Padre Pio's Christmas Meditation
Appearing in volume four of the Italian-language edition of Padre Pio's letters, this essay was taken from Padre Pio's hand-written notebooks. To the best of my knowledge, it is presented here for the first time in English.
Translated by Frank M. Rega, December 2005."Padre Pio da Pietrelcina: Epistolario IV," Edizioni Padre Pio, San Giovanni Rotondo, 2002, pages 1007-1009.
Far into the night, at the coldest time of the year, in a chilly grotto, more suitable for a flock of beasts than for humans, the promised Messiah – Jesus – the savior of mankind, comes into the world in the fullness of time.There are none who clamor around him: only an ox and an ass lending their warmth to the newborn infant; with a humble woman, and a poor and tired man, in adoration beside him.
Nothing can be heard except the sobs and whimpers of the infant God. And by means of his crying and weeping he offers to the Divine justice the first ransom for our redemption.
He had been expected for forty centuries; with longing sighs the ancient Fathers had implored his arrival. The sacred scriptures clearly prophesy the time and the place of his birth, and yet the world is silent and no one seems aware of the great event. Only some shepherds, who had been busy watching over their sheep in the meadows, come to visit him. Heavenly visitors had alerted them to the wondrous event, inviting them to approach his cave.
So plentiful, O Christians, are the lessons that shine forth from the grotto of Bethlehem! Oh how our hearts should be on fire with love for the one who with such tenderness was made flesh for our sakes! Oh how we should burn with desire to lead the whole world to this lowly cave, refuge of the King of kings, greater than any worldly palace, because it is the throne and dwelling place of God! Let us ask this Divine child to clothe us with humility, because only by means of this virtue can we taste the fullness of this mystery of Divine tenderness.
Glittering were the palaces of the proud Hebrews. Yet, the light of the world did not appear in one of them. Ostentatious with worldly grandeur, swimming in gold and in delights, were the great ones of the Hebrew nation; filled with vain knowledge and pride were the priests of the sanctuary. In opposition to the true meaning of Divine revelation, they awaited an officious savoir, who would come into the world with human renown and power.
But God, always ready to confound the wisdom of the world, shatters their plans. Contrary to the expectations of those lacking in Divine wisdom, he appears among us in the greatest abjection, renouncing even birth in St. Joseph’s humble home, denying himself a modest abode among relatives and friends in a city of Palestine. Refused lodging among men, he seeks refuge and comfort among mere animals, choosing their habitation as the place of his birth, allowing their breath to give warmth to his tender body. He permits simple and rustic shepherds to be the first to pay their respects to him, after he himself informed them, by means of his angels, of the wonderful mystery.
Oh wisdom and power of God, we are constrained to exclaim – enraptured along with your Apostle – how incomprehensible are your judgments and unsearchable your ways! Poverty, humility, abjection, contempt, all surround the Word made flesh. But we, out of the darkness that envelops the incarnate Word, understand one thing, hear one voice, perceive one sublime truth: you have done everything out of love, you invite us to nothing else but love, speak of nothing except love, give us naught except proofs of love.
The heavenly babe suffers and cries in the crib so that for us suffering would be sweet, meritorious and accepted. He deprives himself of everything, in order that we may learn from him the renunciation of worldly goods and comforts. He is satisfied with humble and poor adorers, to encourage us to love poverty, and to prefer the company of the little and simple rather than the great ones of the world.
This celestial child, all meekness and sweetness, wishes to impress in our hearts by his example these sublime virtues, so that from a world that is torn and devastated an era of peace and love may spring forth. Even from the moment of his birth he reveals to us our mission, which is to scorn that which the world loves and seeks.
Oh let us prostrate ourselves before the manger, and along with the great St. Jerome, who was enflamed with the love of the infant Jesus, let us offer him all our hearts without reserve. Let us promise to follow the precepts which come to us from the grotto of Bethlehem, which teach us that everything here below is vanity of vanities, nothing but vanity.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
I found this beautiful Christmas message and meditation on the blog, Courageous Priest thanks to a link on St. Robert Bellarmine's blog, so a mantilla nod to them and a heartfelt thanks for sharing this beautiful piece.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
As we wait with joyful hope
How many people don't feel the joy of anticipation of the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child?
Their minds tuned only to earthly pleasures and what gifts they are about to receive, wrapped in sparkling paper and placed under a plastic tree, they fail to think of the greatest gift of all- Divine Love and Mercy, in the person of a tiny babe, a gift from God to His erring people; the promise of eternal life earned through His suffering and death.
The other night, I had a revelation of my very own littleness, with a sense of the infinite Majesty of God, and myself as tinier than a speck of sand. It was a vivid image, and very humbling. At the same time, knowing that His love encompasses even such a speck- and the millions of us who make up the human race- fills me with joy and hope.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Make Room for Jesus
I have been in a spiritual battle lately, and discovered in the wee hours of the morning today that the source is- surprise surprise- pride. One of the many forms of pride is not forgiving others for what you perceive as an affront. I've had an issue with our parish priest which has led me to not wanting to go to daily Mass, although nothing can keep me away from Sunday Mass. This issue stems from my dislike of being told what to do- and our priest comes from a culture where the man is dominant and is accustomed to getting what he wants. That didn't sit well with our whole parish, a lot of feathers were ruffled and it has been an ongoing battle here. Although things leveled out, as they tend to do over time, we are still being told, instead of being shepherded. As someone who works with animals a lot, I understand the value of suggestion and direction instead of dominance and coercion.
The new changes to the Mass have been a further source of stress, not because of the wording, which I embrace as a more faithful translation of the Latin, and bringing back reverence for the Real Presence, but being asked to stand after Communion has caused a great deal of upset, not just to me but to many in our parish, even to the point where one person has refused to attend Mass. However, there is a movement afoot in Canada that many will continue to kneel, as this is not forbidden by Rome, and in fact is recommended- it's just the Canadian Bishops who think it's a good idea to stand. And of course, our priest is trying to enforce this.
Anyway, getting back to the wee hours of the morning, which is my best time for spiritual reflection, I was thinking of my sister, Sharron who had been killed by a drunk driver at the age of 16, and it would have been her 61st birthday this month, on Dec. 11, which is Gaudete Sunday, a time of joy and hope. I discovered that I hadn't really forgiven that drunken man who took her life at such an early age, and by the grace of God, at that moment I forgave him, from the bottom of my heart, and prayed for his soul. Perhaps he was the instrument God used to call Sharron home before her soul fell into mortal danger, perhaps she had to go so that I could be saved- who knows? But that act of forgiveness opened my heart to my own weakness and the realization that I can overcome my pride which causes me such angst- but only if I open my heart and soul and empty it of the attachment to that sin. It was a revelation to me, that once empty, there is room for Jesus; but not wanting Him to come into a place so recently stained, I could invite Mary in first, and just as His first dwelling place on Earth was the womb of Mary, so her presence in my soul acts as a barrier to any stain of sin that remains in me; it's as if she has spread her mantle over me in pure gossamer beauty that I can see through.
All this reminds me of the innkeepers who on that night so long ago said "no room!" when St. Joseph came knocking, seeking a place for Mary and the Babe in her womb. How long I have been like that innkeeper! How many times I have turned Him away through my stubborn pride, through sin!
Here I would like to thank all the people who have ever prayed for me, for this grace is not something I could have done on my own. Thank you, and now, if you will excuse me, I have to get ready for Mass, where I will pray for you.
St. Joseph is knocking.