The only Son of God was not content to become man for our salvation, but He willed to come into this world not like Adam, in the fullness of manhood, but by way of generation, having only a Mother upon earth as He had only a Father in heaven. Now He could have created this Virgin of whom He was to be born, in the fullness of perfect age, as He did the first woman. But the excess of His bounty towards us obliged Him to use another measure, and, by passing through the state of infancy, to honor all the posterity of Adam with three marvelous advantages and three very singular privileges.
The first is, that by this birth of the glorious Virgin, the Divine Bounty has given us two great Saints, Joachim and Ann, in quality of father and mother of her who is Mother of our Savior. Without them we should be bereft of these particular models of high sanctity and of their powerful intercession for us with their holy daughter Mary and their adorable son, Jesus. St. Joachim and St. Ann are two brilliant stars in the heaven of the Church which shed upon it the light of their powerful influence and salutary grace.
The second favor God has done us in causing the birth of this holy Infant is, that He has placed among the race of Adam, a Mother of God, who is also our sister and who is, at the same time, replenished with unparalleled wisdom, inconceivable goodness, and admirable power, to know how, to be willing and to be able to aid, protect, and favor us, her brothers and sisters, in all our wants and necessities.
I repeat that God has done us this great favor by the birth of this holy Infant. For had the Son of God willed to be born of a woman who was not a daughter of Adam, the Mother of God would not be one of our race, nor would she be our sister. So it is owing to the birth of this divine child Mary that we have received this incomparable favor.
We have in the birth of this marvelous Child a third advantage infinitely surpassing the two already mentioned, the possession of an infinite treasure, a Man-God Who, being of Adam’s race, is our brother. This would not have been possible had not Mary herself been a daughter of Adam.
In the light of these truths, what veneration and devotion ought we not to have for the holy Infancy of the Blessed Virgin to which we owe these three great favors?
This is not all, however, for the Son of God willed His most worthy Mother to pass through the state of infancy that this Mother might bear within herself a living image and perfect resemblance to all the states of life through which her Divine Son should pass, and that she, with her Son, in all conditions of life, might be the model and the rule of our life.
She resembled her Son in the hidden life which He led from the age of twelve to thirty years, for she followed the same manner of life with Him.
She resembled Him in His solitary and penitential life in the desert, for she too was solitary in union with Him during that time.
She resembled Him in His public life among men, for from the beginning to the end, she followed and accompanied Him everywhere.
She bore in her heart a vivid likeness to His most sorrowful and ignominious Passion.
Thus has He willed that she should embrace the lowliness, feebleness, and necessities of infancy, as He Himself was to do later on, to the end that the Infant Mary might be a living image and pattern of the Infant Jesus, that together they might be, in the state of infancy, an example and a rule of life for all Christians to follow. We are obliged by the law of the Gospel to be children in innocence, in simplicity, in humility, in obedience, in purity, in mildness and in meekness. “As new born babes…. without guile.” (1)
“I tell you the truth,” (it is our Savior Who speaks), “unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (2)
Let us often regard this divine Exemplar. Let us study carefully this holy rule that we may faithfully adhere to its maxims.
To accomplish these designs of infinite bounty in our regard, God willed that Mary should be born a tiny babe and pass through the various stages of life. And are they not more than sufficient to elicit our undying thanks, to make us desire to honor this admirable Child in all possible ways?
Finally, this adorable Jesus, Son of Mary, and this amiable Mary, Mother of Jesus, being united by the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation in the closest manner possible, it ought never to be possible for us to separate them in our exercises of piety or religion. This is why, as there is not today a true Christian who does not piously venerate the divine Infancy of Our Redeemer, (3) so neither is there one who does not feel himself obliged to a singular devotion to the holy infancy of the sacred Mother of our Redeemer.
The preceding excerpt is taken from St. John Eudes, The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God, First Part, Chapter 3, and edited by the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, at www.heartsofjesusandmary.org. The Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary is a contemplative community of lay and religious dedicated to serving the Hearts of Jesus and Mary through Eucharistic Adoration, contemplation, and corporal works of mercy.
(1) “Deponentes igitur omnem malitiam, et omnem dolum, et similitationes, et invidias, et omnes detractiones, sicut modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite” (1 Pet. 2:1-2).
(2) “Amen, dico vobis, nisi conversi fueritis, et efficiamini sicut parvuli, non intrabitis in regnum caelorum” (Mt. 18:3).
(3) Devotion to the Infant Jesus, already dear to many pious souls, made wonderful advances in the seventeenth century, thanks to the apostolate of Fathers Berulle and de Condren, and, above all, to the Ven. Sister Margaret of the Blessed Sacrament, a Carmelite of Beaune, who instituted a Confraternity or Association in honor of the Holy Childhood of our Savior. The Blessed Father Eudes embraced this devotion and propagated it with much ardor in his Institute. He composed a pamphlet to make known this devotion among the people. In his Seminaries the feast of the Holy Infancy of Jesus was celebrated with a Mass and an office written especially for the occasion by Father Eudes. A volume upon the same subject has been unfortunately lost. There were published at this period a certain number of books upon the Infant Jesus. We have been able to find the following:
1. Les saintes faveurs du Petit Jésus, by Etienne Binet, S. J. 12mo, Paris, 1659. This was the third edition. Father Binet died in 1639.
2. Jesus Enfant, modèle du âge, by Claude de Bussey, S. J. 12mo, Paris, 1660.
3. La devotion du Saint Enfant Jésus au berceau, practiced by St. Eleazer and St. Delphine, by Father Borely, Cordelier, 12mo, Paris, 1664.
4. Le Petit Office du Saint Enfant Jésus et de l’Institut de sa famille, by Sister Margaret of the Blessed Sacrament, by Father Amelotte of the Oratory, in 16mo, Paris, 1664. Re-edited by the Oratorians at Caen, 1668.