Tuesday, December 19, 2006

St. Jerome and the Infant Jesus

Pastor Richard Johnson has posted the following over on the Forum Blogs section of ALPB Forum Online under the title "Jerome and the Child Christ." As I read it, I was visualizing the statue of St. Jerome in front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which I saw during my visit to the Holy Land in 1985. I hope you find this as deeply moving as my friend Pastor Johnson and I do. You can find it over here.
In going through my files recently, I came upon a faded carbon copy of a translation (presumably from German) made by my late father-in-law. He unfortunately did not indicate the original source of the document (if anyone knows, I'd love to hear about it!). But I found it particularly moving, and wanted to share it with the rest of you, with wishes for a joyful Christmass celebration:

A Conversation between the Venerable Church Father, Saint Jerome, and the Infant Jesus in the Manger

Saint Jerome, to whom this conversation is ascribed not long before his death, spent the closing years of his long life in Bethlehem, close by the birthplace of the Savior—the manger of Christ. When he was called to the exalted office of Bishop, he replied, “Nothing can draw me away from the Manger of Christ. There is for me no better place on earth. From that very place at which God gave to me His Son from heaven, I would like to send my soul back to Him in heaven.

“Whenever I look upon this place, my heart holds a sweet conversation with the Infant Jesus

“I say to Him: ‘Oh, Lord Jesus, how you tremble! How hard is your bed for the sake of my salvation! How shall I ever repay this?’

“Then it seems to me that the Holy Child replies, ‘From you, Jerome, I ask only the song, Glory to God in the Highest! Let that be enough for you. My need will be deeper yet in Gethsemane and on Calvary.

“I speak further: ‘Dear little Jesus, I must give you something. Let me give you all my wealth.’

“The Child replies, ‘From the beginning the Heavens and the Earth are mine. I do not need your treasures. Give them to the poor. I shall receive that as if you had done it to me.’

“I speak again: ‘Dear little Jesus, this I shall do gladly, but I must also give something just for you, or I shall die of sorrow.’

“The Child replies: ‘Dear Jerome, since you are so generous of heart, I will tell you what you may give to me. Give me your sins—your bad conscience—and your condemnation!’

“I ask: ‘What will you do with them?’

“The infant Jesus says: ‘I want to take them upon my shoulders. This shall be my glory, and my glorious deed, as Isaiah once said, that I shall take your sins upon myself and carry them away.’

“At this I begin to weep bitterly, and say: ‘O, Child, dear, holy Child, how deeply you have touched my heart! I thought you wanted something good—but you want everything in me which is bad! Oh, take what is mine! Give me what is Yours! Then I shall be free from sin, and assured of eternal life!’”

--Translated from German by Richard W. Solberg
For more about Pastor Solberg, see his recent obituary from the ELCA News Service.