Seventh day within the Octave of Christmas
by St. Bonaventure
When nine months from the conception of blessed Jesus were drawing to an end, Caesar Augustus, the Emperor of Rome, sent out a command, or a behest, that all the world subject to him should be enrolled; so that he might know the number of regions, of cities, and of heads belonging to them that were subject to the Emperor of Rome; and therefore he ordained and bade that all men wheresoever they dwelled should go to the city of their origin and proper lineage.
Wherefore Joseph, who was of the lineage of David, whose city was Bethlehem, took with him his spouse, blessed Mary, who was at that time great with child, and went from Nazareth to the city of Bethlehem, there to be numbered among the others as subject to the Emperor. And so, leading with them an ox and an ass, they went all that long way together, as poor folk, having no other worldly goods but those two beasts. And when they came to Bethlehem, by reason of the great multitude that was there at the same time for the same cause, they could get no shelter in any house, but needed to rest and abide all that time in a public place between two houses, that was covered over for men to stand there out of the rain, and was called a diversory. And in that place Joseph, who was a carpenter, made them a closure and a crib for their beasts.
Now take here good heed and have inward compassion of that blessed lady and maiden, Mary; how she, so young and of so tender age, that is to say of fifteen years, and great with child, being near the birth, traveleth that long way of sixty miles and ten or more, in so great poverty. And yet when she came to the City aforesaid where she should rest, and with her spouse asked harbourage in divers places, shamefacedly, being among strange folk, all refused them and made them go away; and so, for need, at last they took as their shelter that common place aforesaid.
But now to speak further of the blessed birth of Jesus, and of that pure and holy deliverance of His dear mother Mary, as it is written in part from a revelation made by our Lady to a devout man. When the time of that blessed birth was come, that is to say the Sunday at midnight, God's Son of Heaven, as He was conceived in His mother's womb by the Holy Ghost without seed of man, so, going out of that womb without travail or sorrow, suddenly was upon the hay at His mother's feet. And anon she, devoutly bending over, with sovereign joy took Him in her arms, and sweetly clasping and kissing Him, laid him in her bosom; and with a full pap, as she was taught by the Holy Ghost, washed Him all about with her sweet milk, and so wrapped Him in the kerchiefs of her head, and laid Him in the crib. And anon the ox and the donkey kneeling down, laid their mouths on the crib, breathing through their noses upon the child, as they knew by reason that in that cold weather, the child so simply clad had need to be warmed in that manner. And then His mother, kneeling down, worshipped and praised God, inwardly giving thanks and saying in this manner: Lord God, holy Father of Heaven, I thank Thee with all my might. Who hast given me Thy dear Son; and I honour the almighty God, God's Son and mine. Joseph, also honouring and worshipping the child God and man, took the saddle from the donkey and made thereof a cushion for our Lady to sit on, and a support to lean upon.
And so sat the Lady of all the world in that simple array beside the crib, having her mild mien and her lovely eyes, together with her inward affection, upon her sweet beloved child. But in this poor and simple worldly array, what ghostly riches and inward comfort she had no tongue may tell. Wherefore if we will to feel the true joy and comfort of Jesus, we must, with Him and with His mother, love poverty, meekness, and bodily penance, as He gave us example of all these here in His birth and first coming into this world. For of the first, that is poverty, Saint Bernard in a sermon on the Nativity of our Lord, telling how He was born unto the comfort of mankind, saith in this manner: "God's Son comforteth His people. Wilt thou know His people? That is, the people of whom David speaketh in the psalter and saith: Lord, to Thee is left the poor people, And He Himself saith in the gospel: Woe to you rich men that have your comfort here. For how should He comfort them that have their own comfort here? Wherefore Christ's innocence and childhood comfort not wranglers and great speakers; Christ's weepings and tears comfort not dissolute lawyers; His simple clothing comforteth not them that go in proud clothing; and His stable and crib comfort not them that love first seats and worldly honours. And also the angels, appearing at Christ's nativity to the waking shepherds, comfort none others than the poor labourers; and to them they tell the joy of new light, and not to the rich men that have their comfort here.
Also as to the second: at this birth, both in Christ and in His mother, we may see perfect meekness; for they were not squeamish of the stable, nor of the beasts, nor of hay and such other abject simpleness. But both our Lord and our Lady kept this virtue of meekness perfectly in all their deeds, and commend it sovereignly to us; wherefore let us busy ourselves with all our might to obtain this virtue, knowing that without it there is no salvation. For there is no work or deed of ours that may please God with pride.
Also as to the third: we may see in them both, and specially in the child Jesus, not a little bodily penance; of the which Saint Bernard saith thus: God's Son, when He willed to be born, "having in His own free will to choose what time He would take thereto, chose the time that was most troublesome and hard, namely the cold winter, specially to a young child and a poor woman's son, who scarcely had clothes to wrap him in, and a crib for a cradle to lay him in; and yet, though there was so much need, I find no mention of furs and robes of skin. And since Christ, Who is not deceived, chose that which is most hard to the flesh, soothly that is best, most profitable, and rather to be chosen; and whoso teacheth or biddeth otherwise is as a false deceiver, to be fled from and forsaken. All this saith Saint Bernard. And thus much of these virtues at this time.