“Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord!”
Today we celebrate one of the most important days of all time: Christmas Day! The day that changed humanity. The day that gave us hope. The day that gave us a way out of our wayward lives to a life of grace, peace and love. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life and He has given Himself to us as pure gift! Merry Christmas!
As we celebrate Christmas this year, we do it in the midst of a number of anniversaries. We recently celebrated 75 years of parish life here at St. Francis! This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the showing of the famous Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer animated movie special. Lastly, the Church celebrates the 800th anniversary of the creation of the first Nativity scene in Greccio, Italy by St. Francis of Assisi.
St. Francis shared why he desired to create a nativity scene in his town….“I want to do something that will recall the memory of that Child who was born in Bethlehem, to see with bodily eyes the inconveniences of His infancy, how He lay in the manger, and how the ox and ass stood by.” He set up an empty manger inside a cave with live animals beside the manger. With these visual aids, he wanted to remind everyone more deeply of how Jesus came into the world in such poverty and simplicity (franciscanmedia.org).
In light of this, you will notice that we moved the nativity scene in front of the altar. We did this precisely because St. Francis of Assisi as well as many other saints have beautifully connected the altar to the manger. The manger is highly symbolic and foreshadows the Eucharist. A manger is a feeding trough for animals and was likely the cleanest place in the stable where the Virgin Mary could place the baby Jesus. Christians would later reflect on this profoundly symbolic action and find a connection to the Holy Eucharist, where Jesus Himself becomes food for humanity.
St. Cyril of Alexandria in the 5th century explains, “The setting of Christ’s birth points us to the Eucharist. Since through sin man becomes like the beasts, Christ lies in the trough where animals feed, offering them, not hay, but His own body as life-giving bread.”
St. John Chrysostom in the 4th century encouraged his congregation to attend Mass on Christmas Day, where they could approach the altar as if they were going to the manger…“For if we approach with faith we shall surely behold Him lying in a manger. His holy table will supply the place of a manger. For there will be spread the body of our Lord, not wrapped in swaddling clothes as then, but on all sides surrounded by His Holy Spirit” (aleteia.org).
As you celebrate Christmas this year, approach the Nativity scene, kneel down and dwell upon the beautiful gift of Jesus in our lives. Jesus came to us in poverty and simplicity. He still comes to us in the humble, broken bread we are privileged to receive at every Mass.
Come let us adore Him!
P.S. Our Christmas gift this year is Beautiful Eucharist by Matthew Kelly. Please enjoy and deepen your love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.