A FRANCISCAN CONTEMPLATES ON THE CHRISTMAS CRECHE


[Versión en Español]

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Dear Family:

As the Christmas season quickly approaches, I felt that I should publish an uplifting blog post on the meaning of Christmas and so forth.  The more that I thought about it, the fewer words came to mind.  I guess that much of what I can say about Christmas has been said much more eloquently. It’s difficult to come up with something different.   So, I thought I’d share a theology through history; which I learned from St. Augustine and Joseph Ratzinger.

For those who don’t No automatic alt text available.know, the first recorded Christmas crèche was created by St. Francis of Assisi, after his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Some historians place this around the year 1223.  For 794 years the Franciscan family has represented the nativity scene, as St. Francis understood it.

This is important.  His point of reference was what he saw in the Holy Land, what he read in Sacred Scripture and the description that was handed down by oral tradition.  This does not mean that that st josephFrancis’ representation of the Nativity is wrong.  On the contrary, it is the most reliable representation of the birth of Christ, because St. Francis pulled from several sources, including what he saw with his own eyes in the Holy Land.  The more input one has into an event, the more points of consistency and the more differences between the narratives.  Let’s be careful!  We’re talking about differences in the narratives, not contradictions.  None of the narratives of Christ’s birth contradicts the other.  Each contains a piece of information that is not mentioned in another source:  biblical, oral tradition or art.  They fit together like pieces of a puzzle. This makes St. Francis’ representation of the Nativity one of the most reliable in history.  He combined all of the sources that he knew, filling in the blanks in one source, with information from another source.  One may ask himself, “Why is Brother telling us this?”

WP_20151220_001Every year, churches and homes display the nativity using different artistic mediums.  Unfortunately, some displays, even though they are beautiful, include elements that are not historical, such as Santa venerating the newborn Messiah or little towns, complete with trains.  Even more common, is the addition of snow or the figures of the Magi venerating the newborn King.

When St. Francis recreated the first crèche he did it for some very solid spiritual and devotional reasons.

Joseph fatherhoodFirst:  It was virtually impossible for Christians to enter the Holy Land on pilgrimage to the important sites in our salvation history.  Many Christians had forgotten parts of the Christmas story and some people had added or deleted from the original story.

Second:  Many Europeans were illiterate.  The few that could read often lacked enough proficiency in Greek and Latin need to understand Sacred Scripture.  These contributed to the birth of myths about the Nativity.  When one replaces fact with imagination, one runs the risk of misunderstanding what God is revealing about himself.  Francis’ live representation of the Nativity as he learned from personal experience and the various sources helped him, his brothers and the world to see the wonder of Christmas, in all its purity, simplicity, humility and clarity.

Third:  St. Francis lets us see that the Son of God came into the world as a real human being from a human womb and “took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men”, except sin, [those men being the peasant shepherd who spent nights caring for the master’s sheep in caveCatholic, Christ, Christian, Churchs and huts unfit for a king].  From the moment that the Second Person of the Trinity broke into human history, he entered the world as a peasant who shared the lot of shepherds.  It’s important to remember that the shepherds worked for someone else. They did not own the sheep.  Jesus clearly reminded us that he had come to do the will of the One who sent him, not his will and that he is the Good Shepherd, meaning that he doesn’t own the sheep.  The Father owns the sheep.  We belong to the Father.

Fourth: The Son of the Father takes on a second nature, human nature.  He becomes the Son of Man, without forfeiting his divine nature as the second person of the most Holy Trinity.  When we look at the infant in the crèche, like St. Francis, we must let our eyes, hearts and minds focus on what we see, not on the beauty of the figures and the display, but on the more sublime beauty. From the fall of Adam, God planned to send one who would crush the head of Evil.  Because man exists in time and space, the first covenant was to be fulfilled in time and space.

When St. Francis created the first live Nativity scene outside of Palestine his intention was as simple as it was deep.  We must look at the nativity scene and go past the beautiful image of the Baby Jesus.  Let us contemplate on the mystery of our redemption.  God becomes a human peasant to show us the true meaning of humility before God Image may contain: 1 personand man.  Unless we are born again as servants, instead of masters, we shall not find Christ among us.

Jesus was conceived in an obscure village in Judea, was born away from his parental home, in Bethlehem instead of Nazareth, or Jerusalem where the Hebrew kings were traditionally born and raised.   He enters Jerusalem as a king to be executed as a common criminal between thieves.

Are we willing and ready to serve and guide the common man of today, as Jesus was, when he broke into human history?

May all of our family, friends, and brothers have a Christmas that transcends beyond the world that we know and reaches for the Star that approaches from the East.

Br. Jay and the Franciscans of Life

Published in: on December 20, 2017 at 10:54 AM  Leave a Comment  

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