine charity.
ACT OF DESIRE.
I love thee, O Divine Babe! therefore do I desire thee, and beseech thee to come to me. I must needs desire thee, for thou art, as thy Scripture tells me, The Desire of the everlasting hills.2 And art thou not Light and Life 1 Oh! "come, then, Divine Sun of Justice, enlighten my darkness, and give life to my soul, which faints without thee. The Nations of the earth awaited thee, as their Deliverer. The Church, thy Spouse, languished with longings for thy visit. Abraham, and all the Patriarchs, desired to see thy day. Joseph, the Spouse of Mary, is filled with joy at the approach of that blissful hour, when his eyes shall see the Son of the Eternal God. The Shepherds are impatient to behold thee: let us go over to Bethlehem, they say, and let us see this Word which is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us. The Magi no sooner see the Star, than they set out to seek thee, the Star of Jacob.3 The aged Simeon is filled with the Holy Ghost, and hastens to the Temple to see the Saviour whom the Lord had prepared.
1 St. John, vi. 57. 1 Gen. xlix. 26. 3 Num. xxiv. 17.
Anna, the Prophetess, is impelled by a holy enthusiasm, though weighed down with years, to come and see Him, who is the Consolation of Israel. All creation is excited: the very Angels leave heaven to come to see thee in thy Crib and thy Swaddling-clothes, and seeing thee, to adore. Shall I alone be indifferent 1 Let it not be, my dearest Lord! but, rather, let my heart long for thee, if not with a like ardour, at least with all its affection. I beseech thee, therefore, come into my soul! I offer thee all the prayers and inflamed desires of all thy Saints; and with theirs, my own, poor and weak as they are. Yea, come to me • enter into my house; let my heart meet thee; nay—let it be united with thee.
O Mary! Virgin-Mother of the Messias! help me, by thy prayers, to love him as thou didst, that is, with my whole strength: and lead me to Bethlehem, of which thou art Queen.—Ye holy Angels! suffer me to stand, in your glorious choir, near the Crib of our God; fit me, by your heavenly influence, to share in your adorations, and, under the shadow of your sacred wings, to hide the tatters of my spiritual poverty.—All ye Saints of God! by the delights you found in the mystery of Bethlehem, help me; and be near me, now that the great God, who filled you with light and love, is about to come into the poor dark dwelling of my heart! Amen.
In order to make your Preparation complete, follow, with a lively faith and attention, all the mysteries of the Mass at which you are to receive Communion; using, for this purpose, the method we have given in the preceding Chapter. For your Thanksgiving after Communion, you may sometimes recite the following Acts.
ACT OF ADORATION.
Thou hast, then, come down even unto me, O my Sovereign Lord ! and art reposing in my heart, as in a Crib, which thou hast vouchsafed to choose for thyself, O Infant-God! My heart is now become like a new Bethlehem, O Bread of Angels! I most devoutly adore thee, thee the great God thus humbling thyself to such an abyss of lowliness. To the hymn of the Angels, Glory be to God in the highest; I must needs add, Glory be to thee, my God, in this depth of my misery and weakness, whither thou hast so mercifully come! Oh ! who will teach me, my sweetest Infant-Guest! who will teach me how to give thee a worthy welcome of homage 1 Mary, thy most pure and Blessed Mother, having given thee birth, and placed thee in the Crib, prostrated herself before thee as thy humble handmaid, and adored thee. Never had this guilty earth witnessed a homage so sublime as this: and thou didst deign to accept it, as the noblest thou hadst ever received. Permit me to imitate this thy beloved Mother, and adore thee as she did, 0 thou my Sovereign Lord! I humbly beseech thee to accept her homage to supply for the unworthiness of mine : for, she is my Mother, and thou hast willed that all her riches and merits should belong to her children.—I offer thee, likewise, the adorations of that Just Man, the chaste Spouse of Mary, the admirable Joseph, who had been admitted into the divine secret of Nazareth, and is now made a witness of the touching mystery of Bethlehem. Oh! that I might share in the devoted respect and love of this glorious Saint, so grand because so simple, and so favoured above all mortals in that he was chosen to protect thy Infancy!—I also adore thee in company with the Angels, the Shepherds, and the Magi ; with Simeon, and Anna, and all the Church of heaven and earth, which contemplates, in glad amazement, the sublime miracle of this abasement of thy divine Majesty.
ACT OF THANKSGIVING.
But it is not enough, O Divine Babe ! that I adore thee ; I must thank thee. What an honour this thou hast conferred upon me! What happiness this thou hast brought me! I, a sinner, am become, by thy sweet condescension, a living Bethlehem, possessing in itself Thee, the Bread of Life. Thy sovereign Majesty has come down even to me, and has chosen my heart for thy throne, or rather, for thy Crib. The holy Angels adore thee, and praise thee; but thou art granting to me an intimacy which these Blessed Spirits have not—thou art reposing on my heart. The Shepherds are admitted into the Stable to look at thee; they gaze upon thee with simple and loving admiration; but thou dost not permit them to caress thee. The Magi offer thee their royal gifts; but, as the prophecy said of them,1 they kiss but the ground whereon thy Crib is placed. Happy, then, the aged
Simeon, who is permitted to take thee into his arms: but oh ! how happier I! who have received into myself, and now hold within me, Thee, my Jesus, the Bread of Life! Blessed be thou for ever, O my God! for that thou hast treated, with such incomprehensible familiarity, this the poorest of all thy servants! I thank thee, and glorify thee, as did the Shepherds, who went so eagerly to Bethlehem, and returned glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; and with such glowing words did they praise thee, that all that heard, wondered at those things that were told them by the Shepherds.1. So, too, will I open my lips, and, borrowing the words of a Son of Bethlehem, David, thy ancestor, I will say: All ye that fear God, come and hear, and I will tell you what great things he hath done to my soul*
ACT OF LOVE.
Yea, in very truth, thou hast loved me, O my divine Guest! for thou hast laden me with the gifts of thy love. How shall I not return thee love for love, and love thee with all this heart of mine, wherein thou dwellesfi Be thou loved, then, my infinitely amiable Jesus of Bethlehem! It was to win our love. that thou didst lay aside all thy greatness, and, as thy Apostle expresses it,5 empty thyself of all thy majesty, assuming the form of a servant, nay, of a weak Babe. Verily, to approach thee now with fear and trembling seems out of season; and such loveliness as this should not be approached, but with confident tenderest love. O thou that art to be my dread Judge! thou art now here, resting on my heart; thou art, thou wishest to be, in my power; and, according to thine own saying, thou art mine, and I am thine. Jesus! most amiable Jesus! remain with me for ever. Here take up thy abode : here grow before God and men; here reign as my Lord, and King, and God. To supply for the deficiency of my own love, I offer thee the love wherewith Mary, thy most holy Mother, pressed thee to her sacred Heart, during these the first days of thy life on earth; the love wherewith Joseph, the chaste Spouse of Mary, and thy foster-father, so diligently procured thee all thou didst need; the love wherewith the Shepherds of Bethlehem gazed on thee; the Saviour, that was born for them, and knew thee by this sign that thou wast an Infant—lying—swathed—in a manger ;4 the love
wherewith the adoring Magi opened their treasures before thee, and forgot all the fatigues of a long journey, entranced with the sight of thee; the love wherewith the venerable Simeon took thee up in his arms, and felt that he must needs die, now that he had seen Jesus; the love, in fine, of the Holy Angels, who, as thy Apostle tells us,1 adored thee when born in Bethlehem, and found their heaven in looking on that immortal beauty, made visible, in thy Infant Face, even to the eyes of sinful men. Accept, O my divine Treasure! my sweetest Jesus! accept my love, as thou didst all these, and abide in me for ever.
ACT OF OBLATION.
But, it is not enough that I love thee, O Divine Infant! —thou commandest me to give myself to thee. I was far off, and yet thou eamest to me, that thou mightest make me thine own possession; and that I might never more leave thee, thou hast taken up thy dwelling within my heart, making it thy Bethlehem, O Bread of Life! Thou wishest that I should become a little child, after thine example; that I should leave, here at thy Crib, all my pride and disobedience ; that my worldly wisdom should yield, at the sight of thy Crib, to the spirit of Faith; that the false light, which has hitherto been my guide, should be dispelled by the brightness which comes from the mystery of thy Divine Body swathed in the bands of infancy. 0 Jesus! thou King of Infants, as one of the Fathers has called thee, I give myself to thee, that thou mayest teach me to become a little child. Accept the promise I make thee, of perfect docility to all thy teachings; grant that it may be constant and always prompted by love. I detest everything, in my past life, which has been, either in thought or affection, contrary to thy spirit. Henceforth, I will be all thine, for thou hast drawn me, by these sacred Mysteries, into holy nearness to thyself. I will imitate the Magi, who, having adored thee, went back another way into their country. May this holy in 'ancy, which I have begun after thine example, be to me the beginning of a new life, with nothing of my old one in it. Simeon having received thee into his arms, wished to live no more for this earth; and shall I be satisfied with it, I who possess thee here within me t No—henceforth, my life is to be the serving thee;