In the midst of all the upcoming holiday hubbub, with Christmas seemingly being more about getting and spending than about honoring the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we’d like to offer our readers these private revelations for Advent reflections.
They’re taken from a wonderful book called The Life of Mary as Seen by the Mystics, thoughtfully compiled from several different sources by Raphael Brown more than 60 years ago.
These passages below have been properly vetted by the Church as containing nothing contrary to her teaching on faith and morals. Think of them as corroborating and enhancing St. Luke's Gospel account (Lk 2:1-20)! We hope the extra details provided here will provide some nourishing food for thought for Rosary meditations on the Nativity as well!
THE JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM
They [Mary and Joseph] arrived at Bethlehem about four in the afternoon and made their way through the crowds to a large building where public officials were taking the census and levying taxes. Mary rested in the court, and several women generously gave her something to eat. St. Joseph went into a big room, where he was asked his name and occupation. He replied that he owned no property, but lived from his manual labor.
Later, as the sun was sinking, they began to look for a lodging. While Mary waited at the end of the street, Joseph went down it from house to house, knocking at the doors of his relatives and acquaintances, but he was admitted nowhere and in many places he met with harsh refusals and insults.
Each time he came back to Mary, he was more and more upset. She knew the hearts and houses of men were to be closed to them. And although to expose her condition at her young age to the public gaze was more painful to her modesty than her failure to find a lodging, still she meekly followed her husband through the crowds.
At one end of the village they found a big tree, and under the shelter of its spreading branches Mary waited and rested for a long time, first standing and then sitting with their legs crossed under her. Many people passed by and stared at here as she sat there so patiently and humbly in her long white dress and veil, with her hands folded on her breast and her head lowered.
Finally, about nine o’clock. St. Joseph came back, utterly overcome, crying and trembling with heartbreaking sorrow. Mary consoled him tenderly. Then he told her of a shepherds’ shelter outside the town. And she said:
“That will be perfectly satisfactory to me. Let us lovingly embrace poverty, dear Joseph, and go gladly wherever the Lord guides us.”
Upon entering the bare grotto which the shepherds used as a stable they both knelt and thanked the Lord, and Mary was filled with joy at being at last in this holy place. She immediately set about cleaning the cave with her own hands, out of humility and reverence.
St. Joseph hastened to do likewise, and the angels helped them. Next he started a fire, as it was very cold, and they ate a frugal supper, their souls overflowing with happiness at the thought of the impending Incarnation.
After reciting some prayers together with Mary, St. Joseph filled the manger with straw and moss and placed a cloth over it. Then he withdrew to the entrance of the cave. Looking back, he saw the holy Mother of God praying on her knees, surrounded by flames of dazzling supernatural light. Filled with reverent fear, he threw himself down on the ground and was soon rapt in an ecstatic sleep.
Mary was kneeling, with her eyes raised to Heaven and her hands joined on her breast. Her countenance emitted rays of light, like the sun incarnadined, and shone in indescribable earnestness and majesty, all inflamed with burning love of God. Her body became so spiritualized with the beauty of Heaven that she seemed no more a human and earthly creature.
Toward midnight, a channel of brilliant light came down from the highest heaven and terminated in sparkling fire at the Blessed Virgin. It was an extraordinary movement of celestial glories which took on the forms of choirs of angels.
Then, in the twinkling of an eye, the infant God was born, glorious and transfigured as on Mount Tabor.
There the God-Man lay, naked, utterly clean and pure. And from Him radiated such marvelous light and splendor that the sun could not be compared to it. The angels could be heard gently singing canticles of wonderful sweetness.
When the holy Mother of God perceived that she had been delivered—for her child came forth without any pain or injury to her—she immediately bowed her head, placed a cloth over His tiny body, and adored Him with the greatest respect and reverence saying:
“Welcome, my God, and my Lord, and my Son!”
Then the divine Child suspended the effects of His transfiguration and assumed the appearance of one capable of suffering. The Babe now moved, shivered with cold, and stretching forth His little arms, cried out.
Bending down, Mary tenderly clasped Him to her heart and with great joy warmed Him against her cheek and breast, while thousands of angels knelt and adored their incarnate Creator.
Nearly an hour after the birth, Mary called St. Joseph. Awakening and coming near, he perceived his Saviour in her arms and at once prostrated himself on the ground with the deepest devotion and humility. Only at her bidding did he rise. And with touching joy and gratitude he kissed the Babe’s feet, and held the little Jesus in his arms, pressing Him to his heart, while tears of happiness moistened his cheeks.
Then, sitting on the ground, Mary laid her Son in her lap, and while St. Joseph handed her the linens, she began carefully and lovingly to wrap, adore the divine Child in swaddling clothes and drawing them tight on His small body.
Next she and Joseph gently placed the Infant in the manger.
At this point an ox from the neighboring fields entered the cave with the ass. They both approached the crib, knelt down before it, and breathed over it, as is to warm the Baby.
Mary and Joseph were so affected by this act that they could not restrain their tears.
For a long time they remained on their knees beside the crib, adoring the Christ Child and praising and thanking God. Later St. Joseph took some blankets and made a resting place for Mary beside the manger.
ADORATION OF THE SHEPHERDS (EXCERPT)
…Of all the human race those who merited to be the first to see the Christ Child were the poor, humble, and devout shepherds of Bethlehem. During this holy night, three of their leaders, while watching over their flocks in the fields about a mile from the grotto of the Nativity, noticed with amazement a strange, luminous cloud hovering above the hill in which the cave and manger were located.
And as they were staring up at the sky, all of a sudden a bright light came down toward them, bathing them in its celestial radiance. Then within the light, they perceived the splendid Archangel Gabriel in human form, and at first these simple men were filled with immense fear, until Gabriel said to them reassuringly:
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy for all the people. For there has been born to you today in the town of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
While he was speaking, the radiance around him became still brighter, revealing seven other great angels of extraordinary beauty and then a whole multitude of the heavenly host, all praising God and chanting in sweet harmony, to a soft and joyful melody:
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace to Men of Good Will!”
After singing this lovely canticle, the angels went to two other groups of shepherds at some distance and brought them the same wonderful news. And these good men said to one another eagerly:
“Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us!”
But first they thoughtfully set about collecting suitable presents. Only toward dawn did they find the grotto-stable and knock timidly at its entrance. St. Joseph very obligingly opened the door and welcomed them.
They told him what the angels had announced to them during the night, and they said that they had come to offer their gifts and veneration to the divine Child. At the same time they gave St. Joseph a number of young goats and chickens, which he accepted with humble gratitude and placed in a sideroom off the stable.
Then he led the shepherds into the grotto, where the Blessed Mother of God was sitting on the ground beside the crib in which the beautiful Babe of Bethlehem was lying. And as they gazed down at the tiny Jesus, He looked up at them, and from His radiant little face and eyes a mystical current of divine love streamed forth and touched the sincere hearts of those poor but fortunate men, changing and renewing them spiritually and filling them with a new grace and understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation and of the Redemption.
“And when they had seen, they understood what had been told them concerning this Child.” Still holding their shepherd’s staffs in their hands, they very humbly knelt down before the Infant Jesus and prostrated themselves on the ground, weeping tears of joy as they adored their God.
For a long time, they were so deeply moved with supernatural happiness that they could not say a word. Finally they began to sing together the words and melody which the angel had taught them.
Meanwhile the lovely Mother of God modestly observed all that they did and felt, for she also saw into their inmost hearts. And when they had finished singing their beautiful hymn, she spoke to them, urging them to persevere in the love and service of the Lord. They stayed in the cave from dawn until noon, when Mary graciously gave them something to eat.
As they were about to leave, she allowed each of them in turn to hold the divine Babe for a moment, and each one, as he reverently gave the Child back to her, wept tears of sweet joy and gratitude. Then they left, filled with heavenly consolation and understanding “glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken to them.”
“But Mary kept in mind all these words, pondering them in her heart.”
“And all who heard marveled at the things, told them by the shepherds.” The following day the latter returned with their wives and children, bringing gifts of eggs and honey and cloth. The men helped St. Joseph to take the grotto somewhat more habitable, and some devout women who had known him as a boy in Bethlehem brought firewood and did some cooking and washing for the Holy Family.
Once during these happy days after the Nativity, while Mary and Joseph were alone, absorbed in contemplating the Christ Child, their donkey came into the stable and suddenly knelt down on its forelegs and bowed its head to the ground before the Babe in the crib.
Most of the time the loving Mother of God head her divine Son in her arms. Whenever she took Him up, she first made three genuflections and humbly kissed the ground before kneeling at the crib and touching the tiny Jesus. And when she thought that she should nurse Him, she first asked His permission.
All her angels remained present and visible to her until the Flight into Egypt, and on rare occasions she gave her Baby into the hands of the Archangels Gabriel and Michael.
She would not sleep except when the Lord Himself commanded her to do so. With her angels and with St. Joseph, she often composed and sang beautiful hymns in honor of the holy Child. And she often gave her good husband the intense pleasure of hearing her refer to Jesus as “our Son”.
Many times in caressing her beloved Son, she humbly kissed His feet, and she always asked His consent before kissing His sacred face. And often He returned her affection by putting His little arms around her neck.
At such times, Mary said to Him: “O my Love, sweet Life of my soul, who art Thou, and who am I? What return shall I make for the great things which thou hast done to me?”
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