Every year, around Christmas time, we hear a lot about the fact that Jesus was "born in a manger." There are even songs about it!
However, it is important to point out--as I often do to my students, since it's one of my pet peeves--that Jesus was not born in a manger. According to the Gospel of Luke, he was "laid in a manger"--i.e., a feeding trough for animals--"because there was no place for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7). This suggests that he was born someplace where animals were housed--probably some kind of stable.
Why is this detail significant? First of all, it points up the utter poverty in which Jesus came into the world. But Saint Jerome gives an even deeper reflection (one which I've never heard from the pulpit). According to Jerome, although it would have been fitting for Christ to come into the Holy of Holies in the Temple, he came into this world in a stinking stable, for us:
"Christ found no room in the Holy of Holies that shone with gold, precious stones, pure silk and silver. He is not born in the midst of gold and riches, but in the midst of dung, in a stable where our sins were filthier than the dung. He is born on a dunghill in order to lift up those who come from it: 'From the dunghill he lifts up the poor' (Ps 113:7)" (Jerome, On the Nativity of the Lord, ACCSNT 3:39).
Leave it to Jerome to get right to the point and never mince words.
Gloria in altissimis Deo!
Merry Christmas, everyone.