Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Season Reflections

The Story of Greccio

“Therefore, desiring to represent as faithfully as possible the lowly poverty of the infancy of the Savior born at Bethlehem, when the Feast of the Nativity was at hand, the man of God sent word to a religious nobleman in the town of Greccio named John, who provided an ox and an ass, with a stable, in anticipation of the joys of the coming celebration.

Finally the holy night arrived. Blessed Francis was there with many of his brothers gathered around him.

The hay in the manger is prepared, the ox and the ass are arranged around the manger, and the vigil celebration begins with joy. A great multitude of people stream together from various places, the night is filled with an unaccustomed joy and made luminous by candles and torches. And so, with a new ritual, the festival of a new Bethlehem is celebrated.

The brothers also paid their debt of praise to the Lord, and all present acclaimed him with new songs of praise. Blessed Francis, however, was standing before the manger full of sighs of joy and suffused by an indescribable sweetness. Finally, when Solemn Mass was celebrated above the manger, the holy Levite of God, dressed in festive vestments proclaimed the gospel with a sonorous voice and then with a voice flowing with honey he preached to the people about the poor King born in Bethlehem. Truly, he was so overcome by sweet devotion toward the infancy of that King, that whenever he had to speak the name of Jesus Christ, he would, as if stuttering, call him “the babe of Bethlehem,” out of an excess of loving tenderness.

Lest it be thought that these things happened without divine approval, a miraculous vision was shown to a certain virtuous man, who saw Blessed Francis go up to the manger and waken, as if from a deep sleep, a child who seemed to be lying there lifeless. It is therefore believed, and not without reason, that the Lord Jesus aptly revealed his infancy in this vision to the one who reflected upon it. He who was asleep or dead in the hearts of many, owing to forgetfulness, was awakened and recalled to memory by the teaching and example of Blessed Francis. The solemnities were completed with great exultation, and everyone happily returned to their homes.”

– Julian of Speyer, The Life of Saint Francis, X:53-55.

The reflections that follow have been prepared by friars of our Province to aid you in your prayerful meditations through the Christmas season.

Please keep the friars in your prayers. May the Christ-child no longer slumber in our hearts but be reawakened to become a living, vibrant presence in this world.

– The Franciscan Friars; Province of the Immaculate Conception, USA