What is the meaning of the swaddling clothes with which Our Lord was bound by His Mother?
From St. Alphonsus Liguori:
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2, 7)
JESUS IN SWADDLING-CLOTHES
Look! We see Mary, having now brought forth her Son, taking Him with reverence in her arms, adoring Him as her God, and then wrapping Him up in swaddling-clothes: The Holy Church says the same: “His limbs, wrapped in swaddling-clothes, the Virgin Mother binds.”
Behold the Infant Jesus, who obediently offers His little hands and feet, and allows Himself to be swaddled. Consider that every time the Holy Infant allowed Himself to be swathed He thought of the cords with which He should one day be bound and led captive in the garden, and of those also with which He should be tied to the column, and of the nails which should fasten Him to the cross; and thinking of these things, He willingly allowed Himself to be bound, in order to deliver our souls from the chains of hell.
Bound, then, in these swaddling-clothes, and turning towards us, Jesus invites us to unite ourselves to Him with the holy bonds of love. And turning to His eternal Father, He says:
“My Father, men have abused their liberty, and by rebelling against Thee have made themselves the slaves of sin; but I will make satisfaction for their disobedience, and will be bound and confined in these swaddling-clothes. Bound with these, I offer Thee my liberty, in order that man may be delivered from the slavery of the devil. I accept these swaddling-clothes; they are dear to Me, because they are the symbols of the cords with which, from this moment forth, I offer Myself to be one day bound and led to death for the salvation of men.”
His bands are a healthful binding. The bands of Jesus were the healthful binding, to heal the wounds of our souls. Therefore, O my Jesus, Thou wouldst be bound in swaddling-clothes for the love of me.
“O Love, how great is thy bond, which could bind a God!”
O divine Love, Thou alone couldst make my God Thy prisoner. And shall I then, O Lord, refuse to allow myself to be bound by Thy holy love? Shall I for the future have the courage to detach myself from Thy sweet and amiable chains? And for what? To make myself a slave of hell? O my Lord, Thou remainest bound up in this manger for the love of me; I desire always to remain bound to Thee.
St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi said that the bands that we ought to take should be a firm resolution of uniting ourselves to God by means of love; detaching ourselves at the same time from all affection for anything that is not God. For this reason, also, it seems that our loving Jesus has allowed Himself to be, as it were, bound and made a prisoner in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, under the sacramental species, in order that He might behold His beloved souls made also prisoners of His love.
AFFECTIONS AND PRAYERS
And what fear can I have of Thy chastisement, O my beloved Infant, now that I see Thee bound in the swaddling-clothes, depriving Thyself, as it were, of the power of raising Thy hands to punish me? Thou dost give me to understand by these bands that Thou wilt not chastise me, if I will detach myself from the chains of my vices and bind myself to Thee.
Yes, my Jesus, I will bind myself.
I repent with all my heart of having separated myself from Thee, by abusing that liberty which Thou hast given me. Thou dost offer me a more desirable liberty; a liberty which delivers me from the chains of the devil, and places me among the children of God. Thou hast given Thyself up to be imprisoned in these swaddling-clothes for the love of me; I will be in future a prisoner of Thy infinite love. O blessed chains, O beautiful emblems of salvation, which bind souls to God, bind also my poor heart; but bind it so fast that it may never in future be able to disengage itself from the love of this sovereign Good.
My Jesus, I love Thee; I bind myself to Thee; I give Thee my whole heart, my whole will. No, I never leave Thee again, my beloved Lord. O my Saviour, who, to pay my debts, would not only be wrapped by Mary in swaddling-clothes, but even be bound as a criminal by the executioners, and thus bound wouldst go along the streets of Jerusalem, led to death as an innocent lamb to the slaughter-house; O Thou who wouldst be nailed to the cross, and didst not leave it until Thou hadst given up Thy life upon it,— I beseech Thee permit me not to be ever separated again from Thee, so that I should again find myself deprived of Thy favor and of Thy love.
O Mary, who didst one day bind in swaddling-clothes this thy innocent Son, I pray thee, do thou bind me also, a miserable sinner; bind me to Jesus, so that I may never again separate myself from His feet, that I may always live and die bound to Him, so that one day I may have the happiness to enter into that blessed country where I shall never be able and shall never be afraid of detaching myself from His holy love.
The above meditation is from Saint Alphonsus de Liguori. “The Saint Alphonsus de Liguori Collection” [30 Books] by Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle Edition.