Many Franciscans will tell you that the Christmas Crib holds a special place of honor in Franciscan spirituality. We know about Francis re-creating the Christmas scene one year as a living Nativity with real animals and so on. From his inspiration came the tradition of celebrating Christmas with a nativity scene. St. Bonaventure tells the story here.
One might even say that the Crib of Christ balances out, so to speak, the Cross of Christ. Not that the Cross needs to be balanced out or toned down or made pretty. No not at all. Rather, the reality of God’s Love and Incarnation have two marvelous windows for the soul – like sunrise and sunset – in the Crib and the Cross. And Francis lived these realities when he instituted the living Nativity and when he received the stigmata.
One of his modern day followers in writing about “The Simplicity of St. Francis of Assisi” lists five characteristics, the second of which is: A Childlike Quality. This is one of the gifts one can receive from Bethlehem, not under the Christmas tree, not from one of the wise men, but from the baby Jesus Himself. If we go to the crib to honor the baby God there He will bless us in a childlike manner. Here is a wonderful quote from Mother Angelica (a Franciscan nun) of EWTN fame:
“I want very much to spread devotion to the Divine Child Jesus. Not only is He powerful, but what you need and I need is family, and that Child Jesus will make us one again. He will put love in our hearts, back where it should be.“
Another Franciscan nun focusing on the Advent dimension of her Franciscan spirituality speaks of creating space for Jesus in one’s own heart; a “crib in our hearts”. This is definitely a childlike concept. Can we relate to it in our sophisticated world with our complicated perspectives?
The crucified Christ saves our souls, perhaps the infant Christ can heal our attitudes!
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