The Embrace of a Child

By Jenna Moury

I have always been obsessed with babies. 

The other day I had the most vivid dream that I was playing with my old pink dollhouse at home. Whether it was baby dolls, paper dolls, or dollhouses, dolls were always my favorite. When I played with the dollhouse, I would make all the little toy people be in a giant family. I would have families with fourteen or more children – usually with at least two sets of twins. Needless to say, I was obsessed with big families. 

I know that my family of five kids is big by most standards, but when I was young, I never thought it was big enough. I wanted a baby sibling more than anything. Of course, I had my little brother, but I was only two when he was born, so he wasn’t exactly far enough behind for me to appreciate him as a “baby sibling.” The desire to be motherly and take care of little ones had been built in me for as long as I can remember. It is in my soul – in every ounce of my being. I remember praying every night for over ten years of my life for a baby sibling. I remember multiple occasions begging God late at night, literally sobbing: “Just one!”

When I was about eight years old, I decided that I would be happy if I could just hold baby Jesus for a little while. It was a child’s prayer, innocent and – might I say – unrealistic, but I didn’t care. During the weeks leading up to Christmas that year, I would hide in my closet and pray to Mary that she would bring her Infant Son, incarnate, for me to cradle and kiss. Christmas came, and there was no baby Jesus placed in my outstretched arms. I was still alone.

That day, as young and naive as I was, I realized that Mary gives me her Son to embrace every time I receive Holy Communion. She wants me to cradle Him and comfort Him, with the innocent love that only a child can give to another child. 

One day when I was a teenager, I found an image on the internet of outstretched hands reaching for baby Jesus. He was being held out by the arms of His mother, Mary. This was the exact image that I wanted when I was praying in the closet as a little child. This was what I wanted then, and this is what I am given every single time I receive Jesus Christ, incarnate in the Holy Eucharist. Eventually my prayers changed, and I realized that there will not be a baby sibling. Hopefully someday, I will have my own little babies to love, but for now I can find comfort in the fact that Mary is giving me her Son, to cradle on my own tongue and to worship without ceasing.

So often, I become distracted during Mass. I am too critical of the priest’s homily, I get distracted by the uncomfortable wooden pew, or I start worrying about my upcoming homework assignments. When I go up to receive Holy Communion, I wonder if I should genuflect or bow before receiving or if I should kneel on both knees. I concentrate on making sure that all the little details are perfect, but that is not what Jesus wants. That is not why Mary said yes. That is not why He was born in an uncomfortable and imperfect stable, the Son of a poor carpenter. It is not why He died on the Cross for us. 

Jesus came into the world as a small child so that we could love Him with a child’s love. He did not come as a grand conqueror, but He came poor and completely vulnerable. He doesn’t desire grand pompous shows, but He desires true respect, true adoration, and true love. He desires us to cradle Him in our hearts as well as on our tongues. He desires the embrace of a child.

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Luke 18:17