Straw was the first cradle of the one who came to
offer new life to humanity. The Gospel of St. Luke laid the foundation for what
we know as the “Christmas crib”. It simply states that because Mary and Joseph
could not find a place to stay in Bethlehem, they withdrew to the countryside,
to a cave or stable, and Jesus was born there.
As early as the 2nd century, stories shared by
Christians highlighted this humble origin of the Son of God coming to earth.
But it is thanks to Francis of Assisi that this tradition, which “stages” Mary,
Joseph, Jesus, the donkey and the ox, the angels, the shepherds, and eventually
the Magi from the Orient, has spread far and wide.
Francis had been very touched, during his trip to the
Holy Land, by his visit to Bethlehem. The caves in the village of Greccio, in
Italy, reminded him of the landscape of Judea. For the Christmas feast of 1223,
he wanted to reproduce the scene of Jesus’ birth with the people of the
village. On the night of 24 December, the faithful gathered in a place prepared
by one of them, a man called John, who had set up everything. St. Francis
arranged for mass to be said by one of the other friars on the manger, making
clear the link between the Incarnation of the Son of God and the Eucharist: in
both cases, it was God who was offering himself to the world. It was a “living crèche,”
because the characters were the inhabitants of Greccio.
a look at the photo-essay showing the Christmas nativity scenes displayed under
the colonnade of St Peter’s Square in Rome, an initiative of the Dicastery for
Evangelization. Each tableau also proposes a sentence from Pope Francis’
apostolic letter entitled Admirabile
signum (“An admirable sign”). We wish you a
beautiful Christmas meditation!