12/20/2023, 16.48
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Pope: In the nativity scene we find amazement before God who comes near

As Christmas approaches, the pontiff dedicated today’s general audience to the 800th anniversary of the first nativity scene by Saint Francis in Greccio. For him, this representation is a “school of sobriety” against the “consumerism that corrodes the meaning of celebration and joy." Francis also urged the faithful not to forget when standing before the "prince of peace" the children who suffer from war.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis addressed the faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall for his weekly general audience. In his address, the pontiff said that, “The Nativity scene is like a living Gospel, a domestic Gospel. Like the well in the Bible, it is the place of encounter where we bring to Jesus the expectations and worries of life”.

The pontiff’s catechesis was inspired by the 800th anniversary of the living nativity scene that Saint Francis created in Greccio at Christmas in the year 1223, which is considered the origin of the tradition of representing the scene of the Nativity of Jesus.

For Francis, Christians must rediscover the dimension of amazement when standing in front of the nativity scene. “If we Christians look at the crib as a beautiful thing, as something historical, even religious, and pray, this is not enough. Before the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, before the birth of Jesus, we need this religious attitude of amazement.”

The nativity scene, he added, is a "school of sobriety", especially today when we are immersed "in a consumerism that corrodes its meaning.” The representation “was created to bring us back to what matters: to God Who comes to dwell among us.”

This “is why it is important to look at the Nativity scene, because it helps us understand what matters and also the social relationships of Jesus in that moment, the family, Joseph and Mary, and loved ones, the shepherds. People before things. And often we put things ahead of people.”

Greggio's nativity scene is also full of joy. In this regard, the pontiff quoted the Franciscan account of that Christmas night in 1223. “And the day of gladness comes, the time of rejoicing! [...] Francis [...] is radiant [...]. The people flocked and rejoiced with a joy they had never tasted before [...]. Everyone returned home full of ineffable joy.”

“But where did this Christmas joy come from?” asked the pope. “Certainly not from having brought home presents or having experienced lavish celebrations.

“No, it was the joy that overflows from the heart when one tangibly touches the nearness of Jesus, the tenderness of God, who does not leave us alone, but consoles us [translator’s note: stands with (con) those who are alone (soli)].

“Closeness, tenderness, and compassion, such are the three attitudes of God. And looking at the Nativity scene, praying before the Nativity scene, we can experience these things of the Lord that help us in everyday life.’

With the nativity scene in mind, Pope Francis did not fail to remember "the peoples who suffer the evil of war," in Palestine, Israel, and martyred Ukraine.

"Wars,” he said, “are always a defeat. Let us not forget this. Only the arms manufacturers gain. Let's think about children in war, the things they see. Let us go to the crib and ask Jesus for peace. He is the Prince of Peace.”

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