Night has fallen upon the hills of Bethlehem. Rejected by humankind and finding themselves without lodging, Mary and Joseph have left the inhospitable town and taken refuge in a cave at the foot of a nearby hill. Behind the Queen of Angels walks the humble donkey that had carried her during the journey from Nazareth. At the manger, they find also a gentle ox, probably left there by one of the many travelers now crowding the town’s inns.
The Divine Child, ignored by his rational creatures, must now turn to irrational ones, letting them warm with their breath the frigid air of that winter night, finding in their humble presence the respect and adoration Bethlehem had denied him. The walls of that meager lodging are tinged with a weak, reddish light from Joseph’s lantern—the rough manger full of hay becoming a prophetic image of the wonders of the altar and the intimate and miraculous Eucharistic union of Jesus with humankind. Within the cave, Mary prays in silence, as the hours of that night full of mystery go by.
But now midnight has arrived, and suddenly we see within the manger, which had been empty just moments before, the Divine Child who had been awaited, prophesied, and desired with an ineffable longing for more than four thousand years. At his feet lies his mother, overcome in a transport of worship that nothing can describe. Joseph also approaches the Child and renders him homage, thus beginning the mysterious and imponderable task of serving as the adoptive father of the Redeemer of men. The heavenly host itself descends to Earth to contemplate this incomparable wonder, and the joy of the angels bursts forth and makes the hills ring in a Gloria in Excelsis, an echo of that eternal symphony of adoration that surrounds the throne of God. Summoned by the angels, shepherds from across the countryside rush to bring their humble gifts to the newborn child. In the East, the mysterious star of Jacob is shining and the marvelous caravan of the Magi sets forth, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to lay before the Divine Child—symbols of charity, worship, and mortification.
Oh, beloved Child! We also, who have made this novena to prepare for the day of your Nativity, want to offer you our humble adoration. Please do not reject it! Come to souls, come to our hearts so full of love for you! Kindle within them a devotion to your holy infancy that is not intermittent and limited to Christmastime, but alive throughout all seasons—a devotion that practiced faithfully and zealously propagated may lead us to eternal life, freeing us from sin and sowing within us all the virtues needed for a Christian life.