Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Nativity Scenes and St. Francis of Assisi

I've written before, that the Catholic Church doesn't miss many opportunities to use visual displays. (August 11, 2009)

Odds are, you already know about St. Francis of Assisi and the traditional Nativity scene, or creche. Or, maybe you don't. Maybe you spell it "crèche."

Whether you use an anglicized spelling or not, a nativity scene depicting the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and others in that Bethlehem manger has been part of Christmas traditions for centuries.

More specifically, 786 years. St. Francis of Assisi arranged for a living Creche in a cave in Italy.

It wasn't the first Creche, by a long shot. As the Living Catholicism blog put it:
"...From the early days of the Church, believers painted scenes of the birth of Christ beginning in the catecombs.[!] These scenes became a staple of Christian life and carried on through the years. In the time of St. Francis of Assisi, the images had taken a new form: faithful Catholics would sit[!] out mangers in front of their local church, but these mangers were often jeweled and made of gold to represent who they held. St. Francis marvelled[!] at this and felt that the people were forgetting the humble, poor birth of our Lord Jesus...."
(Living Catholicism (December 9, 2006))
In 1223, Francis gathered people for the first living crèche - the way we're used to seeing it. Why "crèche"? That's French for "manger."

The custom caught on, and in many parts of the world - including my household - a small representation of a small livestock holding facility is part of the Christmas season.

Those nativity scenes of gold and jewels? I don't have a problem with them, so much. There's nothing wrong with using precious materials to show how precious the person they're representing or framing is. It's a mark of respect.

I also don't have a problem with being reminded that Jesus was born in the equivalent of garage, and laid in a container that normally held feed for cattle.

More-or-less related posts: Background:

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.