Mangers are not standard equipment inside monasteries. As Christmas draws near, however, one begins to see them everywhere, even inside the monastery chapel.
Once, long ago, there was a simple manger. It was not unique among mangers; it was surely made of the most ordinary of materials. Yet today this lowly manger is celebrated throughout the world in art, literature, music. Why? Because that un-unique manger was offered to God. It was thus transformed from a feeding trough into the very first resting place of our Savior upon His entrance into the world. The manger so honored was unlikely to have been a brand new one. Surely it was not altogether clean. It may have been damaged from months or years of animals bumping against it, crowding around it, perhaps even chewing its edges as they ate.
My heart is not the most spotless, worthy, unmarred place that Christ could find in which to dwell. Yet He, Whose first resting place after birth was a lowly manger, has chosen to find a home therein. As a “cloistered heart,” I want to create for Jesus a loving place of refuge in this world where He is so often resisted, forgotten, ignored. I know I am a refuge unworthy of so great a King. I am a person made of flesh, and my flesh has been tainted by the stains of sin.
Imagine the tenderness with which Mary and Joseph prepared a humble bed of straw to receive the new Babe. It was only a manger, but it was what they had.
It is only a heart, but it is what I have. I can offer it to Jesus as once a manger was offered. In this world there are hearts much greater and nobler than mine; hearts more valiant, courageous, sinless, unselfish. But I cannot give anyone else’s heart to our Savior - I can only give my own.
At this holy time of year, I pray that Jesus can find refuge in hearts that, tattered and broken and stained though they may be, are willing to receive Him.
May every heart prepare Him room.
“Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge it that you may enter in. It is all in ruins; do you repair it. There are things in it which must offend your eyes; I confess and know it.” (St. Augustine)
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