Why Does The Manger Matter?

by Advent and Christmas

The Catechism of the Catholic Church beautifully exclaims that “No one, whether shepherd or wise man, can approach God here below except by kneeling before the manger at Bethlehem and adoring him hidden in the weakness of a new-born child (CCC 563).” The manger at Bethlehem was the place that the new-born Child Jesus born on Christmas was laid to rest. Do we kneel before the manger because it is low to the ground? Perhaps, but it seems that our kneeling is out of adoration for Who is in the manger. The newborn King is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a feeding trough for animals in this stable in the City of David. Mary and Joseph had arrived for the Roman Census as Joseph was of the lineage of David (as was Mary by the way). The city was bustling because of the census and there was no room left in the inn when the Holy Family arrived. Instead, they were invited to take shelter for the night in a cave which served as a stable for the domesticated animals. 

The Creche Is No Ordinary Crib

Even today, after the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi (in 1223 A.D.), we put a likeness of the baby Jesus into a creche (crib) in the nativity scene, complete with Mary, Joseph, animals, angels, and the magi. However, this creche is no ordinary crib. It is depicted based on the Gospel account as a manger, usually with straw as a liner. In the manger, we are reminded of the humble entrance of the Incarnate Word into the world. He did not come riding on the clouds in a chariot. He was not born in a royal palace. He was not even born in the home in Nazareth. He was born in a humble dwelling place for animals. 

The manger was not far off the ground. All the animals could reach it. It contained hay or grain to feed the horses, cows, donkeys, camels, and other animals. Think of the hay and grain mixed with the saliva of the animals mixed with the cold night air. The manger would have been cold and damp. Why would the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph lay the infant Jesus in such a place? Why not just hold Him? St. Joseph was a worker; why not construct a makeshift crib out of what is around. However, in God’s Providence, the manger was available and was suitable. We only understand the suitability later in the Gospels. 

God Gives Us Himself

In the Gospels, the life and teachings of Jesus, we see that Jesus and His disciples are going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal. The New Covenant is instituted at the Passover Meal at the Last Supper. And Heaven is often referred to as the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb. Jesus did not come only to be a good moral teacher or do great things. He came to give us Himself, in the form of substantial food. The manger shows us the inscrutable plan of God. From the manger, the Word of God gives us Himself as food to eat. He says to us, of the Eucharist, “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood.” He says that His Flesh is true food and His Blood is true drink. By placing the newborn Child in the manger, Mary and Joseph were giving us the first Exposition and Adoration of the Son of God. 

In the beginning of the Gospel according to St. John we hear:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”

John 1:14

In The Manger, Glory Is Revealed To The World

In the manger, this glory was revealed to the world. It is a strange throne for a King, but so is the Cross. So, when you approach the creche of the Infant Jesus on display at your local Church this Christmas Season, approach the Savior on bended knee and allow His grace to fill your soul. 

Reflect On The Gospel Of Luke

As we contemplate the manger of the Lord, let us reflect on this beautiful passage from the Gospel of St. Luke:

“And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

Luke 2:8-20
email newsletter subscription sign up Catholic Link

Image: Photo by Jon Carlson on Unsplash

Great Catholic Father's Day Gifts
at the Catholic-Link Co. Store!

Keep Searching, Keep Learning

Our Newest Articles:

Find the perfect Catholic gift for Dad here!

Search Catholic-Link

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest