“The man of God (Francis) stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy.” St. Bonaventure (contemporary of St. Francis and biographer)
His face was wet with his own tears as Francis of Assisi stood before the people of the little town of Greccio one Christmas Eve long ago. With great tenderness and humility, he told them the story of the first Christmas. Behind him was a cave with two of the village people dressed as Mary and Joseph, and a wax baby representing Jesus. An Ox and donkey stood beside them. Mary was bending over the baby lying on a bed of straw. Francis turned to behold the love of his life, the Babe of Bethlehem, and he fell down in weeping adoration.
“The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many with brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise.”
Greccio, a little town in Umbria, had experienced the extraordinary that Christmas eve in 1226. St. Francis of Assisi had assembled a live nativity scene in a cave on the outskirts of town to show the humble birth of Christ. The townspeople gathered around, full of wonder and expectation.
Prior to this, mass on Christmas eve was spoken in Latin, which the people could not understand.
“the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis…. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor king; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem.”
As the hay was gathered up later and fed to the animals, a miracle occurred. The cattle were cured of their diseases. The people believed that God had honored his servant Francis.
Francis encouraged the people to reject hatred and embrace love, with the help of God.Whether you remain a sceptic or not, the message of St. Francis resounds with hope for our individual worlds as well as the one we all share.
May his words echo down through the centuries once more and minister to our hurting hearts the true meaning of the love that entered our dark world two thousand years ago.