Gospel Photo of the Week

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On December 1 of this year Pope Francis published the Apostolic Letter Admirabile Signum, or "the enchanted image" in English. In this letter on the meaning and importance of the Nativity scene Pope Francis wishes “to encourage the beautiful family tradition of preparing the nativity scene in the days before Christmas, but also the custom of setting it up in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares.” The Holy Father goes on to write that “the Christmas creche is part of the precious yet demanding process of passing on the faith. Beginning in childhood, and at every stage of our lives, it teaches us to contemplate Jesus, to experience God’s love for us, to feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with him, his children, brothers and sisters all, thanks to the Child who is the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin Mary.”

Pope Francis describes the Christmas creche as something that “never ceases to arouse amazement and wonder” and calls it a “simple and joyful proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God” as well as a “living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture.” While the origins of the Nativity scene are found in the Gospel accounts of the birth of Christ, the Nativity scene that we are all familiar with has its roots in the little Italian town of Greccio.

In late November of 1223, Saint Francis of Assisi stopped in Greccio while traveling. While there he noticed that the caves of Greccio reminded him of the countryside of Bethlehem which prompted him to embark on a mission “to bring to life the memory of the babe born in Bethlehem, to see as much as possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he was laid upon a bed of hay.” On December 25, St. Francis arrived at the scene to find friars and people from the farms in the area at the site making his dream into a reality.

Over the years, many traditions and memories have been made surrounding the Christmas creche, including a beautiful tradition started by St. Pope John Paul II. Early on in his papacy St. John Paul II invited the children of Rome to gather in St. Peter’s Square on the Third Sunday of Advent for the Angelus address. This invitation included the instruction to bring the baby Jesus figure from their Nativity scene which he then blessed. This tradition of blessing the figurines of Jesus on the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Bambinelli Sunday, has been continued by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis as well as spread throughout the world. We will hold our own blessing here at St. Anthony at the 10:00 a.m. Mass on Sunday, November 15. I invite you to bring your Jesus figurines to be blessed during this Mass.

Fr. Eric

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