Monday, December 28, 2009

Luke 2:7 St Francis and The Nativity

Luke 2:7 St Francis and The Nativity
And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.


Perhaps no story or image is more recognizable to Christians than the Nativity scene of the birth of Jesus.

With the help of St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century, it has been portrayed and reenacted ever since.

In its present form the custom of displaying figures depicting the birth of Jesus Christ owes its origin to Saint Francis of Assisi who made the Christmas creche or manger for Christmas eve of 1223.

However, as early as the fourth century representations of the nativity of the Lord were painted as wall decorations depicting not only the infancy narrative accounts of Christ's birth, but also the words of the prophets Isaiah and Habakkuk taken to mean that the Messiah would be born in the midst of animals in a manger. (source EWTN)

It was the year 1223. Saint Francis went to Rome to obtain from Pope Honorius III authorization to celebrate Christmas in a totally new way. Saint Francis chose a forest in the vicinity of the village of Grecio, in the region of Umbria, not too far from Rome, where a good friend of his lived, the noble Giovanni Velita.

About 15 days before Christmas, Saint Francis said to him: “If you want to celebrate the feast of the Divine birth in Grecio make haste to prepare what I indicate to you.
“So that we can properly remember the circumstances in which the Divine Child was born and all the inconveniences he endured as he lay in the manger on straw between an ox and an ass, I would like to re-create this in a palpable way, as if I had seen it with my own eyes.”
Francis, recalling a visit he had made years before to Bethlehem, resolved to create the manger he had seen there. The ideal spot was a cave in nearby Greccio. He would find a baby (we’re not sure if it was a live infant or the carved image of a baby), hay upon which to lay him, an ox and an ass to stand beside the manger. Word went out to the people of the town. At the appointed time they arrived carrying torches and candles.

For Francis, the simple celebration was meant to recall the hardships Jesus suffered even as an infant, a savior who chose to become poor for our sake, a truly human Jesus.

God’s choice to give human beings free will was, from the beginning, a decision to be helpless in human hands.

With the birth of Jesus, God made the divine helplessness very clear to us, for a human infant is totally dependent on the loving response of other people.

Our natural response to a baby is to open our arms, as Francis did, to the infant of Bethlehem and to the God who made us all.


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