A FRANCISCAN CHRISTMAS

In the book ≈ The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis, the author, tells the story of how a man came to Jesus and asked: “When shall I see the Lord? When shall I find peace?” Jesus answers him by telling him a story.

There was a marble throne near the East gate of a city large city.

Several thousand kings sat upon the throne, each longing to see God, but all had died and their hope had been frustrated. The royal line had run out. A beggar, barefooted and hungry, seized the opportunity to sit on the marble throne. He sat and whispered, “God, the eyes of man cannot bear to look directly at the sun, for they will be blinded. How then, O God, Almighty One, can they look directly at you? Have pity, Lord, temper your strength so that I who am poor and afflicted may see you.”

And God did temper his strength. God became a piece of bread, a cup of cool water and a warm tunic. The beggar stretched out his arms happily and said, “Thank you, Lord, you humbled yourself for my sake. You became bread, water and a warm tunic in order that I might see you. I bow down and worship your many sided face.”

It is not too far fetched to see this beggar as St. Francis. He who was poor discovered Christ who became poor. This is why he appreciated the great mystery of God becoming “enfleshed”. It was a mystery of humility, poverty and love.

The Great Almighty God through his humility became one of us out of love. For Francis, Christmas was a time when God became a baby and was cared for by a woman and man. It was a time to meditate on the humility of God who gave up his divine perogatives in love and peace to save us.

For Francis Christmas was a time ofjoy. There was to be no fasting, no frowns but singing and joy. In the year 1223 Francis and his followers were to celebrate Christmas in a very special way. He sent the Friars to the small town of Greccio to prepare for the great feast.

A manger was found on a mountainside and REAL hay was to be used.

Brother Juniper was to supply the animals and this he did – supplying more than needed.

A REAL baby and a REAL mother were to be found. On Christmas Even night the Friars and people from the nearly villages came carrying candles and torches so that the hills were filled with light and the mountains with Christmas carols.

At midnight Mass was celebrated with Francis as the deacon and the manger as the altar so that the divine Child under the forms of bread and wine should come to the place as he came to Bethlehem. After the gospel Francis preached a simple and yet moving sermon, “Let us love the Babe of Bethlehem.”

Later he was seen taking up the sleeping baby from the manger and clasping it in his arms. The child awoke, smiled and stroked his Franciscan habit. Thus, Christ, who had been asleep in the hearts of men and women for many years, had been restored to his rightful place the world by the voice and example of Francis Bernadone. It is the great Christmas gift of the Most High Father – the gift of his Son Jesus Christ to become a human being.

The Feast of Christmas affected Francis as no other feast. Bethlehem spoke of love, humility and peace. Maybe if cannot appreciate the REAL meaning of Christmas -the humility, love and peace of Christ then maybe We are not humble enough, nor loving enough or not peaceful enough.

In the Last Temptation of Christ it was not the rich and powerful kings who had the eyes to see God but rather the humble beggar. When you are humble you possess nothing but God who takes possession of you!

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