JESUS LYING ON STRAW
Jesus is born in the stable of Bethlehem. His poor Mother has neither wool nor down to make a bed for the tender Infant. What does she do, then? She gathers together a handful of straw into the manger, and puts Him to lie upon it: And she laid him in the manger (Luke ii. 7). But, O my God, how hard and painful is this bed for an infant just born; the limbs of a babe are so delicate, and especially the limbs of Jesus, which were formed by the Holy Spirit with a special delicacy, in order that they might be the more sensible to suffering. A body thou hast fitted to me (Heb. x., 5).
Wherefore the hardness of such a bed must have caused Him excessive pain-pain and shame; for what child, even of the lowest of the people, is ever laid on straw as soon as he is born? Straw is a bed fit only for beasts; and yet the Son of God had none other on earth than a bed of miserable straw! St. Francis of Assisi, one day, as he sat at table, heard these words of the Gospel: And laid him in a manger; and he exclaimed : “What? My Lord was laid on the straw, and shall I continue to sit?” And so he arose from his seat, threw himself on the ground, and there finished his scanty meal, mingling with it tears of tenderness as he contemplated the sufferings that the Infant Jesus endured whilst He lay on the straw.
O Lover of souls, O my loving Redeemer! is not, then, the sorrowful Passion that awaits Thee, and the bitter death that is prepared for Thee on the Cross, sufficient, but that Thou must, even from the commencement of Thy life, even from Thy Infancy, begin to suffer? Yes, because even as an Infant Thou wouldst begin to be my Redeemer, and to satisfy the divine justice for my sins. Thou didst choose a bed of straw to deliver me from the fire of hell, into which I have so many times deserved to be cast. Thou didst cry and mourn on this bed of straw to obtain for me pardon from Thy Father. Oh, how these Thy tears afflict me, and yet console me! They afflict me from compassion at seeing Thee, an innocent Babe, suffering so much for sins not Thy own; they console me, because Thy sufferings assure me of my salvation, and of Thy immense love for me.
But why did Mary, who had so earnestly desired the birth of this Son — why did she, who loved Him so much, allow Him to lie and suffer on this hard bed, instead of keeping Him in her arms? This is a mystery, says St. Thomas of Villanova: “Nor would she have laid Him in such a place, unless there had been some great mystery in it.” This great mystery has been explained by many in different ways, but the explanation most pleasing to me is that of St. Peter Damian: Jesus wished as soon as He was born to be placed on the straw, in order to teach us the mortification of our senses: “He laid down the law of martyrdom.” The world had been lost by sensual pleasures. From the time of Adam multitudes of his descendants had thus been lost. The Eternal Word came from Heaven to teach us the love of suffering; and He began as a Child to teach it by choosing for Himself the most acute sufferings that an infant could endure. It was, therefore, He Himself Who inspired His Mother to cease from holding Him in her tender arms, and to place Him on the hard bed, that He might the more feel the cold of the cave and the pricking of the rough straw.
But, my Jesus, I will not leave Thee alone to cry and to suffer. I also will weep; for I alone deserve to shed tears on account of the offences I have committed against Thee. I, who have deserved hell, will not refuse any suffering whatever, so that I may regain Thy favour, O my Saviour. Forgive me, I beseech Thee; receive me once more into Thy friendship, make me love Thee, and then chastise me as Thou wilt. Deliver me from eternal punishment, and then treat me as it shall please Thee. I do not seek the pleasures of this life; he does not deserve pleasure who has had the temerity to offend Thee, O infinite Goodness. I am content to suffer all the crosses Thou shalt send me; but, my Jesus, I will love Thee still. O Mary, who didst sympathise by thy sufferings with the sufferings of Jesus, obtain for me the grace to suffer all my trials with patience. Woe to me, if, after so many sins, I do not suffer something in this life! And blessed shall I be if I have the happiness to accompany thee in thy sufferings, O my sorrowful Mother, and Thee, O my Jesus, always afflicted and crucified for love of me.