Saint Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868) was born at La Mure, a little town in the diocese of Grenoble, France. His entire life from his infancy to his death was a perpetual hymn of praise in honor of the Blessed Eucharist. He was so inflamed with love for the most august Sacrament that hardly a sentence in all his writings is not filled with overflowing thoughts on this Magnum Donum, this Great Gift of God. Never has anyone spoken or written with such holy insight into this great mystery. Who was it that set this heart so on fire? He tells us himself: “The Most Blessed Virgin Mary strengthened this affection in me. She Herself gave me Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”
When ordained to the priesthood, Father Eymard worked with unquenchable zeal in spreading devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and organizing acts of reparation for all the sacrilege and neglect which the world paid to our Hidden Savior, our Emmanuel. He was responsible for the institution of various societies dedicated to this purpose and, after suffering continual trails, he crowned his efforts with the formation of a new religious order known as the Priests of the Blessed Sacrament. He was also responsible for the establishment of the Feast of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament on May 13.
The mystery of Bethlehem is full of love and sweetness. Jesus appears here, if one may say so, more pleasing than upon Calvary. Let us enter into the attitude of mind of the Most Blessed Virgin.
Let us unite with Mary in Her expectation, during the hours that preceded the blessed moment of Her Son’s birth. Like Her, let us redouble our love and fervor and unite ourselves with Her recollection. And let Her habit of life teach us this lesson: to serve Our Lord as He wishes us to serve Him, and not to seek to please ourselves in His service.
Mary knew from the Prophecies all the suffering that awaited Her Son, and She was ready to serve Him in His way, and to follow Him everywhere. Let us imitate this spirit of self-sacrifice. This is true love.
It would have seemed perfectly natural to Mary for Jesus to have been born in a beautiful palace, or at least in some degree of comfort. But no, He was born in a cave, in the hole of a rock, into which, after having been everywhere repulsed, Mary and Joseph were forced to retire. Saint Joseph’s sorrow must indeed have been very great! It was incumbent on him as head of the family to find shelter for his holy Spouse, and we can well imagine what must have been his anxiety, his distress, when, denied admittance everywhere, he was forced to lead Mary, about to bring forth Her Child, to this wretched hole. But Mary was happy even in the midst of these rebuffs. She possessed Jesus in Her bosom and She knew that it was He Who permitted that they should be rejected and despised, He Who had led them to that stable in the town of Bethlehem in which He had willed to be born.
Thus it is that God accomplishes His ends. Man is disturbed; he seeks human helps, and when he has exhausted all known means in vain, God leads him where He wills. God permits that we often vainly seek the help of men, in order that we may abandon ourselves more fully to Him and allow ourselves to be led, even as Mary and Joseph. It is in this state of abandonment that we feel most sensibly the goodness of God. He then takes care of us and we confidently draw near to Him, as children around their Father. When success crowns our efforts, when Divine Providence has shown Himself more sensibly to us, our love is no longer the same, for we, perhaps, then count too much on our efforts and not enough on God. The Israelites received more favors in the desert than in the Promised Land, and God was nearer to them there. Jesus was more approachable in His crib at Bethlehem or in the lowly house of Nazareth, than in His public life, in the midst of all the wonders that He wrought.
And when Jesus is born, Oh! let us realize if we can, the adoration, the homage, the attentions of Mary. Let us adore Jesus in Her arms, or sleeping on Her breast. What a beautiful ostensorium! It has been wrought with all the skill of the Holy Spirit. Who, indeed, could be more beautiful than Mary, even exteriorly? She is that pure lily of the valley that has grown in an immaculate soil. Mary is the paradise of God! And see this other flower that has blossomed there-Jesus, the Flower of Jesse! See what the harvest has brought forth-Jesus, the Wheat of the elect! Let us now penetrate into Mary’s soul and contemplate its beauty. There is beauty enough there to give us unending happiness when we come to know it well. Almighty God has exhausted His power, so to say, in embellishing Mary. She becomes the ostensorium of the Word Incarnate. She is the channel by which Jesus comes to us!
Ah, yes! The Eucharist began at Bethlehem* in Mary’s arms. It was She who brought to humanity the Bread for which it was famishing, and which alone can nourish it. She it was who took care of that Bread for us. It was She who nourished the Lamb whose life-giving Flesh we feed upon. She nourished Him with Her virginal milk; She nourished Him for the Sacrifice, for She foreknew His destiny. Yes, She knew from the beginning, and every day She realizes it more fully, that Her Lamb is only for immolation. She accepts God’s will, and, bearing Him in Her arms, Herself prepares for us the Victim of Calvary – that Victim of our Altars. On the day of the Sacrifice She Herself will conduct Her Divine Lamb to Jerusalem, to deliver Him up to Divine Justice for the world’s salvation. Ah, Bethlehem already speaks of Calvary! Truly had Mary heard Her Son’s first word: “Father, sacrifice and oblation Thou wouldst not. . . . Behold, I come!” and She united Herself in His offering and His anticipated immolation.
But Bethlehem had its joys also, joys most sweet and consoling. The shepherds – simple souls – came to adore the Infant Savior. Mary rejoiced at seeing their homage and the willing offerings they made to Her Jesus.
Some days later it is the Magi who bring their tribute of adoration and their royal gifts. Mary offers Her Babe to their love; it is in Her arms that they find Him.
O how often may we not share in the happiness of the Magi! How happy is the loving soul when it has found Jesus with Mary His Mother! They who know the Tabernacle where He dwells, they who receive Him into their souls, know that His conversation is full of divine sweetness, His consolation ravishing, His peace superabundant, and the familiarity of His love and His Heart ineffable.
To find Jesus in the arms of His Mother, to unite oneself to Mary’s sentiments as She presses Him to Her heart-O what a ravishing moment! Like the joy of Thabor, it passes all too quickly! Oh, wonderful moment in which all else is forgotten, in which we no longer desire anything else, not even Heaven-for we possess it already. We have Jesus and Mary!
* The name “Bethlehem” in the Semitic languages means “House of Bread ” (Hebrew) or “House of Meat or Flesh ” (Arabic)