Category Archives: Christmas

The insight of the birth of Christ

By Bret Thoman, OFS
Bethlehem:  House of bread
The old Hebrew name bêth lehem, meaning “house of bread”, has survived till the present day. In its Arabic form, however, bêt lahm, it means “house of meat”
Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life come down from Heaven”

The Manger where Christ was laid was a place straw for feeding, a place of nourishing food for animals
Jesus said, “Unless you eat …

The Wood of the manger that held Him so securely would one day give way to the wood of the cross
Jesus said,

The Swaddling clothes: After an infant was born, the baby was washed, wrapped with strips of cloth. These stripes kept the newborn child warm and also ensured that the child’s limbs would grow straight.
Jesus said,

Mother and child are of one bond. A bond was established based on their shared feelings, interests, and experiences.
Figurative : chaos could result if the bonds of obedience and loyalty were broken.
Jesus said,

The Magi (Mystics) or Three Kings as they were known who visited the newborn child Jesus were highly regarded as leaders to be followed and revered
Jesus said,

Shepherds who visited Jesus were low life, considered dishonest, unclean and unlawful.
Jesus said,

We are by the company we keep.
Jesus said,

God came as a person so he knows what it means to be a person. Jesus said,

Incarnation:  literally means embodied in flesh or taking on flesh. It refers to condensation, the fusion of two or more images, ideas, or symbolic meanings into a single composite or new image. the conception and birth of a sentient creature (able to perceive or feel things) and is the material manifestation of an entity, god.
Jesus said,

Jesus was Venerable: accorded a great deal of respect, esp. because of age, wisdom, or character.
Jesus said,

See Luke for the birth of Christ.

St. Francis and the Christmas Creche

Francis was focused on Jesus so much he forgot sometimes where he was going.
St. Francis was orthodox with the pope

Nativity scene, Creche or cresch
Now three years before his death it befell that he was minded, at the town of Greccio, to celebrate the memory of the Nativity of the Child Jesus, with all the added solemnity that he might, for the kindling of devotion. That this might not seem an innovation, he sought and obtained license from the Supreme Pontiff, and then made ready a manger, and bade that hay, together with an ox and ass, be brought unto the spot. The friars were called together, the folk assembled, the wood echoed with their voices, adn that august night was made radiant and solemn with many bright lights, and with tuneful and sonorous praises. The man of God, filled with tender love, stood before the manger, bathed in tears, and overflowing with joy. Solemn Masses were celebrated over the manger, Francis, the levite of Christ, chanting the Holy Gospel. Then he preached unto the folk standing around at the Birth of the King of poverty, calling Him, when he wished to name Him, the Child of Bethlehem, by reason of his tender love for Him. A certain knight, valorous and true, Messer Giovanni di Greccio, who for the love of Christ had left the secular army and was bound by closest friendship unto the man of God, declared that he beheld a little Child right fair to see, sleeping in that manger, who seemed to be awakened from sleep when the blessed Father Francis embraced Him in both arms. This vision of the devout knight is rendered worthy of belief, not alone through the holiness of him that beheld it, but is also confirmed by the truth that it set forth, and withal proven by the miracles that followed it. For the example of Francis, if meditated upon by the world, must needs stir up sluggish hearts unto the faith of Christ; for even the hay that was taken from the manger by the folk proved a marvellous remedy for sick beasts, and a preventative against divers other plagues, God magnifying by all means His servant, and making manifest by clear and miraculous portents the efficacy of his holy prayers.

How Francis Celebrated the Birth of Christ

From the Versified Life of Saint Francis, by Henri d’Avranches, in the year 1239. Adapted from the writings of Thomas of Celano.

One time, wishing to celebrate the Birth of Christ, St. Francis orders a manger made. The ox an ass are drawing hay for their fodder and things are provided to lovingly represent the mysteries of the virginal birth.
The people that gather for the holy festivities fill the church, bring candles and torches, while incense breathes forth its scent. After matins, the Mass of the Feast is celebrated. Francis reads the Gospel in a sweet-toned melody; and then when the people are seated, he gives them a sermon, and softens their hearts that were hardened and out of hard rock he causes rivers to flow.
There leaps forth a compunction mixed with gladness; as tears moisten the hands that clap, the clapping of hands dries up the tears. All night, till the new day dawns, passes in festive song and in praise of the Child that was born of the Virgin.
Accepting the mysteries celebrated in his honor, Christ, for his part, gives rewards; eating the hay left over, beasts swollen by ailments are eased and cured.
Through contact with the same, women with child and those long in labor are enabled to give birth with ease, as their weary wombs release the children waiting to be born.
The place of the crib is now, to the joy of the people, a little chapel dedicated in honor of the blessed Francis.
“Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to His People on Earth.”

Francis’ devotion at Christmas

A story about Francis’ devotion at Christmas and how he wanted all things to be treated on that feast day.
From the book: The Life of St. Francis, by Thomas of Celano,

In the year 1215 Francis observed the birthday of the Child Jesus with inexpressible eagerness over all other feasts, saying that it was the feast of feasts, on which God, having become a tiny infant, clung to human breasts.
Pictures of those infant members he kissed with thoughts filled with yearning, and his compassion for the Child flooded his heart and made him stammer words of sweetness after the manner of infants. His name was like honey and a honeycomb was in Francis’ mouth.
When the question arose about eating meat that day, since that Christmas day was a Friday,” he replied, saying to Brother Morico: “You sin, Brother, calling the day on which the Child was born to us a day of fast. It is my wish,” he said, “that even the walls should eat meat on such a day, and if they cannot, they should be smeared with meat on the outside.”
On this day Francis wanted the poor and the hungry to be filled by the rich, and more than the usual amount of grain and hay given to the oxen and asses. “If I could speak to the emperor,” he said, “I would ask that a general law be made that all who can should scatter corn and grain along the roads so that the birds might have an abundance of food on the day of such great solemnity, especially our sisters the larks.” He would recall, not without tears, what great want surrounded the poor Virgin on that day.
Once when he was sitting at dinner, a certain brother talked about the poverty of the Blessed Virgin and recalled the want of Christ, her Son. Francis immediately arose from the table and, with great sighs and many tears, ate the rest of the meal on the bare ground. For this reason he would say that this virtue that shone forth so eminently in the King and Queen was a royal virtue.
And when the brothers were discussing at a gathering which virtue does more to make one a close friend of Christ, Francis, as though making known to them a secret of his heart, answered: “Know, my sons, that poverty is the special way to salvation; it’s fruit is manifold, but it is really well known only to a few.”

Pope traces history of Christmas celebration

Notes influence of St. Francis
THE CHILD JESUS MAKES THE LOVE OF GOD MANIFEST

VATICAN CITY, 23 DEC 2009 (VIS) – In his general audience, celebrated this morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope focused his remarks on the subject of Christmas.

At the beginning of his catechesis the Holy Father explained that “the Church’s liturgical year did not initially develop on the basis of Christ’s birth but on that of faith in His resurrection. Hence, the most ancient feast of Christianity is not Christmas but Easter. The resurrection of Christ is what founded the Christian faith, underpinned the announcement of the Gospel and brought the Church into being”.

“The first person to make the clear affirmation that Jesus was born on 25 December was Hippolytus of Rome in his commentary on the Book of Daniel, written around the year 204”, said the Pope.

“In the Christian world, the feast of Christmas assumed a distinct form in the fourth century when it took the place of the Roman feast of the ‘Sol invictus’, the sun unconquered. This highlighted the fact that the birth of Christ is the victory of the true light over the darkness of evil and sin. Yet the particular and intense spiritual atmosphere that now surrounds Christmas developed during the Middle Ages, thanks to St. Francis of Assisi who was profoundly enamoured of Jesus the man, of the God-with-us”.

“This particular devotion to the mystery of the Incarnation was the origin of the famous Christmas celebration in Greccio. … St. Francis with his nativity scene highlighted the defenceless love, humility and goodness of God, Who in the Incarnation of the Word shows Himself to mankind in order to teach them a new way to live and love”.

The Pope then went on to recall the fact that the first biographer of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano, recounted how, “on that Christmas night, Francis was granted the grace of a marvellous vision. He saw, lying immobile in the manger, a small child Who was reawakened from sleep by the proximity of Francis himself”.

“Thanks to St. Francis, Christian people are able to understand that at Christmas God truly became the ‘Emmanuel’, the God-with-us, from Whom no barrier or distance separates us. In that Child, God became so close to each of us … that we can establish an intimate rapport of profound affection with Him, just as we do with a newborn child.

“In that Child”, the Holy Father added, “God-Love becomes manifest: God comes unarmed and powerless, because He does not intend to conquer, so to say, from the outside; rather, He intends to be accepted by man in freedom. God becomes a defenceless child to overcome man’s pride, violence and thirst for possession. In Jesus, God assumed this poor and disarming condition in order to triumph over us with love and lead us to our true identity”.

“His being a Child likewise indicates to us that we can meet God and enjoy His presence”, the Pope concluded. “People who have not understood the mystery of Christmas have not understood the decisive element of Christian existence: that those who do not accept Jesus with the heart of a child cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven. This is what St. Francis wished to tell the Christian world of his time and of all times, even unto today”.
AG/CHRISTMAS/…VIS 091223 (560)