My friend, St. Josemaría Escrivá, in his book, Christ is Passing By, writes about his contemplation of the baby Jesus lying in a manger. He begins by asking, “Lord, where is your kingship, your crown, your sword, your sceptre?” Escrivá says, “They are his by right, but he does not want them. He reigns wrapped in swaddling clothes. Our king is unadorned. He comes to us as a defenceless little child. Can we help but recall the words of the Apostle: ‘He emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave’?
“Our Lord became man to teach us the Father’s will. And this he is already doing as he lies there in the manger. Jesus Christ is seeking us—with a call which is a vocation to sanctity—so that we may carry out the redemption with him. Let us reflect on this first lesson of his. We are to co-redeem, by striving to triumph not over our neighbour, but over ourselves. Like Christ we need to empty ourselves, to consider ourselves as the servants of others, and so to bring them to God.
Therefore, Escrivá continues, “As you kneel at the feet of the child Jesus on the day of his Epiphany and see him a king bearing none of the outward signs of royalty, you can tell him: ‘Lord, take away my pride; crush my self-love, my desire to affirm myself and impose myself on others. Make the foundation of my personality my identification with you.’” (#31)
I won’t speak for anyone but myself, but when I consider how many times I want to put myself first, how many times I see myself as better than someone, how many times I think I deserve more or the best—this could be a long list—and then I come alongside the Magi and kneel before this child and consider all that Jesus gave up to be born in a manger and all he endured because he gave it up… I would like to think that I’m a humble person, but I know the truth of myself… I’m a spoiled brat. I am a redeemed spoiled brat, but spoiled brat all the same.
We must learn humility from this child, the One True God, who lies in the manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. We must learn to submit to and humble ourselves before God and submit ourselves to one another, so that in the end, we may be raised up with him.
It is as St. Paul teaches us in his letter to the Philippians (2:6-11) “Though [Jesus] was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
On this Eve of the Epiphany, as we kneel alongside the Magi, may we be reminded of our Savior’s great humility and learn to follow in the way he leads.
In the words of Escrivá, let us pray: ‘Lord, take away our pride; crush our self-love, our desire to affirm ourselves and impose ourselves on others. Make the foundation of our personalities our identification with you.’ This we pray in the Name of your Incarnate Son, Jesus. Amen.