Paul VI Hall
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Catechesis: The nativity scene, domestic Gospel
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In a week it will be Christmas. In these days, while we are running to make preparations for the party, we can ask ourselves: "How am I preparing for the birth of the Celebration?" A simple but effective way to prepare is to make the crèche. This year too I followed this route: I went to Greccio, where St. Francis made the first nativity scene, with the locals. And I wrote a letter to remember the meaning of this tradition, what does the creche mean at Christmas time.
The nativity in fact "is like a living Gospel" (Apostolic Letter Admirabile signum, 1). Bring the Gospel to the places where you live: in homes, schools, workplaces and meeting places, in hospitals and nursing homes, in prisons and in squares. And where we live reminds us of one essential thing: that God did not remain invisible in heaven, but came to Earth, he became man, a child. Making the nativity is celebrating God's closeness. God has always been close to his people, but when he was incarnate and born, he was very close, very close. Making the crèche is celebrating God's closeness, it is rediscovering that God is real, concrete, alive and palpitating. God is not a distant lord or a detached judge, but he is humble Love, descended to us. The Child in the crèche gives us his tenderness. Some statues depict the "Baby Jesus" with open arms, to tell us that God has come to embrace our humanity. Then it is nice to be in front of the nativity and there to trust in the life of the Lord, talk to him about the people and situations we care about, make the budget for the year that is ending with him, share the expectations and concerns.
Next to Jesus we see the Mary and Saint Joseph. We can imagine the thoughts and feelings they had while the Child was born in poverty: joy, but also dismay. And we can also invite the Holy Family to our home, where there are joys and worries, where every day we wake up, take food and sleep close to our loved ones. The crèche is a domestic Gospel. The word crib literally means "manger", while the city of the crèche, Bethlehem, means "house of bread". Manger and bread house: the crèche we make at home, where we share food and affections, reminds us that Jesus is nourishment, the bread of life (see Jn 6:34). It is He who feeds our love, it is He who gives our families the strength to go on and forgive us.
The crèche offers us another lesson in life. In today's frenetic rhythms it is an invitation to contemplation. It reminds us of the importance of stopping. Because only when we know how to gather can we welcome what matters in life. Only if we leave the noise of the world outside of ourselves do we open ourselves to listening to God, who speaks in silence. The crèche is current, it is the topicality of every family. Yesterday they gave me a little picture of a special crèche, little one, which was called: "Let mom rest". There was the sleeping Madonna and Joseph with the Baby there, who made him sleep. How many of you must share the night between husband and wife for the child or child who cries, cries, cries. "Let mother rest" is the tenderness of a family, of a marriage.
The crèche is more relevant than ever, while every day many weapons and so many violent images are made in the world, which enter the eyes and the heart. The crèche is instead a handcrafted image of peace. This is why it is a living Gospel.
Dear brothers and sisters, from the crèche we can finally grasp a teaching on the very meaning of life. We see daily scenes: the shepherds with the sheep, the blacksmiths who beat the iron, the millers who make bread; at times landscapes and situations of our territories are inserted. It is right, because the crèche reminds us that Jesus comes into our concrete life. And, this is important. To make a small crèche at home, always, because it is the memory that God came to us, he was born of us, he accompanies us in life, he is a man like us, he became a man like us. In everyday life we are no longer alone, He lives with us. It does not magically change things but, if we welcome it, everything can change. I wish you then that making the crèche is an opportunity to invite Jesus into life. When we make the crèche at home, it is like opening the door and saying: "Jesus, come in!", It is making this closeness concrete, this invitation to Jesus to come into our lives. Because if He lives our life, life is reborn. And if life is reborn, it's really Christmas. Merry Christmas to all!
Greetings in Various Languages:
Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française, en particulier les jeunes venus de France et les fidèles de Côte d’Ivoire. Chers frères et sœurs, je vous invite vous aussi à suivre cette belle tradition de la crèche. Vous y trouverez le rappel de la présence aimante de Jésus dans vos familles et dans toute votre vie. A tous je souhaite un joyeux Noël et je remercie tous ceux qui ces jours-ci, de nombreuses parties du monde, m’ont envoyé des messages de vœux pour mon 50ème anniversaire d’ordination sacerdotale et pour mon anniversaire. Merci surtout pour le don de la prière.
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially the groups from Canada and the United States of America. I wish all of you a very blessed Christmas, and I ask you to pray for the Church, as you are already doing, and for peace this Christmas. Thank you.
Einen herzlichen Gruß richte ich an die Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache. Besonders grüße ich die Musikkapellen und Chöre aus Tirol. Mit eurer stimmungsvollen Musik habt ihr uns auf das Christfest eingestimmt. Vergelt‘s Gott. Bereiten wir uns auf das Hochfest der Geburt Jesu Christi vor, indem wir unsere Herzen auch dem Nächsten öffnen, der unserer Liebe bedarf. Euch und euren Familien wünsche ich ein gesegnetes Weihnachtsfest.
[A cordial welcome to German-speaking pilgrims. In particular I greet the musical and choral bands from Tyrol. With your suggestive music you let us enter the spirit of Christmas. Thanks. Let us prepare ourselves for the Solemnity of the Christmas of Jesus Christ, opening our hearts even to our neighbor who needs our love. I wish you and your families a Holy Christmas.]
Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, venidos de España y de Latinoamérica. Ante la celebración de la Navidad, los invito a preparar el belén en sus hogares y a detenerse para contemplarlo, para que el nacimiento de Jesús los llene de alegría y les conceda la paz. Les deseo a todos Feliz Navidad. Gracias.
Queridos peregrinos de língua portuguesa, desejo a todos um Natal feliz. Obrigado sobretudo pelas orações oferecidas por mim. A todos desejo também um bom Ano Novo, repleto das bênçãos de Deus Menino!
[Dear Portuguese-speaking pilgrims, I wish you all a Merry Christmas. Thank you above all for the gift of prayer! I also wish everyone a good New Year, full of the blessings of God the Child.]
أرحبُ بالحاضرينَ الناطقينَ باللغة العربية، وخاصةً القادمينَ من الأراضي المقدّسة، ومن الأردن، ومن الشرق الأوسط. إن ربّ المجد قد تخلّى عن سماه كي يحلّ بيننا ويحوّل أرضنا إلى سماء. إن المذود الذي يتوق إليه إنما هو قلبنا، لأنه يريد أن يمنحنا سلامه الذي لا يتزعزع وحياته الأبديّة. هذا هو ما يغيّر العالم. أتمنى لكم جميعًا عيد ميلاد مجيد. وأشكر جميع الذين أرسلوا لي في هذه الأيام، من أنحاء كثيرة من العالم، رسائل تهنئة بمناسبة الذكرى الخمسين لرسامتي الكهنوتية ولعيد ميلادي. شكرًا جزيلاً على صلواتكم. ليبارِكْكُم الربُّ جميعًا ويَحرُسْكُم دائمًا من الشرير!
[I cordially welcome the Arabic-speaking pilgrims, in particular those from the Holy Land, Jordan and the Middle East. The Lord of glory has left his heaven to be with us and transform our earth into heaven. The crèche that he craves is precisely our heart, because he wants to give us his unshakable peace and his eternal life. This is what changes the world. I wish you all Merry Christmas; and I thank those who in these days, from many parts of the world, have sent me greetings messages for the 50th anniversary of the priesthood and for the birthday. Thank you above all for the gift of prayer. May the Lord bless you all and always protect you from the evil one!]
Pozdrawiam serdecznie pielgrzymów polskich. Za kilka dni święta Bożego Narodzenia. Radujmy się obecnością Boga w osobie Dziecięcia, narodzonego w Betlejem z Maryi Dziewicy. Niech On będzie światłem na drogach waszego życia, pokojem i mocą, która wiedzie nas do zwycięstwa dobra nad złem. Życzę wam błogosławionych świąt.
[I cordially greet the Polish pilgrims. In a few days it will be Christmas. Let us rejoice in the presence of God in the Child born in Bethlehem from the Virgin Mary. May he be the light on the ways of your life, peace and strength that leads to the victory of good over evil. I wish you all a Merry Christmas.]
* * *
I warmly welcome the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the Chinese priests and seminarians of the Pontifical Urban College "De Propaganda Fide", in Rome; and parish groups, especially that of Alvito. I also greet the Teramo Health Authority, with Bishop Monsignor Lorenzo Leuzzi; the National Pastry Bakers Association; and the Damasian Oratory Institute, in Rome. The Oratorians make themselves heard, they know how to make noise. Well done, good!
Finally, I greet the young, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. Only a few days remain until the Holy Christmas of the Lord Jesus. Following the example of the Holy Family, let us prepare ourselves to welcome him in joy, letting our hearts invade his love for each of us.
To all of you, Merry Christmas.
Full Text + Image Source: Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation
Full Text + Image Source: Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation