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tens Deus, ut beati Silvestri, Confessoris tui atque Pontificis, veneranda solemnitas et devotionem nobis augeat et salutem. Per Dominum.
Almighty God, that the venerable Solemnity of blessed Sylvester, thy Confessor and Bishop, may improve our devotion, and strengthen in us the hopes of salvation. Through, &c.
Commemoration of the Sunday.
ANT. The Child Jesus ad- ANT. Puer Jesus proficievanced in age and wisdom bat ætate et sapientia coram with God and men. Deo et hominibus.
The Prayer, as in page 376.
Commemoration of Christmas Day.
On this the sixth day since the Birth of our Emmanuel, let us consider how the Divine Infant lies in the Crib of a Stable, and is warmed by the breath of the Ox and the Ass, as Isaias had foretold: The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib ; but Israel hath not known me1 Thus does the great God enter that world, which his own hands have created! The dwellings of men are refused him, for man has a hard heart for his God, and an indifference which is a real contempt. The only shelter he can find to be born in, is a Stable; and that necessitates his coming into the world in the company of poor dumb brutes.
1 Is. i. 3.
At all events, these animals are his own work. When he created the irrational world of living things, he subjected it, as the inferior part of creation, to Man; and Man was to ennoble it, by referring it to the Creator. When Adam sinned, this subjection, this harmony, was broken. The Apostle teaches us, that the brute creation is not insensible to the degradation thus forced upon it by sinful Man.1 It obeys him with reluctance; it not unfrequently rebels against and deservedly punishes him; and on the day of judgment, it will take the side of its Creator, and avenge itself of that wickedness, of which Man has made it the unwilling instrument.2
In the mystery of his Birth, the Son of God visits this part of his creation; men refused to receive him, and he accepts the hospitality of the dwelling of brutes. It is from their dwelling that he begins the divine career of the Three-and-Thirty years. The first human beings he invites into the company of his blessed Mother and his dear St. Joseph, the first he admits into the Stable to see and adore himself, are Shepherds, who were busy watching their flocks, and whose simple hearts have not been corrupted by the atmosphere of cities.
The Ox-which, as we learn from Ezechiel3 and St. John, is one of the symbolic creatures standing round God's throne-is the figure of the sacrifices of the Old Law. The blood of oxen has flowed in torrents upon the altar of the Temple: it was the imperfect and material offering prescribed to be made to God, until he should send the True Victim. The Infant Jesus, who lies in the Crib, is that Victim, and St. Paul tells us what he says to his Eternal Father: Sacrifices, and Oblations, and Holocausts for sin, thou wouldst not have, neither are they pleasing to thee; behold, I come !5
5 Heb. x. 8, 9.
1 Rom. viii. 19, 20.
3 Ezech. i. 10.
Apoc. iv. 7.
The Prophet Zachary,1 foretelling the peaceful triumph of the Meek King, says that he will make his entry into Sion riding upon an Ass. We shall assist, further on in the year, at the accomplishment of this prophecy. Now that we are at Bethlehem, in our Christmas mystery, let us observe how the heavenly Father places his Divine Son between the instrument of his peaceful triumph, and the symbol of his Sacrifice on Calvary.
Ah! dear Jesus! Creator of heaven and earthhow strange is this thy entrance into thine own world! The whole universe should have given thee a welcome of love and adoration-and yet, what motionless indifference! Not one house to take thee in! Men buried in sleep! And when Mary had placed thee in the Crib, thy first sight was that of two poor animals, the slaves of him who proudly rejected thee! Yet, this sight did not displease thee —for, thou dost not despise the work of thy hands. What afflicts thy loving Heart, is the presence of sin in our souls, the sight of that enemy of thine, which has so often caused thee to suffer. Oh! hateful sin! we renounce it, and wish, dear Jesus, to acknowledge thee for our Lord and Master, as did the Ox and the Ass. We will unite in that hymn of praise, which creation is ever sending up to thee, by henceforth adding to it the homage of our adoration and gratitude; nay, we will lend speech to nature, and give it soul, and sanctify it, by referring all creatures to thy service.
The following Prose is the composition of Adam of Saint-Victor, and is one of the most mystical of the Sequences in the Missals of the Middle-Ages. It will serve us as a further tribute of praise to the Divine Infant.
1 Zach. ix. 9, quoted by St. Matth. xxi. 5.