The Nativity

The Nativity

Editor’s Note: The December, 1910 issue of The Parents’ Review featured a two-part article by Charlotte Mason. The first part was an Advent devotional to help readers prepare for Christmas. Mason wrote that the mystery of the Incarnation was too great to rush into suddenly. So she prepared a selection of excerpts from her first volume of poetry entitled The Saviour of the World. She then wove those selected verses into a meditative narrative designed to help the reader enter into the arc of the Christmas story. What a wonderful aid to reflection during this season of Advent!

The second part of the article explained why Mason had been writing The Saviour of the World. By this time in 1910, she had published four of the six volumes. She explained why she had discontinued her “Sunday Meditations” and had taken a new approach with poetry, starting in 1908. She pointed to her increasing sense of the importance of “meditation in the Christian life.” Why meditation? First, to correct what she saw as a misguided “conception of Christianity.” Christianity is not, according to Mason, “what the children call ‘being good,’” rather, it “is the intimate knowledge of, and passionate devotion to, the Divine Person; and this comes only of meditation.”

Second, she believed that a day was coming when popular sentiment would no longer affirm the goodness of Christ. She predicted a time when the character of Christ Himself would be assailed by the general public. She said that believers must prepare for this future attack by a comprehensive and synthetic study of, and meditation upon, the teachings of Christ. Her concern in this area reflects what Dr. Benjamin Bernier refers to as the “apologetic aim” that undergirds Mason’s entire philosophy of education.

But even as she warned of a future day when Christ’s character would be under attack, she also had hope for the future. She believed that an “era of passionate Christianity … will probably be the world’s next great experience.” More than a century later, we have a new vantage point from which to evaluate these words. Christianity is indeed under attack, and the call for devout meditation is as relevant as ever. But has the “era of passionate Christianity” arrived yet? Perhaps not, but perhaps this Advent season we can reflect not only upon the Babe who came humbly to a manger, but also upon the King who will one day return to set all things right.

– Art

Hints for Meditation for the Season of Advent
By Charlotte Mason
The Parents’ Review, December 1910


The Word.—With the season of Advent our thoughts turn naturally to that blessed mystery of our Faith—the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ; but, in our efforts to conceive of this mystery so far as our limitations allow, we are inclined to begin with the Birth at Bethlehem. The subject is too awful for so sudden an approach: some preparation of the mind is necessary; and what so fitting as the study of the Prologue which St. John offers us as the key-note of the Gospel revelation? For one object of the Gospels is to reveal ‘the Word’ in the searching, teaching, inspiring, condemning, forgiving, restoring, vivifying aspects of the character and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ which this title includes:—

Intimate, searching, inly witnessing
In every heart of man, behold, the Word!

We are consumed by an insatiable curiosity as to our origin; we know not whence we came nor whither we go, nor what we are, nor anything at all. The mystery chafes us and we spend our days in making guesses,—the truth of one age to be condemned as error by the age which succeeds it. We must remain in the outer court of ignorance, but One whom we know was present all the time; One with Whom we are supremely intimate is He from Whom no secrets are hid, and speaks with us:—

We know not whence we came; nor how became:
The Word was in the beginning, and was God.

We may not know; but may know Him who knows;
For with the Word have all men secret speech.

Whence come we? How we weary of speculations and counter speculations!

In Him was life; that is enough to know:
How He dispersed the largess of His bounty,
‘Twere good indeed to learn; and time will come
When ear to hear the whisper of the Word
Shall wake; a man, learned in the laws of things,
That he heard whispered by the Word, shall tell.
Till then we wait, not knowing whence we came.
But knowing Him from Whom all doth proceed.

But if we know nothing of the mystery of life, surely every man follows his own lights, such knowledge as we have is all our own! But, no, light and life are associated. Where there is life there is light; the light of the mind, clear, undoubting intelligence; the light of the heart, confidence and peace:—

Nothing of all good things that have been made,
Picture, or world, or book, without Him came.

Nor knowledge good for man can mankind know,
But he vouchsafes it; He is all our light.

What of those who are in outer darkness? Is it just that any who live by His life should not also see by His light?

And every man who comes into the world
By that true light is lighted, knowing it not.

Every man is lighted as he cometh into the world and we may go forth with confidence to offer the fuller light of the knowledge of Christ to them who have already the power of receiving light.

‘The Word became flesh’—here we have in four words the mystery before which myriads of Christian souls have bowed in tender reverence—’and we beheld His glory’:—

The Word became our flesh, and dwelt with us
And we beheld His glory, as, of God,
The only-begotten Son: we who believed
Knew glory when we saw it, by the signs—
Not of the pomp and majesty of Kings—
But Grace, the touch of God, showed sweet in Him;
And truth, discerning all things, made Him simple.
His glory saw we—full of grace and truth.


The Expectation.—It is well that we should make ourselves acquainted with that singular period of expectation which had fallen upon the nations; not a ‘Golden Age’ of happiness as Gibbon would fondly have us suppose; (he himself admits that ‘Rome groaned beneath an unremitting tyranny,’ that this tyranny was ‘fatal to almost every virtue and every talent’); a period of such inconceivable oppression, though it resulted in the peace brought about by the strong hand, naturally raised in men’s minds a certainty of deliverance; they can no more, and God or the gods must come to their aid!

So it appears that predictions were rife, omens were in the air, men were aware of an expectation which they could not define…

Conflict, disaster, ceased; the Earth was still
As one who holds his breath: proud souls and meek
Waited the Expectation of the Nations.
* * * * * *
As though by signs like these, were men perturbed:
All hearts uprose, as seas to meet the moon,
Questioning, uneasy, How t’abide the Coming?


The Forerunner.—Leaving out the genealogical chapters, which do not lend themselves to devout meditation, we come to the account of a certain priest named Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth, both of the priestly house, both righteous before God; ‘and they were both well stricken in years and they had no child.’ Then we read, how,—

An aged priest, within the temple courts,
In meditation watched the curling fumes—
His lot was to burn incense—and all the prayers
Of men he saw ascending; no, not all;
That prayer he prayed and prayed again, for years,
He and his wife Elisabeth, had that
Indeed gone up to God?—A sudden gleam,
In that dim place, of light ineffable
Arrested him, and lo, an angel stood
At the right side of the altar;—

and the angel tells him of the great joy that is to come to him and his wife Elisabeth; nay, more, that the birth of the child is to be an event of national importance (is not every birth of national importance?) for ‘he was to make ready a people prepared for the Lord’:—

So said the Seraph: Woe to Doubting Heart!
No sudden generous impulse makes him sure—
Perchance, if he might see the wounds of Christ?—
But lesser proof avails not, though it were
An angel fraught with promises should speak!
So, Zacharias: “How shall I know this thing?
I am an old man, and my wife is old”:—

Zacharias met with grave rebuke, and a punishment was inflicted upon him, a punishment which gave pause to his thoughts and afforded him, we may believe, a time for blesséd contemplation:—

So he went forth

Among the wondering people making signs,
Whereby they knew an angel spake with him.
And, like an inlay in old cabinet,
His life a space of silence held, wherein
He spake with God, and was abashed.

And Elisabeth, what of her meantime? How did she receive her husband’s communication? Did she laugh like Sarah of old or did she take the joy of the promise to her heart? We are only told that;—

After these days Elisabeth conceived,
And for five moons did hide herself from men
And praise God always, Who, of His dear grace,
Shame and reproach had taken from her face.


The High Councils of Heaven.—Dare we venture to let our feeble thought attempt to search matters which the angels desired to look into? Perhaps we may, because it is the purpose of our God to reveal Himself to men, and it is only to open minds and willing hearts that such revelation is possible. Let us conceive then, that,—

The great white throne was set: and therefrom spake
Jehovah, God Almighty: heaven hushed to hear:—

that, the Lord called His servant and said unto him,—

Gabriel, who stand’st before the throne, art sent,
Wonted ambassador, to princely men
Who know to wrestle with their God, nor fall,
Go thou on errand now to such a soul:
Meek maid thou’lt find, simple, of low estate,
Whose instant thought doth as a fountain, rise:
* * * * * *
Go thou to this one; say, ‘Thus shall it be,—
Thyself shalt bear the Child, Son of the Highest,
Born in due time, the Saviour of the World.’

This is the way the Scriptures always deal with questions that provoke our speculation: we are not instructed as to the nature and offices of angels, but a ministering spirit, a messenger, a chief messenger, the Archangel Gabriel, is disclosed to us receiving his mandate and performing his mission. If we meditate upon this mandate with reverence and the desire to know, another vital question comes before us—’Do we believe that God is the God of the dead or the God of the living?’ As Christian persons we believe in the God of the living, so we say, because that is the creed our Master taught. If we do, we shall believe that the Princes in heavenly places, the Prophets and Sages and mighty men of old, are still occupied with those great questions which moved them while they were in the flesh and that they watch and wait developments with a singleness and intensity of which our more easily diverted minds can barely conceive. Can we realize what it meant to Isaiah when the angel Gabriel was sent from God? Almost the whole of the blesséd Evangel was entrusted to him in prophetic vision, and we may believe that he waited darkly through the Ages for the interpretation and fulfilment of that Word which it was given to him to proclaim:—

But now I see the whole—

The Babe, the Son, the Child,
The Lamb, all undefiled—

Now may I read the scroll
At one time I did write:

And, Wonderful His Name!
His majesty shall tame

Rebellious tribes; His might
Shall to all lands extend;

Under His government,
Men’s hearts shall know content;

Of peace, shall be no end.

Haggai, too, how would his own phrase leap to his thought;—

‘Desire of Nations’ is His name!
And all the nations shall acclaim
Him King of kings and Lord of lords;
Peoples shall wait upon His words!

and Daniel, too,—

And I, who told the number’d days
Of waiting, learned not then Thy praise!
How wonderful Thy counsels, Lord,
How sure Thy all-fulfilling word!

and Micah, who foresaw the glory that should fall to Bethlehem:—

The secret of the place was mine
From out whose dimness Christ should shine.

But not only ‘the goodly fellowship of the prophets’ would be stirred at this promise of the ‘Coming.’ Can we leave out from the august audience Plato whose valiant soul searched the heavens on unaided wings;—

Of time and place, what need to know—
Is it that God indeed will show
The pattern of that perfect plan,
Distorted, blurr’d in every man?

or Socrates, who knew what was in man;—

But how shall man discern the Good?
Accepted not nor understood,
The Christ Himself, should He show forth
The thoughts of heaven to sons of earth!

or Æschylus, who sounded the depths of the anguish that falls to men ‘without God in the world’:—

Shall man, escaped, that fate elude,
Implacable, which him pursued?
Shall wistful souls th’ Erynnes flee,
Not thwarted more by destiny?

Would Virgil recall the bright promise he made and so little understood?—

Is this the Boy,
Flower-cradled joy,
The Virgin Astrea should bring forth?
Smiling presage
Of the Golden Age
For all the labouring sons of earth!

Did the Sages and Prophets unite to sing,—

And shall He in His power go forth?
From east and west, from south and north,
Shall men flock round Him with desire,
Soliciting His purging fire?

How wonderful Thy counsels, Lord!
Thy ways past finding out; Thy word,
Quick and compelling, searcheth out
Just means to bring high ends about!

And did David fail to recall that song he sang when his lips were fain?—

Now may I, understanding, sing
That song indited to the King:
Fairer Thou art than sons of men,
Thy lips drop grace!—so ran my pen.
Gird Thee, with sword, my mighty God,
Ride forth with spear, with bruising rod;
Because of meekness, truth, and right,
With piercing word, go forth to smite!


The Annunciation.—It was now six months since the angel Gabriel instructed Zacharias in the inner court of the temple, and the time had come for him to perform that mission which we may believe excited the deep wonder and profound admiration of the heavenly host.

The angel Gabriel went forth once more
On that high errand to fair Nazareth,
Planted ‘mid streams and trees, whose careless folk,
Content, in darkness sate—the shadow of death;
There dwelt a son of David, Joseph named,
Betrothed to Mary, virgin of that house.

Many painters have shown us their vision, the outcome of meditation, of the scene so infinitely dear to mankind. May it not have been that, ‘Alone upon the house-top knelt the maid,’ praying the prayer which had doubtless become the petition of her life,—’Send us Messias!’ when the angel came and spoke to her by name, as speaks a friend,—

‘Hail, Mary!’ said the seraph—in the word,
Angelic love and reverence were heard—
All hail, thou happy virgin, full of grace,
Who hast high favour found before the face

‘Of God; the Lord be with thee; fear not thou!’
For she was greatly troubled; questioned how
(Within herself) had she offended; hold—
Had she made her petitions over bold?

Gentle he reassured her; ‘Nay, fear not!
No word of thine in heaven hath been forgot:
Thou shalt conceive, and bear a Holy Son,
The very Son of God; whose reign begun

‘Within thy womb in time shall have no end,
And over all the tribes of men extend:
Jesus, His name; the Son of God Most High,
Yet shall He on thy breast, an infant lie!’

And now another mystery confronts us,—the mystery of life. May it be, that, as all the glories of colour,—

Are held in the white light, till broken rays
Let loose on this or that the hues they praise.
So is life held in God; nor needs, at best,
The will of any two to manifest.

‘LET THERE BE LIGHT, His primal word; and straight
His creatures lived; endowed to propagate
Each after his own kind: so men grew used
To the one way: and, all their thought obtused

By long-continued custom, ne’er foresaw
That He who made the first, a second Law
Might bring forth from His counsels—for a Birth,
Should quicken all the recreant sons of earth!

Anyway, this is all we know:—

Again the mandate issued: Be there life:—
And she whom no man yet had ta’en to wife
Conceived and bare a Son; the Virgin-born,
Come, after heavy night, the promised Morn!

And, Mary, seeking meekly for direction, asked ‘how shall this be after the wont of men?’ and she was shewn how, by the immediate power of God Most High, the Child should be born, holy, the Son of God; and Mary, not knowing what all this might mean to her, cried ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it to me according to Thy word.’


The Immaculate Conception, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Born of a pure Virgin.—Perhaps here, too, the painters are the best helpers to our meditative thought, and Murillo, in his effort to embody a doctrine we do not embrace, has at anyrate symbolised a ‘pure Virgin’:—

Knowest how high thou art,

God-seeking soul,

Above all earth’s clamour,
Above the moon’s glamour,
Above the thick clouds which still

Over us roll?

* * * * * *

The power of the Highest

Tis thine to know:

In fearing the Mystery,
Adoring the Majesty,
And loving that Love supreme

All thy powers flow.


The visit to Elisabeth.

Much troubled was the Maid—full of high hope
And diffident fear: nor might she tell her mind
To kin or neighbour, least of all, to him,
Her betrothed husband: so, with bold resolve,
She would go forth to seek among the hills
Of southward Judah for Elisabeth:

We can conceive of the days of travel, the lonely ways, the nights of little ease, through which Mary made slow way to the hill-city, Hebron; and how, at her spoken greeting, ‘Tumult of welcome whelmèd the poor Maid, lonely and travel-worn’; and, how, moved by Elisabeth’s high faith Mary sang:—

My soul rejoiceth in the Lord,
My spirit triumphs in His word;
He looked upon my low estate,
And, looking, made His handmaid great:
To God, my Saviour, be the praise,
Who lowliest men doth highest raise!
* * * * * *
The promise that hath been of old
To Abraham and his sons foretold,
To kings and prophets dimly shown—
His secret—now, He maketh known:
That promised SEED is come, and I,
Poor Maid, by God, am set on high!


At Hebron.—We know how, for—

Three happy months the Holy Women held—
In field, ‘mid lonely hills, on quiet roof—
Sweet converse, of those things the prophets spake
Concerning Shiloh, and him, should go before—

and we can conceive how the Scriptures were searched and the priest Zacharias consulted in that priestly household: but,—

Not all of themes, awful for woe,

August in dignity and suffering,
Or joyous beyond measure, did the two
Hold converse; but the common tender talk
That mothers use was theirs; and—as they spake
Of breast and milk and little children’s pains,
Each could have said she heard a cooing babe.
Thus, for three months: then, Mary returned home.


The Virgin’s return.

What happened to the Maid? Did pointed finger,
Eyes turned aside, bring hot blood to her cheek?
Must the Christ enter through low gate of shame,
E’en as through gate of shame they drave Him hence,
That none might taste an anguish strange to Him?

“When Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man,
Thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.”

We know how Joseph’s mind was disturbed and his heart rent (we may well believe), when the angel came and reassured him with word of the fulfilment of that prophecy of Isaiah’s,— a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and they shall call His name Immanuel.’

These things saw Joseph in his sleep, and rose
To give the shelter of his roof and love
To the sore-grievèd Virgin—maiden-wife.
Acquaint with shame ere yet He left the womb,
The King and Saviour of mankind did come!


The birth of John the Baptist.—Space does not allow us to linger over the birth of him of whom it was said,—

None greater had arisen in Israel:—
For th’ rest, he was in deserts till the day
Of his showing: his parents, they who loved him,
Let him be.


The Nativity, by Duccio di Buoninsegna

The Nativity.—No other story is so intimately dear to us, no other, not even that of the Death upon Calvary, is of such supreme importance to the sons of men. How the old Painters have meditated upon every incident and revealed to us the Glory in Humility in a way that words cannot attain to, not even when a Milton sings! We know Duccio’s curiously primitive and wonderfully revealing portrayal of the rude cattle-shed with the angels crowding to look in, because, there, beneath, is the Saviour of the World with ox and ass almost touching Him as they lift their heads into the manger; and the blessèd Virgin there lies on rude couch of straw beside her child. True or not, it is an effort to catch and symbolize that sacred Mystery most dear to the hearts of men. We know that there was no room for them in the inn,—

Now, Mary’s hour was come, and she was full
Of anguish, with no place to house her in;
So Joseph, anxious, brought her to the byre
Wherein the travellers’ beasts were housed, and there
Found room for her: and, lo, the beasts were still
Nor gave annoy, what time, he, careful, made
What poor provision for his wife he might:
Cold was the night and still, when, thus alone,
The mother bare the Son; and none did see
The brightness of His rising, save the two.
In swathing bands, she in a manger laid,
For shelter from the cold, the princely Child:
Nor knew that there she laid the BREAD OF LIFE
Where ass and oxen for their fodder came.
Not, from His infant birth, the Son of Man
Had where to lay His head in this His world,
But shared the common place the cattle used.
Bless’d Virgin, who didst bear the WORLD’S DELIGHT!
Bless’d Joseph, who first saw the wondrous sight!
Good byre, which sheltered Him from rude affright!
Kind cattle, graced above all beasts that night!
“I was an outcast from my mother’s womb.
“While yet I hanged upon my mother’s breasts,
Thou wast my hope.”
“There   was no room for them in the inn.”

Part II

A few weeks ago I received the following letter and, as it was one of several of the kind, I asked leave to publish it in the Parents’ Review and answer it there because I think some explanation is due to those readers who are interested in the matter:—

Dear ——

As a member of the P.N.E.U., and a regular reader of the Parents Review, I should like to tell you how very helpful I found the “Sunday Meditations” that appeared in the Review for 1908, and to ask you if we might have a continuation of them? I used to take a small portion daily to help in meditation and in this way found them so useful. I hope you will forgive my writing to ask for some more: I have been hoping to see them in later Reviews, but as none seem forthcoming, I am afraid you may think they were not appreciated which was certainly not so in my case at least.

Yours sincerely,

Will the friendly writer of the above letter kindly accept the following explanation? With an ever increasing sense of the importance on meditation in the Christian life, I felt that it was not enough to take St. John’s Gospel as a basis.

What we want is a profound intimacy with every saying of our Lord’s, every incident of His life as nearly as possible in the order in which the sayings were uttered and the events occurred. We want to realise, visualise, every situation in which our Lord was placed, the personages who took part in every interview, the sequence of thought to which every saying belonged. This last is of very great importance because our Lord seems to have followed the habit of eastern thought and to speak in, what seem at first sight to be, disconnected aphorisms the sequence of which appears only upon devout meditation. Christ’s teaching concerning offences against ourselves (St. Matt. xviii.15-35) illustrates what I mean. Probably various disciples had come to Him to tell Him of injuries under which they were smarting. Three steps are open to the man who is injured, three things he may do, one after the other, and, if the last fail, if the erring brother refuse to hear the Church, let him ‘be unto thee as a Gentile and a publican.’ But, how awful the consequence! How a brother’s offence dwindles before the certainty that what we bind on earth by a hard and unforgiving temper, is bound in heaven also, for the offender is hardened by our hardness. No wonder dismay seizes the disciples. How dare they take it upon them to bind or loose a man? Who is sufficient for these things? But there is a way. If two shall agree to ask anything, the thing shall be done—be it the softening of the offender’s heart. And Peter, ever impulsive and generous, proposes a noble measure of forgiveness, until seven times seven. But, no, he must forgive until seventy times seven: that is there must be no limit to the forgiveness man owes to man; and Christ, in the parable of the two debtors, unfolds the measure of our indebtedness, before which our brother’s offence against us is too trifling to be noticed. Never more would the disciples ask how often a man should forgive one who had offended against him.

Because this kind of exposition cannot be very well attempted in prose, I have thought that a life of our Lord, including all His teaching as it occurs, in the form of Meditations in verse might be helpful and suggestive. Verse is more impersonal, more condensed, and is capable of more reverent handling than is prose; and, what has been called ‘the authentic comment’ may be attempted in verse with more becoming diffidence. Again, the supreme moment of a very large number of lives—that in which a person is brought face to face with Christ—comes before us with great vividness in the Gospel narratives; and it is possible to treat what we call ‘dramatic situations’ with more force and, at the same time, with more reticence in verse than in prose. We know how the ‘Tate and Brady’ version of the Psalms wrought a great religious revival, not only in England, but throughout western Europe: we know, too, how Marot’s Psalms fired the hearts of the Netherlanders to their heroic resistance. If new presentations of the Psalms have effected great things may not something be expected from a new presentation of the Gospel, (new, that is, in a manner but very faithful in matter)?

It may be said, We have the whole story in the Gospels, and cannot hope or desire to improve upon that which is written. But this is true, also, of the Psalms; no poet’s version can equal the original; a version in a new form is a concession to human infirmity, but we know how arresting a new, though inferior, presentation is; no one can read the Gospels in another tongue, though in a poorer translation, without new convictions, new delight. For these reasons, I venture to hope that a rendering in verse, which aims at no more than being faithful and reverent, may give pleasure to Christian people, may help to bring out the philosophical sequence of our Lord’s teaching, and throw into relief the incidents of His life.

The writer, at any rate, experiences in the study a curious and delightful sense of harmonious development, of the rounding out of each incident, of the progressive unfolding which characterises our Lord’s teaching; and perhaps some measure of this entrancing interest may have found its way into her work. When the great poet shall give us the great Christian epic, it will be read in the closet and in the congregation, by the neophyte and the saint. In the meantime, a feeble attempt (made with anxious diffidence) may be of a little use in furthering that era of passionate Christianity which will probably be the world’s next great experience, when “the shout of a King” shall be in our midst. But, at any rate, if such attempt send any one back to a more diligent and delighted perusal of the sacred text, its end will be fully accomplished.

It is possible that we sometimes err both in the subject and method of our meditations. We think upon our frailties and make plans for amendment; or, we try to think ecstatically of the Passion of our Lord, of how He went about doing good, and how, —’wretched man that I am, I am unworthy even to bear the name of my Master and be called a Christian after Christ.’ But, perhaps, we are wrong in all this as we are in our conception of Christianity, which is not what the children call ‘being good,’ but is the intimate knowledge of, and passionate devotion to, the Divine Person; and this comes only of meditation, of a word by word and line by line study of the Gospel story, until we are possessed of, ruled by, the Personality revealed.

The effect on the mind on a given day when we have meditated upon some passage in the life of our Lord is curious. We do this in remembrance of Him, and are not greatly occupied about ourselves, but our day is ruled into goodness, and peace—is it ‘the peace which passeth understanding’? possesses our soul, the peace of humility, because we have thought upon Christ, not the peace of complacency, which comes in other ways.

There are signs of the times which make this intimate knowledge of Christ and His teaching—a knowledge to be slowly and tediously acquired like any other profound knowledge—of special importance at this juncture. What is known as the ‘Higher Criticism’ appears to have reached its limitations. It is too soon yet to reckon up our gains, and, as for our losses, we may be of good courage.

Philology and Archæology have, we are told, corrected certain somewhat hasty inferences and have, with other influences, produced a more hesitating attitude in the minds of advanced Bible students. All this prepares the way for the right attitude in regard to Christian Evidence. The exceeding and unique preciousness of the Gospels depends upon the unique and Divine Personality they reveal, and that revelation is the evidence upon which they must be tried. Future criticism will, no doubt, be personal criticism. Hitherto, the perfection and beauty of our Lord have appeared unassailable, are admitted by all men, believers and unbelievers alike; but a time is coming which will be peculiarly trying to Christian people. The character of Him who is altogether lovely, the chief among ten thousand, will be assailed; and the method of attack will doubtless be captious criticism of expressions, used apart from their context and from any general view of the method of the teaching of Christ. It is for this we must be prepared, not by the devout reading of comforting passages which we find to suit our own case, but we must study as the diligent disciples of a Master who has set before us a high Philosophy which we must set ourselves to understand point by point.

I think devout meditation on the text of the gospels, arranged in order of time, is the best means towards this end. Some readers will find that the text itself affords all the food for meditation that they require. To them I would recommend The Gospel History in the Revised Version which is simply a time arrangement of the Gospel History in the words, as has been said of the Revised Version. Others find that the text, dear as it is, has become so familiar that it does not always stimulate to fresh thought. It is in the hope of being of use to these that I am preparing the volumes of The Saviour of the World—a life of Christ in verse, partly paraphrase and partly devout exposition of the sort indicated by the passages quoted in the preceding notes. One volume should afford meditations for half a year or a year; and, perhaps, the method should be, first to read the passage upon which a given poem is founded, (see index of references), and then to read the poem, which may, I hope, act as a sort of spring-board to the mind, enabling the reader to go further in the same or in diverse directions. In either case, the poem should make it easier to visualise the scenes and to follow the teaching with intelligence.

If such devout study of the Life and Teaching of our Lord be the duty of all Christian persons, it is, perhaps, especially the duty of Parents; and it is astonishing how soon they are able to associate their children with them in such acts of devout contemplation: children appear to find pleasure in the verse rendering to which I have referred.  

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5 Replies to “The Nativity”

  1. This “set my feet in a large room”:
    “It is possible that we sometimes err both in the subject and method of our meditations. We think upon our frailties and make plans for amendment; or, we try to think ecstatically of the Passion of our Lord, of how He went about doing good, and how, —’wretched man that I am, I am unworthy even to bear the name of my Master and be called a Christian after Christ.’ But, perhaps, we are wrong in all this as we are in our conception of Christianity, which is not what the children call ‘being good,’ but is the intimate knowledge of, and passionate devotion to, the Divine Person; and this comes only of meditation, of a word by word and line by line study of the Gospel story, until we are possessed of, ruled by, the Personality revealed.”

  2. “Second, she believed that a day was coming when popular sentiment would no longer affirm the goodness of Christ. She predicted a time when the character of Christ Himself would be assailed by the general public. She said that believers must prepare for this future attack by a comprehensive and synthetic study of, and meditation upon, the teachings of Christ. Her concern in this area reflects what Dr. Benjamin Bernier refers to as the ‘apologetic aim’ that undergirds Mason’s entire philosophy of education.”

    This is exactly my sentiment when reading Charlotte Mason, this is why I really want to give homeschooling a chance, even on the days when I am tired and worn out and I look online the registration forms to send my boys to school. I have been pondering that post for a while.

    The recitation of psalm through the liturgy of the Hours have been an essential part of my faith journey. Poetry becomes a second language when the words in prose fail to express our feelings.
    I am not familiar enough with Charlotte Mason’s poetry to really appreciate it, and I have other readings to focus on before I can get to that, but the fresh look on the gospel through poetry is the great specialty of Ste Therese de l’Enfant Jesus. I know a lot of CM families pick French as a language and I would like to suggest trying some of her beautiful poetry. This one is about Mary, Ste Therese meditates on every occurence of Jesus’ mother in the gospels and one more about what it means to live for love.

    Most of her poems have been set to music (and another).

    1. Dear Tiphaine,

      Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts and these links. We are one of those families who chose French as our language, and my daughter is currently memorizing a French poem. I will keep in mind these works of St. Therese. Also, I am glad that you are finding courage on those days when you are tired and think about alternatives to homeschooling. I am reminded of the words of another saint, Catherine of Siena, who wrote, “This patience stands on the battlefield with the weapon of courage, and with the shield of most holy faith fends off the blows. In suffering, it is victorious.” May God grant you such patience, with courage, through the nourishment of poetry and every other gift of God’s grace.


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