« "God is in love with our smallness" - Pope Francis's homily on Christmas Eve 2014 | Main | A timeline of the last year of St. Therese (September 1896 - September 1897) from the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux »

St. Therese's Play "The Divine Little Beggar of Christmas," Carmel of Lisieux, December 25, 1895

Please see the beautiful photo of the wax doll of the newborn Jesus which was given to the Carmel of Lisieux in December 1895 by Therese's aunt and uncle, Isidore and Celine Guerin.  The doll's hair is Therese's (cut when she was a child), and the Alencon lace on which the child is lying was made by Zelie Martin.  The swansdown which lines the crib was part of the wedding dress Therese wore when she received the Habit on January 10, 1889; so was the child's tunic.

Thanks to the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, we can recreate some scenes from Christmas 1895.  This was the end of 1895, Therese's special year of grace, in which she wrote the first manuscript of Story of a Soul and offered herself to Mericful Love.

Writing to thank her parents, Therese's cousin, Sister Marie of the Eucharist, describes the scene when the gift arrived:

 The reception of the case was an odd scene: all the little novices around the case, the dormitory was filled with our cries. Who would unpack the case: one was shouting: "I see a hand," another: "Oh! a pretty little head," and Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart was objecting and crying out in despair: "You will see, they will break it, they will not be satisfied until they do!"

It was a real comedy, or to express it better an impossible uproar. We could not be quiet until we each gave vent to our joy.

Letter from Sister Marie of the Eucharist to Isidore and Celine Guerin, December 20-25, 1895

On the night of December 25, 1895, the Carmelites gathered for a paraliturgical celebration designed by Therese; it appears in The Plays of St. Therese of Lisieux, titled "The Divine Little Beggar of Christmas: Asking Alms from the Carmelites."  Each nun knelt in turn before this image of the Child Jesus, drew a folded note from a basket, and handed it to Sister Marie of the Eucharist, who sang a verse telling the nun what Jesus asked of her.  Therese drew the verse saying that she would be the little cluster of grapes:  "Jesus will press you very strongly in his beloved hand."  In this little work of art Therese shows that she did not consider the image of the baby Jesus or the feast of Christmas sentimental; instead, the Incarnate God, entering into human history, empties himself so profoundly as to beg the love of his own creatures.

Note that this wax doll no doubt appeared again in Therese's play The Flight into Egypt, produced on January 21, 1896 for the feast-day of the prioress, Mother Agnes of Jesus (Therese's sister Pauline). 

See Therese and Lisieux by Pierre Descouvement and Helmut-Nils Loose (Toronto: Novalis, 1996, p. 156 and pp. 162-163) and The Plays of Saint Therese of Lisieux, tr. Susan Conroy and David J. Dwyer (Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, 2008, pp. 221-246.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>