NOVENA IN PREPARATION FOR THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
“I am become as a man without help, free among the dead.” Psalm 87: 5, 6
Consider the painful life that Jesus Christ led in the womb of His Mother, and the long confined and dark imprisonment that He suffered there for nine months. Other infants are indeed in the same state; but they do not feel the miseries of it, because they do not know them. But Jesus knew them well, because from the first moment of His life He had the perfect use of reason. He had His senses, but He could not use them; eyes, but He could not see; a tongue, but He could not speak; hands, but He could not stretch them out; feet, but He could not walk;—so that for nine months He had to remain in the womb of Mary like a dead man shut up in the tomb: “I am become as a man without help, free among the dead.” He was free, because He had of His own free will made Himself a prisoner of love in this prison; but love deprived Him of liberty, and bound Him there so fast in chains, that He could not move: “Free among the dead! oh, great patience of our Saviour!” said St. Ambrose, while He considered the sufferings of Jesus in the womb of Mary. The womb of Mary was, therefore, to our Redeemer a voluntary prison, because it was a prison of love. But it was also not an unjust prison: He was indeed innocent Himself, but He had offered Himself to pay our debts and to satisfy for our crimes. It was therefore only reasonable for the Divine justice to keep Him thus imprisoned, and so begin to exact from Him the due satisfaction. Behold the state to which the Son of God reduces Himself for the love of men; He deprives Himself of His liberty and puts Himself in chains, to deliver us from the chains of hell. What gratitude and love should we not show in return for the love and goodness of our deliverer and our surety, who, not by compulsion but only out of love, offered Himself to pay, and has paid for us, our debts and our penalties by giving up His divine life: “Forget not the kindness of thy surety; for He hath given His life for thee” (Ecclesiasticus 29: 19).
AFFECTIONS AND PRAYERS
“Forget not the kindness of thy surety.” Yes, my Jesus, the prophet has reason to warn me not to forget the immense favor which Thou hast shown me. I was the debtor, I the criminal, and Thou the innocent one; Thou, O my God, hast chosen to satisfy for my sins by Thy sufferings and Thy death. But after all this kindness I have forgotten Thy favors and Thy love, and I have had the boldness to turn my back upon Thee, as if Thou hadst not been my Lord, and that Lord who has loved me so much. But if in times past I have forgotten Thy mercies, O my dear Redeemer, I will in future never forget them again. Thy sufferings and Thy death shall be the constant subjects of my thoughts, because they will always recall to my mind the love that Thou hast borne me. Cursed be the days in which, forgetting what Thou hast suffered for me, I have made such a bad use of my liberty. Thou hast given it me to love Thee, and I have used it to despise Thee. But I now consecrate entirely to Thee this liberty which Thou hast given me. I beseech Thee, my Saviour, deliver me from the misery of seeing myself again separated from Thee, and again made the slave of Lucifer. I implore Thee to bind my poor soul to Thy feet by Thy holy love, so that it may never again be separated from Thee. Eternal Father, by the imprisonment of the infant Jesus in the womb of Mary, deliver me from the chains of sin and of hell. And thou, O Mother of God, help me! Thou hast in thy womb the Son of God imprisoned and confined; as, therefore, Jesus is thy prisoner, He will do everything that thou tellest Him. Tell Him to pardon me; tell Him to make me holy. Help me, my Mother, for the sake of the favor and honour that Jesus Christ conferred upon thee by dwelling within thee for nine months.