Posted December 24, 2014 in Advent and Christmas:
How Poverty Became Rich

by Catherine Doherty.

From the dawn of time, ever since man could remember, Poverty lived on earth. Always he was sorely afraid of her. He hated her, and would, if possible, have nothing to do with her.

For she was ugly. Thin. Scrawny. She had long, matted, uncombed hair. She was dressed in rags. Foul smelling, she moved among men like a dreaded shadow.

Now making abode, unwelcomed and unloved, with this one; now with that one. At times, it seemed, she was everywhere, with everyone. Then again, she would vanish and hide herself in fetid slums, or forgotten wild rural areas.

Yet one could never be sure. Today she was seen in a sort of gypsy market place. Yesterday she had moved into a palace. It crumbled, and nothing was left of its splendor.

Anything and anyone she touched wilted under her claw-like fingers. Men did their utmost to get rid of her, and often succeeded—for a time. A pariah, she was also a wanderer on the face of the earth.

Centuries melted into thousands of years; and thousands of years into eons. Men were born, lived, and died, but Poverty kept on walking the earth seeking … seeking she knew not what.

Then came a night brilliant and cold, a strange night that stopped even Poverty in her tracks, and made her lift her bowed and untidy head to heaven. There above her was a star, the like of which she had not seen in all her wanderings.

Weary and lonely and full of grief as she was, she looked again and again. She noticed that the star was standing still over a cave that formed part of an inn. Stables of some sort she thought. But the star drew her … and slowly, shuffling, as do the very tired, she walked to the door of the cave.

Through the chinks, which were quite wide—and which admitted the cold winter wind—she saw a Baby, a newborn Baby at that, lying in a manger filled with straw.

She saw a woman of wondrous beauty bending over the Child, and a man, silent and quiet, kneeling at the Baby’s feet. She also saw animals quietly looking on. An ass. Two cows.

The place was poor enough for her to enter. But somehow she was reluctant to do so, for long ago she had learned that, to poor or rich, her advent brought sorrow and destitution and grief and tears and even death. She did not want any of these things to happen to this family.

Suddenly, Poverty straightened up. She combed her matted hair out of her eyes with her claw-like fingers, for the most melodious voice she had ever heard bade her enter.

Miracle of miracles, someone wanted her!

Incredulous, she tarried. Again the melodious, soft, gentle voice of the girl-woman invited her in out of the cold wind.

Slowly Poverty lifted the latch and walked in. The oil lamps shone brightly, much more brightly than ordinary oil lamps are wont to do. It blinded her for an instant. Yet when she opened her eyes she could not believe them.

For the Mother was holding out the Baby to her—to take and hold. The Baby was reaching his arms to her as if he really wanted to be held by her. And the man on his knees was smiling encouragingly.

Poverty did not hesitate. It was the first time since she had come to dwell on earth that anyone had given her anything. And here two people were allowing her to hold the most lovely Baby she had ever seen!

She bent gently, and took him in her arms. Then, unable to contain herself she covered his little face with kisses.

The woman and the man looked on, smiling. Suddenly shy, Poverty wanted to be gone.

Gently she put the Child back into the manger and turned to go. But the smiling mother bade her to stay. It was then, and only then, that Poverty noticed the change that had occurred in her.

Her rags had turned to beautiful garments of shimmering satin and gold. Her hair fell in soft curls below her waist. She knew also that she was rich beyond the dreams of men or angels!

From that day, Poverty dwelt with the Holy Three until the day the One born in the manger died on a dark wooden cross.

After that, she went on wandering across the face of the earth again.

But now men whose eyes see deep follow her passionately wherever she goes. They want but one thing—to be wedded to her until they die. For they know her now for what she is—the beloved of God.

She never forgets the strange night of the immense star, when she, Poverty, became rich. And if she does make friends, it is only to lead them to the Manger of the Child.

—From Restoration, September 1978


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