Sophie’s Conference: Christmas

Nuestra Señora de los Andinos, from Sicuani, Peru - photo by Juliet Mousseau rscj (USC)

It is not without any consolation that I bring you together today, dear daughters. I have seen with sweet satisfaction the effort with which you have prepared everything to celebrate worthily the great mystery that the Church offers for our meditation: whether it be in the noviceship arranging the Divine Child’s manger; or the one in charge of the Church zealously assuring that nothing is lacking on this solemnity; or finally those who work in the boarding school where they have done everything possible to their loving industry to awaken devotion to the Child Jesus in the youthful hearts that are confided to them. I do not doubt that he will smile to see their efforts; but, my good daughters, all this, which is very good, is exterior, and it would be insufficient for the spouses of the Loveable Heart, if it were not accompanied with the interior preparation that we expect from ourselves.
It is by the imitation of the virtues, an example of which he gives us in this worthy mystery, that we will attract to ourselves his graces. In this humble birth we found the union of all the virtues, in particular those which ought to characterize the religious of the Sacred Heart: humility, gentleness, obedience, and love for poverty.
Before entering into the meditation that we offer a God who so effaced himself for us, we will turn to gaze on his Divine Mother and on him who merited to be chosen as his father provider. My daughters, we admire his eagerness to complete the will of the Lord, his blind obedience to the will of a truly cruel tyrant, whom they rightly regard as the instrument of this holy will. The two lived in the small house of Nazareth, that, without being opulent, offered them the comforts of life. Mary was at the end of her pregnancy when the order came to them to go to Bethlehem for the census. It seems they could both have stopped to consider the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, or to excuse themselves due to the difficulty of the season, but they did not think, they obeyed. Mary made the long and difficult road on foot or on an uncomfortable mount. With gentleness and patience she bears the suffering of the trip, she goes so that they fulfill the Scriptures and she advances with joy toward the place where she knows that her Divine Son will be born. Ah! What a noble lesson her behavior offers us in this circumstance! And would we have the courage to stop thinking about the orders of our Superiors, when we see that Mary obeys so promptly those of an idolatrous king?
But we continue, and soon the Divine Child will himself be our model. He will be born poor, unknown, and suffering. He who created the universe will find no greater shelter than a stable, for his bed only some straw in a poor manger, and to warm his little frozen limbs, the breath of two animals … He wants it so in order to teach us to detach from the things of the earth and to prefer humility and poverty to honors and riches.
Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem, where they had family and acquaintances, because they were descendants of Juda; but they were unrecognized and received nothing but contempt and rejection, no one wanted to shelter them.
However, Mary felt that the moment of her delivery arrived. St. Joseph remembered then that he had seen an abandoned open stable, and he brought Mary there, who soon received Jesus in her arms. Ah, my good daughters, understand, if you can, what happens in this humble room. What do we see there? A God, the Eternal Wisdom, the Word, the Word of the Father, reduced to silence, interrupted only by his infant cries, presented to two creatures, certainly perfect but nothing more than creatures. Recall that his Holy Mother enveloped his tiny limbs in swaddling clothes. A bound God! Infinite power reduced to this excessive humility! Mary attends to him as she deems appropriate, holds him close against her heart or places him gently in the manger, gives him his food or denies him if she believes it is necessary. He accepts everything and does not make a single complaint.
Ah! What our pride finds here to be confounded … This is a God who abandons himself like this to his creature and to us … How his example moves us! We place our excessive self-love, the origin of all our faults, at the foot of the manger, and promise to the Divine Child that from now on we will be like him, without will, without thinking, in the hands of our Superiors. Ah! Let us also promise him to love and treasure the poverty that he has embraced. We see him in his stable, which pleases him because it is poor, silent, and innocent. He prefers this to the tumult of the world. It is inhabited only by animals that cannot sin and by the two most perfect creatures that have ever existed, and it is there Jesus wants to be. 
Joseph and Mary contemplate him in a respectful silence. Ah! Let us enter into their dispositions, go to the stable with love, respect, and confidence! Without a doubt we do not have such innocent hearts to offer to the Divine Child, but we will humble ourselves at his feet with our miseries and debilitations, we offer him our good will, we remember with confidence the hymn of the Angels: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to all people of good will.”
I have sweet conviction that you have this good will, dear daughters. You wish to be faithful to your God; be at peace and go to him with confidence. He invites you and waits for you in the manger and he will give you all the graces necessary to fulfill the vocation to which he condescended to call you. Pray not only for you but also for all your Mothers and Sisters, for this Society, that he deign to shower over us his abundant blessings.
St. Madeleine Sophie Barat
Conference 17
Christmas Eve 1829

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