“She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2: 7
With tender care and attention, Mary wrapped the infant Jesus tightly in cloth as any loving mother would do. Swaddling him in strips of cloth so that he would be warm, snug and safely protected from the outside world now that he has left the womb. Swaddling infants is still something mothers do today. In past years, narrow stripes of cloth wrapped around a newborn helped to restrain a baby’s movement and quieten him to sleep more contently and prevent him from accidentally scratching his soft, fine skin.
Mary would have brought these strips of cloth with her to Bethlehem, since the time of giving birth was approaching. The usual custom was to wrap the newly born infant in these strips of cloth after washing and anointing the body.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem reminds us that Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger and was poor, vulnerable, dependent and cold. The swaddling cloths foreshadowed the burial cloths.
However, at his next coming, Jesus will be glorious – wrapped in light!
“For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light.” (Ps 36:10)
The Lord’s binding as an infant was one of love. He submitted to Mary’s love and attention to his tender, fragile needs as an infant. As a matter of fact, all of his bindings were bonds of love. He was bound and taken by his enemies as his hands were tied and he was led away from the Garden of Gethsemane out of love for us. He was wrapped in bands of cloth for his funeral, but at the resurrection – glorified, he removed the cloths that bound him.
There is a great lesson of the swaddling cloths for all of us that can be found here since we too can be wrapped in swaddling cloths. In this excerpt from Mother Marie des Doublers’ book, Joy Out of Sorrow, we can learn what it takes to make room for Jesus who could find no room in the inn of our heart. We can enjoy his presence only after we make an expansive space for him, for Light, for Love, for Peace.