Friday, December 15, 2017

The Nativity Scene, a Very Catholic Tradition

It is a beautiful tradition that we must preserve, or in some cases, acquire. It has great meaning to prepare our hearts for the birth of God. It also leaves an indelible mark on the children and is a visual catechesis for the soul of what Catholics celebrate during this time.

Saint Francis and the first Nativity scene

“It started with a man named John who lived in the town of Greccio, Italy. St. Francis was very fond of John, who had a good reputation, and lived an honorable and holy life. Fifteen days before Christmas St. Francis told John to go with haste and meticulously prepare the things St. Francis requested because he wanted to recreate the events that took place that special evening in Bethlehem. He wanted others to know the inconveniences of the baby Jesus. How he lay in a manger surrounded by oxen and asses laying on hay…”

When Francis arrived in Greccio, he found himself in a new Bethlehem and felt that all who participated in the scene had been taken back to the time of Christ’s birth. Men, women and children gathered together with open hearts bringing with them candles and torches to light the night like the gleaming star. Francis felt that he was honoring the simplicity, poverty, and humility of that historic and momentous night in which Christ was born.

The saint of God wore garments of a deacon, for he was a deacon, and he sang the Gospel in the most beautiful voice. Then he preached on the Nativity and the poor child king in the little town of Bethlehem.

God’s blessings multiplied that night, and a miraculous vision was given to a virtuous man. He saw the baby Jesus lying in the manger lifeless, and he saw St. Francis try and wake the baby from a deep sound slumber. This vision was a true representation of the deep sleeping baby Jesus, who was forgotten in the hearts of so many. By the Grace of God, he was brought back to life again by St. Francis, who reawakened their memory.”

Thomas of Celano (1190-1260) Saint Francis and Saint Clara’s biographer. Vita Prima.