15. When the Buds Begin To Burst
The beginning, the morning of life, has a charm all its own. We live then without realizing the meaning of life. We dream away, under the loving care of others, having but a slight understanding of their worries. Thus we live in the midst of the world. The world knows little about us, and we know less about the world. The world does not as yet belong to us, and we do not as yet belong to the world. We belong solely and entirely to the guardian angel of our cradle.
Slowly, gradually, then ever faster, the soul of the child begins to unfold. At first, the infant yawns, feeds and kicks. During the first week, it can follow a ray of light with its eyes. In the second week it begins to notice movements. During the third week the face begins to take on expression. At the end of the fourth week it is able to raise its small head. It starts to lisp during the second month. It can show its pleasure and displeasure by plaintive or jubilant cries. Within the time between the third and twentieth week, it learns to shed bitter tears.
By the second quarter of the year, it tries anything. Whatever it finds, it wants to destroy. When the third quarter comes around it understands a few words, points out objects within sight, begins to sit up and crawl about. By the end of the year, it gives its first signs of an independent will. After fourteen months it has gained the spirit of inquiry. A child seventy-nine days old once took off the cover of a can as if to see what it contained.
The mother speaks about the wonderful child, for she is gloriously happy. We, too, were happy in those days. Two angels were watching over us, our Guardian angel and mother.
The Sinking Sun
The last rays of the sinking sun touch the cradle, the tiny face and the mother. While the cradle rocks, the soul of the mother rejoices. The little infant does not understand a word, but the mother talks to it anyway. She relates stories about the white and black sheep, about roses without thorns, about Jacob's ladder and the angels ascending and descending, and other similar stories.
O good God, and angels dear,
Keep me by you ever near:
And may I grow so big to be
My dress will be too small for me!
The lullabies, the finest blossoms of poetry about mother, find their growth during these hours. Her face transfigured, her heart full of happiness, she rocks her child. It is a picture from fairyland. Poets and great musicians have silently approached and listened to these lullabies of mothers, and have given the world a glimpse into this fairyland in words and music.
Song is a flower of the heart from which it springs. Where songs are sung, there life is richer and better. There is nothing lovelier to see than a mother rocking and singing her child to sleep.
O sweet, my little prize,
Rest thy weary eyes.
Sleep and slumber on
List to my cradle song.
Mother's kiss will be
In thy dreams with thee!
Mother has a treasury of songs that never is exhausted. How often the child awakens, and mother must again sing it to sleep. The songs of poets may be more beautiful and better expressed, but in comparison to folk songs, they are like artificial flowers, while the latter are like to living ones. The simplest mother among the people, without any idea of poetry, puts so much heart and soul into her song, that it might well be called a hymn to God. For the moon, the sun, the stars bow before the cradle. It is the center of life in the world. Even the angels look down in curiosity from heaven at the tiny babe, and silently pass by so as not to disturb its sleep. Most of these songs begin with "sleep, little one, sleep."
O lovely babe
Go to sleep.
Lo! The stars are bright.
Ah! The round moon is light
See it fly
O cradle mine
Sleep, little one,
The Slumbering Child
Suddenly the song ceases. The mother bird, after her sweet song, flits away in silent flight. She casts one glance back, to be sure that the infant is really asleep. She goes about her work, but her heart is with her child. She must go, yes, but soon she must return to look at it once more. Meanwhile the child sleeps and dreams of elves and fairies, of angels and princesses.
What a beautiful sight, a slumbering child! Mother cannot see enough of it. The first months are a continual running back and forth from work to the cradle. There is a light celestial shining through her mother's love. Her worried features grow smooth and mild. The heart of the mother is as full of happiness as if she herself were resting in the cradle. Her own slumber is short and light. Even when she goes to rest, the thought of her child keeps her from falling into a deep sleep. "I sleep, but my heart watches." But there in the crib lies perfect innocence, well able to sleep the sleep of the just.
Anyone looking upon that innocent sleeping child must be filled himself with an innocent joy. The forehead has not yet been furrowed, the heart is still clean from the waters of baptism. Sorrow and trouble are still far in the future. So sleep, my baby, sleep.
There are three things left to us of all the beauty of Paradise: the loveliness of the flowers, the brilliance of the stars, and the innocent look in a child's eyes. The beauty of the child is overwhelming when a smile plays about its lips for the first time. This smile penetrates the very soul of mother, she simply drinks it in. And she is most beautiful when she exchanges smile for smile with her child.
Rippling laughter of a child
Sweet beyond compare!
With it sings another voice
Innocence is there!
Happy stranger to life's pain
In the rain you play;
To the wind you raise your face
Smiling, laughing gay!
List to the children
Laughing at play-
Into your soul then
Spring makes its way!
When I Awake . . .
The smile of a child has all the beauty of the morning dawn. "When I awake, I am intoxicated with happiness. When I take up the child in my arms, as it opens its small eyes, stretches and strains from side to side, it seems to me as if I possessed the greatest treasure on earth. Then I sing it my song, for it shall be surrounded by happiness and joy. A child is happiness. The child laughs aloud for joy, as if a great event had happened, when mother's smiling glance meets its eye. The smile of the child is sealed with a kiss. It would be a terrible punishment to inflict on a mother to say: Mother, you cannot caress and kiss your child. Often a mother's kiss can cure a feverish child. For it often happens that it is not the body but the soul that is ill. And when the soul finds peace, the body will soon be well. The first kiss and caress of the mother will always be a happy memory for the child. This is the loveliest time in life."
This expression of earthly affection is shown by the Church in a spiritual way. The Church takes the child under her protecting wing before its birth, when the couple take their marriage vows. She blesses the cradle by making the infant a child of God in baptism. When the child makes its appearance in the home it is not a stranger, it is a gift of God which has been expected with yearning and love. Next to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, the Bread of our souls, there is no being on earth in whom God is so well pleased as a child. Your love and the love of God meet in the child, and melt into one another.
The Kiss Of God
The renowned author of dogmatical works, Scheeben, carries this thought still further when he says: "The child rests on the bosom of the mother from whom it has received its life, and on whom it still depends for life. The outward sign of this inward assistance to sustain life is the mother's kiss, as if, by her kiss, she would breathe new life into the child with her breath. This kiss of the mother is a symbol of the eternal kiss of God the Father given to His Son Who rests eternally in the bosom of the Father. This earthly mystery of life of mother and child can teach us to understand, in a small way, the unfathomable depths of God, and gives us an idea of the depth, height, and breadth of the thrice holy love of God. For all things terrestrial are but a picture of things divine."
Who understands the world and the needs of the child better than a mother? The infant cannot speak, yet mother understands. She understands its smile, she understands when it cries. Still she lives in expectancy of its first word. Ah, if it could but express the meaning of its smile, of its tears!
Finally the day dawns when the lips of the child form the first word, an eternal and ever new wonder. The mother notes its first steps, is astonished at the daily growth of the child. She sees this little bud unfold and beholds with joy how the soul is revealed on its small face.
The mother puts the child on its feet, holds her protecting hands about it, and says: "Come on, come on." Its feet are unsteady, but gaining courage, it takes its first steps on the long road of life. The sun shines, the pigeons coo, and father and mother are filled with happiness and delight.
Its first objective is to reach mother, who holds out a protecting hand. The reward for reaching the goal is a kiss from mother. But how often it totters, stumbles, and falls; how often it is hurt, and mother picks it up, blows upon the hurt and all is well again. This is truly a preview of our after life. The hands, face and dress may become dirty; but who cares, mother will wash it away.
Then the time approaches when the child receives its first pair of shoes to protect its tiny feet from stones and thorns along its way.
The mother finds pride and joy in preparing and sewing clothes for her small child. As a girl she enjoyed making dresses for her dolls. Now what was play so long ago, has become a reality.
Years ago, a wealthy man armed himself to the teeth and put on armor, to protect his riches. A certain king walked about, day in and day out, always dressed in purple, wearing his crown. When they were asked if they were happy, both sadly shook their heads.
The house is a cottage
She sits at the door-
Fast clasping the infant
She loves to adore.
Great treasures and riches
Pearls, silver, and gold
Are not her possession
To have and to hold.
But still she is wealthy
Enraptured, she cries:
O joy, O contentment
Which language defies!
This infant, this treasure
I clasp to my breast
Is better than riches,.
Pearls, gold, and the rest!
(Kiss Toth Lenke)
The days of childhood are the Eden of life. But this paradise would be solitary and cold without a mother. For the happiness of the child depends entirely upon the unselfish sacrificing love of the mother.
This item 1475 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org