Lettera Madre Christmas 2019
SUORE DELLA PROVVIDENZA ROSMINIANE
Via Aurelia, 773
My dear Sisters,
Each year, in preparing and in ‘visiting’ the crib, we follow a long tradition, which is always new every time and this, if we are honest, brings out the ‘child’ within us! We gaze at the new-born Child in wonder and amazement: “the WORD made flesh, who has come to dwell among us”. This is the truth at the centre of the story of Christmas: the Child who is born is God.
Tradition … yet always new
Pope Francis has recently written an apostolic letter, Admirabile signum, “On the meaning and importance of the nativity scene”; in this he encourages Christians worldwide to continue “the beautiful family tradition of preparing the nativity scene in the days before Christmas,” by setting it up not only in their homes but also “in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares.”
“The depiction of Jesus’ birth is itself a simple and joyful proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture”. Contemplating “the Christmas story is like setting out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman. So great is His love for us, that He became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with Him.”
Pope Francis explains that the Christmas crib moves us so deeply because it ‘shows God’s tender love’. “From the time of its Franciscan origins, “the nativity scene has invited us to ‘feel’ and ‘touch’ the poverty that God’s Son took upon Himself in the Incarnation … It asks us to meet Him and serve Him by showing mercy to those of our brothers and sisters in greatest need.”
Bl Antonio Rosmini also had deep respect for tradition … In addition to pushing reason to its limits, he stated that respect for tradition does not mean that one should be opposed to innovations: this natural, wise respect does not oblige us to oppose useful innovations; but to distinguish accurately between innovations which destroy what is old and innovations which add to what is old.” (cf. Summary of Cause for the Stability or Downfall of Human Societies, Chap. V)
Regarding traditions, Rosmini shows, that in Christianity, few of them are more important than Christmas – the commemoration of the Nativity of Jesus. In his ‘Catechism’ he summarizes the teachings of the Church for this special period: from the angels appearing to Mary and Joseph, to the biblical readings announcing the coming of a Saviour. He describes how Joseph, a just man, received the message from an angel during his sleep. Not so, Mary, who was well awake when the angel Gabriel greeted her as full of grace, announcing the blessed fruit of her womb. One can argue that Joseph and Mary’s trip to Bethlehem, was influenced by fiscal policy. The emperor Cesar Augustus, as historians record, had called for a census; as Joseph and Mary were from the lineage of David, from Bethlehem, they had to travel to that city to comply with the law.
Rosmini teaches the faithful how to meditate during these Christmas days. He asks us to use the eye of our imagination to put ourselves on the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem, its valleys, its hills, and the little grotto where the Holy Family found repose. The purpose of such exercise is to help us recognize Christ as an example of the poverty, which can serve as a tool to overcome attachment to riches. Rosmini stresses that it is this attachment, rather than the possession of riches, which is a dangerous enemy of our health and perfect justice. For this, he asks us to focus with our intellect on the persons in the scene of Christ’s birth, the family of Jesus: Mary, Joseph and the baby. He then places himself in the scene, imagining he is there physically, as a poor boy, listening to their words, while reflecting on their long nights of travelling, the lack of lodging, and other human struggles.
But Rosmini also asks the faithful to contemplate what it meant for someone who was Divine going through all these challenges. He wants us to realize that hunger, pain, nakedness, thirst, fatigue, and scarcity “are the weapons with which my King and Lord showed himself armed and with which he won the false opinions and inordinate affections of men.” (cf. Alejandro Chafuen, Tradition, Christmas and Private Property: The Continued Relevance of Blessed Antonio Rosmini, 2016)
In union with the whole Church, let us live these sentiments during the coming days of the Christmas Novena; may this be a time of grace for all of us – including the young and not so young, and for those who are living through serious illness or are unwell …
Christmas is about making space in our hearts in silence: to ‘adore, be silent and rejoice’ in this beautiful, but hectic time of year, to wonder and give thanks, for the Truth of the WORD made flesh, Emmanuel, who dwells among us in the fullness of humanity.
Happy Christmas and a joyful and blessed journey in 2020!
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